Salvage Vehicle Fact Sheet
Are you thinking of buying a used vehicle from a private party?
Be sure you know if you're buying a salvage vehicle, because there are many
of them on the road.
What is a Salvage Vehicle?
A salvage vehicle is one that has been wrecked or damaged, and the owner, insurance company, financial institution or leasing company considers it too expensive to repair.
For example, in cases where the insurance company determines the vehicle a "total loss salvage", it pays the owner the pre-collision value of the vehicle and forwards the certificate of ownership, the license plates and a required fee to the DMV. The DMV then issues a salvage certificate for the vehicle.
The vehicle may subsequently be repaired and re-registered with the DMV. It is then classified as a "revived salvage" or "salvaged" vehicle.
Why should consumers be cautious if they are considering buying a salvage vehicle?
- A salvage vehicle may have been seriously wrecked or damaged.
- Some salvage vehicles have been repaired with stolen parts, have poor quality parts, or have unsatisfactory repair work.
- If the California Highway Patrol (CHP) or the DMV determines the vehicle or its parts have been stolen, the vehicle cannot be registered and the vehicle or parts will be seized.
How can you protect yourself?
- Be aware. Sellers are legally required to disclose the vehicle's salvage title and history.
- Research the vehicle's history via the Internet.
- Check the vehicle's history with your insurance agent, who can get the information using the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN).
- A vehicle being offered for sale with no or incomplete DMV paperwork should have its title reviewed.
- Insist that the seller give you receipts for all repair parts at the time of sale.
- Know the process for getting a salvage vehicle certified, inspected and registered.
- Be cautious if the seller uses a cell phone and pager numbers, or insists you meet only in public places.
What are the indicators that a vehicle may be a "revived salvage" vehicle?
Signs of major repairs, in the following areas:
- Fire wall.
- Inner fender structures.
- Under carpet in the trunk.
- Vehicle Inspection Number (VIN) plate is attached with non-standard materials, rather than original rivets.
- Safety restraint light is always on.
- Airbag covers are resealed or improperly installed.
- NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) labels, which usually appear on doors, inside hood, tailgate, or hatchback are missing.
How do you re-register a salvage vehicle?
Get brakes and lights inspected and certified at a lamp and brake inspection
stations licensed by the Department of Consumer Affairs' Bureau of
Automotive Repair (DCA/BAR). Check the telephone book or business guide for
locations. Keep the inspection certificates.
Have the vehicle inspected and certified by a BAR licensed Smog Check station.
Keep the Vehicle Inspection Report (VIR) showing the car passed the Smog Check.
You can visit BAR's Web site to also find a Smog Check station near you.
If you own a pickup truck, you must take it to a California public weighmaster
to measure the empty weight of the truck. Keep the vehicle Weight Certificate.
You will also need:
Salvage Certificate, or signed application for a duplicate, to transfer title
to your name.
Receipts for all replacement parts, including seats and dashboards.
- Bills of sale from each seller if the Salvage Certificate wasn't signed.
- Salvage Certificate, or signed application for a duplicate, to transfer title to your name.
Get an Application for Registration (REG 343) at your local DMV field office or
from the DMV Web site at www.dmv.ca.gov.
Fill it out and take it, along with the rest of your paperwork, to your local
DMV field office.
A Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) inspection will be performed by the DMV,
or the vehicle will be referred to a CHP Inspection Station by the DMV.
- For registration fees, please visit the Department of Motor Vehicles salvage vehicle information page, http://www.dmv.ca.gov/pubs/brochures/howto/htvr13.htm