Are Salvaged Cars Worth Considering?

2008 Mercedes-Benz E-Class

Next time you buy a used car, maybe you should consider one with a salvage title.

I know that goes against all rational advice and conventional wisdom for used-car buying, but there are certain conditions where a salvaged car might actually make sense. First, though, it’s important to understand exactly what a salvage (or junk) title really means.

Generally, though it varies greatly by state, a salvage title is issued to a damaged car when the insurer determines the cost of repair exceeds about 75 percent of its market value at the time of the accident. Repaired cars are often sold with the “salvaged” or “rebuilt” brand on the title at substantial discounts over similar cars with clean titles.

Considering how many ways a car can get destroyed, there are certainly risks in buying once-wrecked vehicles. However, you could also score the deal of a lifetime.

First, there are two rules I simply won’t bend regarding salvaged cars: Never buy a vehicle damaged by water or a vehicle with a bent frame. Between the devastating effects of water on electrical parts and the permanent risk of mold growth, water-damaged cars must always be avoided. Frame damage never really goes away either. Once the metal is bent, its integrity is compromised, and that could turn into a serious safety issue.

That said, I would consider cars repaired after:

  • Heat damage. I owned a 2004 Honda Pilot that, in 2004, was parked next to another vehicle that burned to the ground. While the Pilot never caught fire, the driver’s side suffered some serious melting. The car went into the body shop, all new parts were ordered from Honda, and the car was put back together, good as new.
  • Theft. In some states, cars that are stolen are classified as a total loss. When recovered, they generally don’t have major damage other than cosmetic issues that are fairly easy fixes. Stolen cars make great salvage cars!
  • Collisions. Late model luxury cars involved in accidents can be expensive to repair, and it doesn’t take total devastation to declare a car such as a Mercedes-Benz E-Class a loss. Body damage and mechanical parts can be repaired, so buying salvaged could save you a bundle.

If you find a salvaged vehicle you’re interested in, do three things. First, realize that very few dealers will take salvages on trade-in, and they can be hard to resell privately. Make sure you want to keep it for a while! Second, check the car’s price by looking up the value of the same model to compare prices of cars with clear titles. (CarGurus offers a cool new pricing tool that’ll get you started.) Finally, have the car inspected at a body shop! They will be able to look for evidence of water damage and inspect the frame.

If you’re patient, on a tight budget, and know what to look for, there’s no reason a salvaged vehicle can’t provide years of reliable service.

Would you consider a vehicle with a salvage title?


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Used Honda Pilot
Used Mercedes-Benz E-Class


  1. Buying a salvage car is always help because it will overcome your dream at very affordable prices.

  2. yes, salvage cars are always worth considering they make you financially stronger because it takes very less and help you lot. Thanks for your valuable information which i got from your article & I like these.

  3. It all depends on the extent of the damage. Obviously not all salvage vehicles are meant to be rebuilt. You really have to evaluate the vehicle along side with your mechanic or body man. Also if you are a novice buyer I do not recommend buying directly from an insurance auction yourself. BUYER BEWARE AS IS WHERE IS ALL SALES ARE FINAL!! Plus there are other selling their vehicles through these auctions and are deliberately hiding damage to deceive buyers. My first experience was buying direct from Copart and it was not a good one. So I gave it another chance with a reputable salvage vehicle dealer with years of experience and it turned out very well. I bought a 2017 Nissan Rouge with hail damage and a clean title. They assisted me through the entire process , from locating parts and even vehicle transportation.

  4. I have some lmited auto body experience and would like to find a slightly used salvage Honda CRV and have a professional shop do the major repair. I can so the light body works and painting. There are plenty on Ebay or the national salvage yards like Coparts, but I’m afraid that the repairs may either be too expensive- thus making the purchase a bad deal vs a CRV with a CLEAN title, or, if a section of the sub frame or inner fender is only straightened, the vehicle may be weakened in case of another wreck. We used to straighten the radiator supports and inner fenders, but I guess now thats not good enough. If the actual front FRAME HORN is bent or collasped, would that mean replacing that section? How can it be if you cant weld it on per one of the letter writers above?

  5. loking at a 2014 impala that was wrecked on left rear quarter. Was not totaled does not have salvage title. Dealer claims no frame damage car has only 9500 miles priced a 14000 if frame is damaged is it repairable and at what kind of cost.

  6. They are saling me a 2004 Honda pilot its branded title. The thing is that it was in a water and they are asking like 7000 is it worth it

    • Hi Liliana,
      Vehicles damaged by water can be a challenge. There can be unseen mold and electrical problems that might not crop up until well after your purchase. Use extreme caution, and I highly recommend having the Pilot checked out by a qualified mechanic before making any decisions.

  7. Yes.I purchased a lot salvage cars through brokers, fixed and re-sold to make additional extra money. There are a lot brokers online who can help you to buy direclty from auction. Check

  8. My Camry got rear-ended a few years back, which bent its frame a tiny bit. The one ongoing problem that causes for me is that my tires won’t align super well, so they wear more quickly than they should. The bend probably hurts my mileage a bit, too, but other than that, I haven’t seen any real problems.

    I would definitely have a mechanic take a look at that Cobalt to get an expert opinion on that particular car before making a decision, though. My bend is very slight, and I’m sure a bigger bend could cause bigger problems. Good luck!

  9. should I buy a 05 chev cobalt that has a a kink or mashed in the rear uniboby frame? The vehicle drives great and no transmission links. Engine is very clean.

  10. Having been in the auto repair business for over 20 yrs, I totally agree with never by a vehicle that has a salvage title as a result of a flood. Usually insurance companies will repair flooded cars if the water level was below dash or even center consoles. If it has a salvage title, either it had a high water level or the value was low enough that even minor flood repairs exceeded the value.

    However, bent frames? Bent frames are repaired all the time. A bent frame does not meen an automatic total loss. When a frame rail is actually kinked or mashed, yes, that cannot be repaired as per I-Car standards and the manufacturer’s recomendations. On full framed vehicles, generally, this means replacing the frame. Depending on the ACV vehicle, the vehicle could be repaired. On the subject of unibody vehicles; the manufactures have taken steps to offer frame rail sectioning proceedures as well as frame section replacement parts. Some frames due to the metals makeup, have few repair recomendations and most with limited or no heat during the repairs. In a lot of cases when a vehicle is deemed a total, the cost of the air bags and the required replacement parts involved in an air bag deployment is what pushes the repairs beyond the threshold. However, my point is, a bent frame is not necessarily a deal breaker.

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