If you’re shopping around for a used car, you are probably searching for one that has a clean title. Yet if you search online your eyes may be drawn to seemingly perfect vehicles — with incredibly attractive prices and low mileage — only later to find out that their title states “Salvage.” You might get annoyed to find several options you’ve considered are marked with the vehicular equivalent of the scarlet letter and you may wonder if a salvage title is really all that bad. Well, is it?

What is a Salvage Car?

The general consensus of salvage cars is that they have been involved in serious accidents and are therefore, unreliable. This is not a bad assumption, but it doesn’t paint the full picture. Salvage cars are vehicles whose titles show they have been deemed a total loss by the insurer. Usually, these cars have been severely damaged.

In Oregon, a salvage title can be given to any car that would cost an insurance company to pay at least 80% of the car’s market value at the time it was damaged (or stolen) to repair or replace it. That’s right, on rare occasions salvage cars don’t have a mark on them, they were just found through unfortunate circumstances. In addition, abandoned vehicles worth less than $500 are also also given salvage titles.

Is it Worth the Risk?

Salvage cars typically sell at 5% to 10% below market value, yet they are usually accompanied by a hoard of obstacles involving insurance and financing, and quality and safety.

After a car is considered totaled it faces two possibilities: a salvage certificate that prevents it from being registered, driven, or sold as-is, or it is rebuilt and remarketed as a salvage car. The first group of vehicles end up at auctions for car rebuilders or junk yards. The salvage cars that make it on the market are those that have been rebuilt and have passed inspections, which vary from state to state. These cars are issued a title that indicates they are salvage vehicles.

The functionality and safety of these cars is so unpredictable that it is generally recommended to avoid salvage titles whenever possible. The “savings” generally do not outweigh the drawbacks of owning such a car. If you are tempted to purchase a vehicle with a salvage title, there are several things you should know.

Reasons for the Salvage Title

Not all salvage vehicles were totaled in a collision by their previous owners. In fact, some vehicles are found cars that have been stolen that were not recovered by police. Others have been damaged in other ways. Salvage vehicles, regardless of whether they were in an accident, hardly meet their manufacturers’ strict standards.

Vehicles could be considered a total loss for several reasons:

Flood damage — Floodwaters can severely damage electrical and mechanical components. If saltwater was involved, it can go to great lengths to rust the exterior of the vehicle.

Vandalism — A car that was targeted for damage during a riot could be severely burned and beat up. Windows could be smashed in. A car in such conditions is not deemed worthy of repair.

Hail or windstorm damage — Big weather events like a strong hailstorm or a tornado can severely batter a vehicle.

Stolen — Those who dabble in stealing cars do not care to bang them up. Thieves rarely treat cars taken for a joyride with caution. Even if they are never involved in an accident, these cars are usually aesthetically damaged.

Insurance Companies Don’t Want the Risk

There is a long and tedious process to obtaining insurance on a vehicle with a salvage title. After a car has been totaled, the owner has 30 days from the date the loss was declared to hand the title over to the Oregon DMV. It is then possible to apply for a salvage title. If the car has been repaired or rebuilt, Oregon allows the owner to apply for a reconstructed title.

If the car falls under all the proper guidelines, it’s possible to get this vehicle insured in Oregon. Yet most companies are only willing to offer liability coverage. Most insurance companies are hesitant to offer comprehensive or collision coverage for reconstructed vehicles because it is complicated to evaluate the vehicle’s actual value after it has been declared a total loss from a previous insurer.

When it comes to salvage titles, you hardly ever know what you’re going to get. If you have been injured in an accident caused by a salvage vehicle, speak to attorney Richard Rizk about your personal injury case. Call (503) 245-5677 or contact info@rizklaw.com for a free consultation.