Repairable vs. Nonrepairable Title Salvage Car

Repairable And Nonrepairable Salvage Car Titles

When shopping for salvage cars for sale there is a very important distinction.  Some salvage cars are repairable, but others are not. In general, a car that has been written off is deemed salvage, and the title is issued or marked as such for any future buyers.

Some of the reasons that may give a vehicle a salvage title include collision damage, flooding, theft, hail, etc.  For example, Oregon defines an Oregon Salvage Title Certificate as a “legal document that indicates the vehicle was totaled, wrecked, dismantled, stolen, or abandoned. It also indicates ownership of the vehicle.”.

Why Do Cars Have Norepairable Salvage Title?

Nonrepairable Salvage Car Subaru
Hello Wrecker

Some salvage cars are titled ”non-repairable”.  The State of California DMV  defines it as  “a vehicle that has no resale value except as a source of parts or scrap metal, and which the owner irreversibly designates solely as a source of parts or scrap metal.” You are basically buying a bunch of parts and junk metal.

There are some limited exceptions (classic cars, for example) but that’s for another article. For the most part, this classification means that the nonrepairable titled salvage car cannot be titled as anything but destined for dismantling and junking.

Once a car or truck is declared nonrepairable, the general rule is that no other state will grant it a rebuilt title. Oregon, for example, will not issue a salvage repairable title to any vehicle that has the following designations in the out-of-state title :

• Destroyed
• Dismantled
• Hulk
• Junk
• Non-rebuildable
• Nonrepairable
• Parts only
• Scrap
• Wreck, Dismantler, or Wrecker only

Nonrepairable Lexus Destined For Parts
Definitely Scrap Heap Potential!

Why Cars Are Repairable Salvage

There are salvage title autos that are repairable. That is, with proper repair work and inspection, state authorities will title it as a “rebuilt”, “reconstructed” or “operable salvage” to use the examples of Florida, Oregon, and New Jersey, respectively.

These inspections are pretty exhaustive, and in some cases involve showing photographs of the work performed, before and after and proof of the sourcing of major components, such as engines and drivetrain.  

Why Would You Buy A Nonrepairable Salvage Title Car?

First, an important caveat: you might not be able to buy a nonrepairable salvage vehicle.  Certain states require the buyer of a nonrepairable parts car to be properly licensed to purchase and/or dismantle them. Other states will issue a certificate of destruction with the understanding that the owner is going to dispose of the vehicle.  

The owners of a project car may want to have a “parts car” to use as a good source of parts for their present project. A nonrepairable car can have valuable parts, such as body trim, interior, engine and frame components that are in good condition and may be sold in online sites or swap meets.     

Lexus Wrecked Nonrepairable
Ouch, Probably Not Repairable!
Wrecked Nonrepairable Interior For Parts
But That Interior!!!

Remember To Always Research The Title Of Any Salvage Auto

In the end, the main rule is to look carefully when buying a salvage titled vehicle online. Make sure the title is rebuildable in the state it comes from. Go to that state’s DMV and research what the term from the title means. A careful buyer can even make some money back selling parts of a nonrepairable salvage car.  A repairable salvage car or truck can be a great daily commuter or simply a weekend toy.

Don’t get stuck with a nonrepairable car, when you expected a project car to drive around. A little time investigating the origins of the car can pay off with a properly titled vehicle.   

Once you have made the decision, check out the auctions for salvage autos here.