What are “Repairable Salvage Cars for Sale”?

repairable salvage cars

You may have heard the term “repairable salvage cars”. Perhaps you’ve seen repairable salvage cars for sale online? 

While explaining the details of repairable salvage cars is I will go over:

  • the definition of a repairable salvage car
  • how a vehicle comes to be a repairable salvage car
  • the difference between a repairable salvage car vs non-repairable
  • how you can find salvage cars for sale online even if you do not have a dealer’s license

If you are thinking about it, or have already started looking for repairable salvage cars for sale online this is a great place to find the answers to some common questions.

To understand what a repairable salvage car is, it is best to start with understanding what a “salvage car” is first.

According to popular salvage auto auction site Salvage Autos Auction

“‘a salvage car is an automobile that has what is known as a salvage title.’”

Ok, that seems simple enough. But that brings us to the next question: what exactly is a salvage title?

Wikipedia defines a salvage title as: “a form of vehicle title branding, which notes that the vehicle has been damaged and/or deemed a total loss by an insurance company that paid a claim on it.”

In other words, cars that have been given a “salvage title” are automobiles that have been declared as total losses by insurance companies.

Now that we know what a salvage title is, the next question and potentially more important question is:

How did this car end up with a salvage title in the first place?

The insurance company determined the costs to repair a vehicle would exceed 50% to 75% of their current market values. Insurance companies then figure it is not worth repairing the car and deem them as a “total loss”. 

Of course there are always exceptions to the norm. According to Salvage Reseller there are some other cases in which cars are given salvage titles as well.”

Stolen and recovered vehicles are also given salvage titles because they are considered “repairable salvage cars”.

Salvage Reseller goes into further detail in their definition of salvage cars.

Being branded with a salvage title greatly depreciates a vehicle’s value, but this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. A repaired, reconstructed or rebuilt salvage car can translate into a great, reliable money-saving investment. However, if you’re buying a used car it’s important to be informed of the vehicle’s history and be aware of its status as a salvage vehicle.

Another great example of cars that may have been declared a “total loss” and given a salvage title are vehicles that have suffered hail damage. Below you will see a car that has taken significant hail damage. This car was deemed a total loss, and given a salvage title.

hail damaged salvage cars for sale

As you can see in the photo there is damage from the impact of the hail. But, this should not affect the performance of the car. In many cases, those blemishes are even repairable. Another example of repairable salvage cars. 

Let’s put the hail damage aside for a moment and say that this is a decent car that runs well. Let’s say it has approximately 25k miles on it. It has a healthy engine, good tires, and all other parts are working as intended.

What if I told you that you could purchase this car at a fraction of its value? Here is how:

  1. Take a car valued at $18,000.00 with no hail damage
  2. Say you could get it for $10,000.00 from a salvage auto auction online
  3. Theoretically, you could spend another $2,000.00 on repairs and still be up $6,000.00

Not bad for a perfectly safe and roadworthy car. This is one of the main reasons so many people are searching for repairable salvage cars for sale online.

Now that I have explained what a “salvage title” is and what makes cars “repairable salvage cars”. It is important to give you the other side of the coin.

Sometimes a salvage car is not repairable. If a car you are looking at is not repairable it will be specified on the vehicle information page. Different states use different terminology to indicate when a salvage vehicle is not repairable. Some of the terms are: 

  • “non repairable” 
  • “parts only” or
  • “certificate of destruction” depending on the state.

This is an important distinction one should be aware of when looking into repairable salvage cars for sale online.

Every vehicle that is up for auction on any reputable salvage auction website will have a page with a “vehicle information sheet”. Here is one for example:

vehicle information sheet

Pay particular attention to what is next to the Title State/Type section. If the vehicle is not reparable it will be specified here. There is also other information for you to look over such as “damage type” and how many miles are on the odometer.

Although this information will most likely be accurate, it is still advisable to:

  • either inspect the car yourself or 
  • hire an inspector to look at the car on your behalf before committing to a bid

Now we are a bit more familiar with repairable salvage cars and how they end up with that distinction. What about the “for sale” part of the equation?

We can use our hail damaged car as our example again. The insurance company had to deem the car as a total loss due to the extent of the damage. The owner of the car has to relinquish it to the insurance company. Once they square everything away with the car owner, what happens with the car?

The insurance company takes on the burden. This happens every day for a multitude of reasons such as:

  • floods
  • accidents
  • and theft

Why is this bad for insurance companies? 

  1. It is impossible to sell them on their own
  2. They have spent more money on the car than it’s worth
  3. There is no space for thousands of totaled vehicles

One way to help is by working with companies like Copart.com. By working with Copart they are able to sell the vehicles online via auction.

Copart has partnered with some different brokers and market makers who have sites that allow non-licensed individuals to buy vehicles from Copart’s enormous inventory. 

Buying repairable salvage cars online has become more popular in the past several years. This is because more options have become available to dealers and consumers alike.

This is a look at the popularity and frequency of online searches for salvage cars for sale on the internet since 2004.


As you can see in the graph, the frequency of people looking for salvage cars for sale online has gradually risen over the years. These numbers will continue to grow. There will always be a need for salvage title cars whether for use or for their parts.

With the growing number of requests we have also seen the number of websites selling repairable salvage cars grow. Gone are the days where you had to go to the junkyard yourself to bid on repairable salvage cars.

Thanks to online salvage car auctions you can search for salvage cars for sale from all around the country from the comfort of your home. 

I hope this article has helped answer some of your questions and made things easier for you. Good luck on all of your future bids! Please leave a comment if you have any additional questions or concerns you’d like me to address in a future post.