It is a difficult matter to get a new used car in this market, the prices are high, the reselling is difficult, the financing is a nightmare so it is a matter of looking for every possible way to get the best and cheaper option.
Let me paint you a familiar picture: you are shopping around and you find the car of your dreams two or three times cheaper than everything you have seen before hence you have to seize the opportunity, right?
Well, pause and research before you make the same mistake I did when I only took my seller’s advice regarding the money I was saving at that moment and did not think about the future investments and problems I was going to have.
Basically what you have encountered (if not specified in the ad or dealership) is most likely something called a ‘Salvage title’ they are branded vehicles that have been in an accident and the insurance company determined that the overall damage cost exceeded (or was close to) the value of the vehicle thus it was not viable for them to repair it, as a result, the vehicle is declared a total loss.
What the insurance companies normally do is selling the car to a dealership, a parts dismantler, or a repair shop that will restore them to basic safety standards and re-sell them or take it apart completely.
After the basic standards have been met the renovated vehicle could be sold with a ‘Brand’ indicating what went through those standards.
Below you will find 5 things you need to know about cars with salvage titles before considering them an option.
1. You have no guarantee at all that everything that needed to be repaired the first time was actually done. As I stated above the vehicle will be restored to meet the DMV basic safety standards (according to the state that the car was in). Aside from this, you will have no certainty and no way to prove if the repairs carried out were actually high quality or not.
2. Every vehicle has crumple zones that are made to absorb any impact the vehicle sustains by controlled deforming. Unless these zones have been completely replaced by brand new ones, they will not work as they should which will put the passengers on the car in danger.
3. As you know the electrical part of a car is extremely important; when an accident occurs the electrical wires in the car probably endured an extent of harm which typically does not show in the inspections (as they are somewhat hidden within the structure of the car), if the wires are not thoroughly checked then you could have a potential fire risk.
4. You need to be prepared to regularly check the alignment of your car. After a car has been in an accident and the chassis or the outside structure of the vehicle was damaged it will be extremely difficult for the mechanic or repair shop to fix it in a way that it is completely straight again, this could lead to alignment or suspension problems and all the mechanical complications this could bring.
5. Safety is not something you actively search for when you are buying a car because it is always a given, you assume your car will be safe so you don’t pay much attention to it. For example, airbags are one of the most important safety items, and also one of the most expensive objects so once they have been used it will be one of the first things that will be overlooked when repairing a car. The problem is that you won’t know if they are working or not until you need them and that is a pretty big risk to take.
What else do you need to know?
Insurance can be hard to get. As they know what they are getting into, some insurance companies will not take vehicles that had salvage titles, and the ones that do will usually charge you high amounts. So you should do some call-outs for quotes before committing to one of those cars.
- Financing could be even harder. Banks do not like those type of vehicles so you need to be prepared for additional conditions in order to apply for credit (such as shorter time or higher fees)
- Re-selling your car will be exceedingly difficult (for all the reasons listed above)
- Before getting a salvage car, take a trusted (and good) mechanic with you to check meticulously the vehicle, in order to minimize the risks as much as you can and verify if the damages were minor or actual life-threatening ones.
Last, but not least.
Having gone through the points above you should really consider the perils of getting a salvage title car, it is important as well that you know the different ways they can be called so you can identify them from the beginning. You have to be on the lookout for words like:
- Junk / Non-repairable
- Rebuilt / Reconstructed
- Flood / Water
Finally, you know there are some unethical people out there hence you should always keep an eye out for other types of branded vehicle titles such as theft recovery, odometer rollback, hail damage, lemon (excessive mechanical problems), or manufacturer buyback.
Buying a branded car could be a bargain but could also come with a lot of safety and mechanical problems (just to name two) that you will have to carry for the time you decide to keep the vehicle.
As for me, I never got into any serious accidents nor my life was at risk while I had my branded car but I did spend a few thousand bucks trying to fix problems here and there (motor, alignment, tires) that were a direct result of the crash it had been in, at the end and feeling very disappointed I had to sell it for a price way lower than what I paid initially.
So now that you know a little bit more, would you consider buying a salvage title car?