4 Steps to erase a salvage title on a 2021 vehicle

The subject of salvage title vehicles is, believe it or not, a relatively interesting one. A salvage car is one that an insurance company has determined will cost more money to repair than a high percentage than the car itself is worth (percentage thresholds vary by state). Car lovers, especially those who enjoy doing serious repairs with them, can talk about salvage cars all day. Really, what is more fun than bringing a vehicle that has been totally scrapped and heading to the trash pile of death and in perfect working order?

(I can think of many things, but once again, I am not a mechanic).

But there are many problems that must be solved in order to take a vehicle saved from rough diamonds from the garbage heap and put it back on the road, and one of the most important has to do with titling. It is important to understand that once an insurance company considers a vehicle to be a total loss, its title will be “qualified” as salvage (hence the term “salvage title”). In most states, you cannot drive a salvage title car on the road or get insurance for it, and it is difficult to find a company willing to insure or obtain financing to buy even a previously salvaged title car. Most big-name dealerships also avoid accepting a salvage car as a trade-in. Which brings us to our topic: how to get a salvage title removed from a vehicle. I think it’s best to start with this question: Can I remove a salvage title on a vehicle?

And the quick and dirty answer is:

It can not.

Fortunately, that is not the end of the discussion. This is why.

Title Name Games

Before we begin, it is important to note that trying to hide a car’s history in a way that is not totally “by the book” in its particular condition is a felony called title laundering.

Each state’s car license regulations are different and you should always check your state’s unique registration requirements and titling rules before considering a salvage car title. However, the rules are quite similar in most jurisdictions and they work this way. Once a vehicle’s title has been qualified as salvage, it will never go back to the way it was titled before. In most states, however, the title can be rebranded as “rebuilt recovery” (or in some places “refurbished” or “assembled”). This, of course, will require you to repair the vehicle and send it to the DMV for inspection. If you pass the snuff, the DMV will re-mark the title as “rebuilt.”

So I guess you could technically say that the salvage title has been removed. But only technically. Anyone who knows anything about vehicle titles (and auto history reporting services) will see the word “rebuilt” and know that it means that it used to be called salvage. That includes, by the way, all insurance companies and any well-informed potential buyers. If that’s a big problem for you, skip the salvage game. If not, keep reading.

The actual steps

Here is a brief summary of the steps you will normally need to follow to “remove” a ransom title:

1. Buy the vehicle

This may or may not be as simple as it sounds. Some states will only allow licensed rebuilders to buy or own a salvage title car. If that is the case in your state, you will only be able to have the vehicle once it has been repaired and has gone through the inspection and rebranding process.

2. Repair the vehicle

Make sure you know what you are doing or have the vehicle repaired by a certified mechanic who does. Also, be sure to hold on to each and every vehicle document and take lots of photos before and during the repair process.

3. Get the inspection

Obtain and complete the necessary forms from the DMV to have the car inspected. This is where all the documents and those photos come into play. The DMV will most likely require you to submit your bill of sale, salvage title, photos, and other documentation as part of the process.

Once you’ve handled the paperwork, schedule an inspection and have the vehicle inspected. Remember, you cannot legally drive the vehicle to the inspection facility, so you will likely have to tow it there.

Once the inspection has passed (and you have paid the inspection fees), the inspector will place a sticker on the vehicle indicating that it has passed.

4. Final paperwork

Your next move will be to apply for the trademark title, which will require filling out more forms and paying more fees. You should then receive the title with a statement marked on your face indicating that the vehicle has been rebuilt.

Another potential problem: If your vehicle received its salvage title in another state, you may need to have it inspected and rebranded in that state before you can register it at your home. Again, check your state regulations before making your purchase.

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