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Bryan
Hagerty Employee

Retitling a salvage is not a walk in the park

You know trouble is ahead when you see zip ties behind the grille during the inspection of a car that you are thinking of buying. Several months ago, I found a 1998 Toyota Tacoma regular-cab four-wheel-drive with a four-cylinder and five-speed stick. Not exotic, not collectible, but compact in the way trucks aren’t compact anymore, and ridiculously useful. There was other evidence of crash damage, but the repairs were good, the frame welds all looked factory, and the price was skinny enough. So I handed the guy a stack of hundreds and drove off, trying to ignore the faint waft of antifreeze coming from the vents.

 

At the DMV, they informed me that the truck’s apparently clean title was in fact earmarked in the computer as “bound over for salvage.” Meaning that an insurance company had totaled out the truck but the state had yet to reissue a new salvage title. Gah!

 

Read the full article on Hagerty.com:

https://www.hagerty.com/media/maintenance-and-tech/retitling-a-salvage-is-not-a-walk-in-the-park/

78 REPLIES 78
elldorado2000
Intermediate Driver

Frankly, anytime I have to deal with the DMV I get sick to my stomach.  

cestor01
Intermediate Driver

I am sure getting a Salvage Title anywhere requires a lot of leg work, but I learned one thing from the story (actually more like 'reinforced previously held beliefs'). Don't move to California!

patgarity
Intermediate Driver

I agree! Don’t move here. Too many people enjoying this near perfect climate and gorgeous beaches. Tourists go home but leave your daughters. Locals only.

db2sub1
Pit Crew

The land of fruits & nuts.

chrlsful
Instructor

and fires.  Family left outta there. Not the same it was...

Zephyr
Advanced Driver

As we say, if you take out the fruits and nuts all that's left is the flakes.

mwmyers91
Detailer

Is this something that a carfax report might have revealed ? Even if you still

wanted to buy it you could have leveraged the price to compensate to fees and

legwork.

AaronRobinson
New Driver

Yes, I should have run a Carfax or some other kind of VIN verification service, and I advise anyone who is buying a later model vehicle to do so. 

Tim
Instructor

Also, you should have reported the seller, because you just rewarded his dishonesty, so he's likely to do it again.

DanC
Pit Crew

Carfax is not the answer, especially for nice cars.  My 2005 Jag had a hard wreck that was never reported to insurance company, hence never would make it to carfax.  When a drunk hit my Mercedes, I chose to repair and get salvage title, the Ohio State Patrol inspection dissected it looking for stolen parts.  Lesson learned is MAKE SURE you have receipts for used parts with donor car VIN numbers.

goldwolfnhn
New Driver

there is actually a delay on things reported to Carfax and it showing up in the system, so someone can report an accident but if they sell the vehicle quickly enough after, they can get it sold before Car fax updates the system so you still think your getting a clean car.

High-Hope
Passenger

Getting a MA title on a salvage BMW 1150 GS Adventure was an impossible bureaucratic hell, so I had it registered and titled in VT.  I asked the VT clerk, a nice guy on the other end of the call, why VT was such a breeze and he said, "because we LOVE the revenue!" At least he was honest. A ratty Alfa GTV6 was easy in comparison (clean title) but the tax was on $8,000. No amount of discussion with the nasty MA DMV clerk would convince her that I paid (and probably overpaid) $2,000.

 

Getting several vintage cars in CA was a bit easier than I expected (a '76 911, '65 356C, and '62 356B, all bought in CA where I bought them) But a move to NC and dealing with the State Police was a PITA. Despite having clear CA titles, an appointment has to be made, a thorough inspection of VIN, odometer, and other legal details follows, then the long wait to get the title in the mail. I ended up having to delay the sale of a car as a result.

ed
Detailer

Don't know about VT, but in NH taxes are based on original list price, based on a database maintained by the state.  Has nothing to do with current value.  The taxes go down a bit over 5 years from new, and then remain flat.  But if it is over 5 years old, and the taxes are high when you register it, it will be the same forever.

Rider79
Instructor

How is dealing with the Man, anything like pita chips?

BSmitty
Passenger

We moved to NC 6 years ago and had to title a 68 Mustang...same experience as you. They wanted us to start the car - it was being overhauled.  They finally relented and titled the car.  The extent they go to is crazy, someone in the state legislature must have got burned on a purchase.

 

Bunka
Intermediate Driver

Yes and when I registered by 356B in NH (bought in MA) the clerk asked me what the original list price was.  I didn't know so I told her what I thought it might be and that is the figure that the state has used for my annual registration for the past 54 years.  I might look it up some time.  I bought a salvaged Subaru some years back.  The garage that fixed it up also had obtained a salvage title. Made no difference to me.  When I traded it in at a dealership, the salesman was not happy to see a salvage title, however, they still honored the deal we made before before they knew.

Beikokujin
New Driver

Go directly to the main DMV office in NC and assuming your paperwork is in hand, you can walk out with a new title.  I write a lot of title bonds in NC and agree many are not needed.  The majority of companies I deal with will NOT provide collision and comp on a salvage title in NC.

Oldsguy
New Driver

In WA the state Dept of Revenue calculates the sales tax you pay when titling a vehicle based upon an average value from a mysterious database of something like Kelly Blue Book.  The local DMV is just a collection agency for the Dept of Revenue.  It doesn't matter what you actually paid for it.

I got around this once with a really nice Jeep GC, highly optioned and low miles.  I bought it at auction really cheap as a rod went thru the oil pan.  I took the receipt, bill of sale, other paperwork, and proof of the damage directly to the Department of Revenue and was able to prove that the vehicle's value was what I paid for it (about %15 of KBB valuation).  I had to go to the counter-person's supervisor, then his supervisor, to get it straightened out.  They agreed that the value of this non-running vehicle was what I paid for it, but it took the three of them and a lengthy call to the dept HQ in Olympia to figure out the paperwork.  

In the end (about 45 minutes) they got it right, I paid the reasonable tax on the actual purchase price and saved about $1800.  Victory!!!

289cobra1
New Driver

I have heard that if a car is sold through Nevada into another state other than the state of origin it washes the title on an older vehicle pre car fax. Then the vehicle will have a clean title not a salvage title. Many classic cars are sold this way.

Hugosky
Navigator

Learned quite a lot, thank you for taking the time to share it with all of us.

Dhturk
Intermediate Driver

Speaking of California, smog testing is exempt on new cars up to four years old, however you still have to pay the smog check fee (the same you’d pay the tester) on your initial registration and annual renewal.  I suppose they have to give a cut to the tester, but not when you pay with your registration.

greatscott73
Intermediate Driver

Carfax isn't perfect. A family member owned a car that had been hit HARD in the rear twice. It was fixed at the dealer that sold the car both times and insurance paid the claim both times. When it was time to sell the car, Carfax showed the car as never having had an accident!

Sajeev
Community Manager

Wow, this is the first time I have heard that a Carfax report failed to pull data from an Insurance company.  Normally I hear that the Carfax failed because the owner fixed it under the radar. 

BiffNotZeem
Pit Crew

The accident damage to one of my cars didn't show up in Carfax until two years after the accident (and a year after I sold the car).

mfp4073
Intermediate Driver

I always ask if the Title is in hand or at the bank.   I have called or driven to many banks to verify this.   The Title must physically exist for me to buy it.   If it doesn't,  I walk away from it.  You can get into too many issues making an "open ended" purchase like that.   The only exception would be for new vehicles and the certificate of origin. 

Kyle
Moderator

The banks confirm that over the phone or in person without the title holder present? That would surprise me.

mfp4073
Intermediate Driver

Kyle.  Who said the seller isn't there???  It is common practice to go to the sellers bank and/or call to verify the Title and Lien status.  Frequently, the seller doesn't know where they stand on this or where their paperwork is at!  Some things are obvious, at least I thought.

Ericmx5
Passenger

Every one of these vintage cars I've bought has had some sort of title issue. Exactly half of them I got the seller to clean up, and the others I did. I have my fun with them, and the buyers get clean, no-problem titles. Maybe that's my contribution to the hobby - bringing back the cars you wouldn't. Sometimes it takes some faith - but it's always worked out. 

Redrepair
Passenger

I made my first and only Salvage purchase many years ago . I sat down with my insurance agent and was surprised on how much cheaper the insurance cost was. Then I found out that the $8,000 buy of a life time would have a total insurance pay out of $1500. That would be it, even if I had restored the car to full glory unless I got a clear title. Unfortunately, the cost to replace the specific parts would require a whole custom fabrication of the front end . Which exceeded the cost worth of the car fully restored. It became a parts car 

Tinkerah
Technician

My one and only salvage title experience from decades ago: bought a project with a salvage title when I thought it simply meant it would still state "Salvage" when I retitled it and didn't care. Fixed it for my own use, cut no corners, then learned when attempting to register I would have to buy an appointment at the head RMV office in downtown Boston where there's NO parking, hire a ramp truck (by the hour plus mileage from a suburb) to bring the car in, have the truck drive around the block eternally until the inspector deigned to come out and likely fail me anyway. Instead: I opted to hand the title, $350 cash and my phone number up to a mysterious truck driver in an alley at night and was told I'd hear back. Some two months later I got a call instructing me to meet a different guy in a shopping center parking lot on a certain day and time. Voila: clean MA state title. I don't care what the bait is and I advise the same whenever the subject comes up: never again. Either way you do it, way too much stress.

ed
Detailer

I found that the state of Colorado does not require a title to be branded for flood damage.  A Subaru dealer had his entire inventory declared as a loss.  Someone then took the inventory and sold them to used-car dealers all over the country still on MSO.  I was suspicious that a car still on MSO was at a used lot, and my inspection confirmed it.  There was mud in the air box, and a visible waterline behind the door panels.  I can work with a salvage title for accident/theft damage, but I avoid flood salvages, period.  The car will NEVER be right.  Some poor sucker....

Technicaljargon
Passenger

Another thing to note is insurance. Some insurance carriers won’t insure salvaged vehicles. If they do,then typically the vehicle is valued at about twenty five percent of fair market value. One good reason not to dump a bunch of money into a salvage vehicle;classic or otherwise.

Tim
Instructor

Those that choose to by and own a salvage vehicle should obtain "agreed value" insurance. This is where you and the insurance company have agreed on a specific valuation for the vehicle.

SteveNL
Intermediate Driver

I owned a '99 Tacoma that was very much like Aaron's.  They are FANTASTIC little trucks.  They almost never break and are very easy to service.  Just don't forget to grease the universal joints on the drive shafts.  Almost no one thinks to do that job.  Upstate New York salted roads finally did mine in.  Now I own a 2014 Tacoma, but it isn't nearly as nice.  The new version has all sorts of electronic features that no one needs and is missing some features (like intermittent wipers), that everyone needs.  It's porky, ugly and slow.  So, hang onto your pretty '98 and enjoy its simplicity.

 

Second point....The New York State inspection is very stringent.  I own a 2003 Miata that is also a wonderful vehicle.  But if I unhook the battery, it takes thousands of miles for the intermittent monitors on my emission control system to set.  No code, no check engine light and the car still runs beautifully.  But an OBD II scanner will show that the monitors aren't ready.  The car has been back at the dealership and at numerous repair shops after failing the state inspection, which requires that no more than two intermittent monitors can be "not ready".   No one can say why this car takes so long for the monitors to set properly, but they eventually do.  Unfortunately, if something happens to cause the car to lose battery power prior to the yearly inspection, I will have to pay up to $450 to a mechanic to look for a solution.  Only then will the state issue a special waiver for me to obtain an inspection sticker.  If I lived a few miles south in Pennsylvania, it wouldn't be a problem.

 

 

Jeff_C
Pit Crew

I was told by the Ohio DMV that you need receipts for all the repair work to get it re-titled. I asked what if I do the work myself?  She said "Honey, just don't buy a car with a salvage title."  I took her advice.

Robin
Pit Crew

Several years ago I was in a low-speed accident, (me stopped, other car doing around 25mph) that tore the front bumper and lower valance off, crunched a front fender and creased up the hood of my Honda van. The insurance company refused to repair it saying the repair costs exceeded it's value.

As I wanted to keep the van, my only option was to buy it from myself on a salvage title. The next trick was finding a repair shop to work on it - the local dealers wouldn't touch a salvage title vehicle. The independent shop I found had experience working thru the official labyrinth of technicalities Ohio requires to repair and then re-title a salvage titled car. Every receipt, for every part had to be presented at the state inspection site, the car gone over thoroughly and of course...more fees paid. Fortunately the repair shop owner went with me to the inspection site and was able to provide all invoices and info to the inspector. It was an experience I would not seek to go thru again!  

 

Even longer ago I bought an antique truck in CA and sought to title it in OH. The car had to go to a local Dealer (glad the Pontiac brand still existed then...) where a Deputy Sheriff and a mechanic went over the truck comparing engine, transmission, frame, etc. numbers and then deeming it roadworthy. Again, a frustrating experience.

My most recent experience went much smoother last year when I bought an '08 Element from a friend in IN. Only 3 trips to various BMV departments to get an OH title.

wentwest
Intermediate Driver

It's very, very easy to stumble into a dark hole like this.  California can be difficult about some things and easy about others, so it's impossible to be so confident that it's always terrible.  I mess with old motorcycles and the documentation I get is pretty sketchy sometimes, and certain things can cost you a ton of money.  If the Cal. registration is expired for a few years be prepared to go to the DMV website for a calculator to find out the tab.  It's available with the license number and the last 5 of the VIN.  It can be close to $1,000.  On the other hand if the owner put it into "Non-Operation" status ever, even decades ago, all you do is pay the fees for transfer of title and registration and off you go, no inspection at all for a motorcycle.  For cars and light trucks you need a smog check.  

Gotta do the homework.

flyingfarley
New Driver

I was a car dealer in Wisconsin for a half dozen years before i retired.  I bought all my cars for my lot at salvage auctions...probably had 150 or so salvage inspections done in Wi...was not a big problem, was not expensive to get done...just had to have receipt with VIN #'s for used parts bought.  Had to take it to a certain place to get it inspected....The title was branded as repaired salvage for ever......never had a problem selling the cars, as long as the asking price reflected the previous salvage brand, and the workmanship was first class

strunk1
Passenger

I once had a thriving business repairing damaged cars for families who needed a cheap reliable second car. I was repairing crash damaged 4- 5 year old cars, which are often totaled by the insurance companies with relatively minor damage. Pa. stepped in with draconian regulations trying to solve a problem that didn't exist. Several employees had to be laid off and my customer base was forced to spend a lot more money for a decent used car. Stupid!

mikef
Passenger

One thing I learned is that, while arduous, it's possible, which I did realize. I once had a tip top '99 4Runner "totaled" after a complete engine rebuild. If I knew the steps to retitling back then I might have kept it.

dbraun99
Pit Crew

Reading the article and the comments is a good lesson on why States rights are an important issue. It becomes an individual's choice to remain in a given state because you value the rules or to move to a different one if you find them restrictive. I'm not trying to be political, but anti-Federalism was a big deal to the founders, and something that everyone on all sides of the political spectrum should be able to find value in.

Longfellow
Navigator

I would not stand for the deceit you experienced from the seller of that vehicle!
If it has been less than a year since your purchase, itemize all of your expenses and send via USPS certified return, receipt requested; a bill to the previous owner explaining the fraud he committed along with quoting Cal state statues.
You have legal standing especially if you have a witness. The witness can assist with a notorized affidavit. 
If the expenses were less than specified ceiling amount ($8,000?), you can take the adversarial party to small claims court and get a court ordered settlement. While there at the courthouse, you can get the court to garnish the other parties wages/accounts (in case he claims no funds available)
So, moral to this story is:
Good Luck to you no matter which direction you may chose!

RobH
Pit Crew

Hey Aaron, sorry you had to go through all that, but I agree it was worth it for a sweet truck!  What a neat model of Toyota; most are extended cab and this one just looks right!

Unclemarks
New Driver

Here in Manitoba Canada, you also have to do something called structural integrity where the vehicle is placed on a frame machine to see if the frame is not bent, even if its salvage due to hitting a bird and breaking the very expensive grill or windshield. This inspection alone is around $500 plus fees to straighten if it is not straight, plus all the other inspections mentioned in your story! Ouch. Our normal safeties alone can average $1000 including parts. So on average, we can count on at least $1500 to get something like your little truck back on the road. 

patgarity
Intermediate Driver

I have seen some scary rebuilds on salvage vehicles. Welding on modern unibodied vehicles isn’t something for driveway mechanics. That didn’t stop my ex father in law from brazing together totals and hiding the wrecks under a new paint job. If these cars ever experience another accident they will fall apart at the inferior welds. Ask a professional about the proper welding techniques required on today’s cars. A visual inspection of welds by a hobbyist doesn’t cut it. Scares me that these wrecks are on public roads! Don’t EVER buy one!

Historian
Detailer

Timely article!  Recently bought two vehicles from the police auto auction.  A car for my wife, and a truck for me.  Both were in reasonable shape for what I paid.  Pay the invoice from the private auction company.  City later issues me a bill of sale.  Now, I have to present the vehicles to the state highway patrol, so they can verify the VINs.  If the city police impounded the car, and the city sold them, why doesn't the state trust them to have gotten the VIN's right?  This isn't a one-time thing, they hold auctions regularly.  Once the HP verify's the VINs, then I can apply for titles, either as salvage or original.  Since the vehicles are not plated yet, I will likely have to pay to haul them out to the HP facility to be inspected.  This is getting more expensive than I expected!

Lowandslow
Passenger

I bought a ‘65 Corvair many years ago with no title and went to my local mechanic who had a yard full of Corvairs and he sold me a title and I.d. Plate from an identical car. I installed the plate and went to the DMV for an inspection and he immediately noticed that the blind rivets I used were wrong and told me to take it to the highway patrol office to have it checked against the stamped I.d. On the frame. So I went back to my mechanic friend who forgot to give me the correct rivets. So I reattached the plate, sprayed it with oil and sprinkled dust from a vacuum cleaner bag and it looked like it had been there for 30 years. I took it to a different DMV office and it sailed through the inspection. I later moved to California and sold the car and for all I know it may be still running around with an illegal I.d. Plate and title.

BattChief2
Navigator

That would be a felony in my state, and carries 1-6 years in the pokey.
Murat
New Driver

so, what was the total cost? what were the exact steps? what was in the DMV list? why publish an incomplete article?