How To Sell A Salvage Car In California

The Golden State has some of the most stringent laws regarding auto insurance, registration, and the sale of cars. So, it may seem a little overwhelming when you’re trying to figure out how to sell a salvage car in California.

In this guide, we’ll cover what you need to know about selling your salvage vehicle in the state of California, including how to get a salvage certificate, where to sell salvage vehicles, and more.

What is a Salvage Title?

When your vehicle is involved in an accident, your insurance company will assess the damage and estimate what it will cost to repair it. If the estimated cost of repairs to make the car safe to drive would be unreasonable, the vehicle is issued a salvage title. This is usually when repairs would exceed 75% of its fair market value.

Let’s imagine you have a 2005 Pontiac Vibe with a value of $3,150. An accident causes damages that will cost $6,000 to return the vehicle to a safe driving condition. Your insurance company is going to choose the low-cost option, of course. They’ll pay you $3,150 and your vehicle’s title is now salvage.

It’s okay to sell a salvage title car in CA, there’s nothing illegal about it. However, you’re going to have to keep a few things in mind as you prep the car for sale. Let’s look at how the state of California handles salvage vehicles and sales.

Revived Salvage Vehicle Titles

If your car has been reported to the DMV as a salvage, you have the option to restore it to a revived salvage title. This is a fantastic option for mechanics or others who have access to low-cost car repairs.

To get a revived salvage title, you’re going to have to rebuild and repair that Pontiac to street-legal, drivable condition. This is obviously going to cost money. You received $3,150 from the insurance company, so if you can fix your car for that amount or less, you’re in good shape. Be sure you do the math before you start pricey repairs.

Once you’ve fixed up the Vibe, you’ll take it for an inspection. You’ll need either a CHP Certification of Inspection or a Verification of Vehicle form. You can’t fill this form out yourself and need to take it to a Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) employee, vehicle verifier or, other authorized representative. Additionally, you’ll need brake and light adjustment certificates.

There are a few other forms that may be necessary to re-register and eventually sell your salvage car in California. These include:

  • An Application for Salvage Certificate
  • A statement of facts form
  • A smog certification
  • A Vehicle Transfer and Reassignment form

You can obtain each of these forms through the California DMV. Ask a representative which one you’ll need.

Once your car has been registered as revived, you’re free to sell it again!

As-Is Sales

If you don’t have the time, patience, or mechanical savvy to repair and revive your salvage vehicle, you may choose to sell it as-is. If you do choose to take this route, you’ll need to be very cautious.

It’s imperative that you’re upfront with any potential buyer about the state of the vehicle. Explain that this is a salvage title car and notify them of every repair you know of that will need to be made.

You can be sued, fined, or even arrested for deliberately misrepresenting your car in any way. Your best course of action is to take the vehicle to a mechanic and allow him or her to thoroughly inspect the car. Your mechanic can itemize all the repairs that should be made as well as potential problems that may arise.

Don’t expect to get top dollar for your salvage title vehicle. There are quite a few risks associated with salvage vehicles, ranging from mechanical difficulty to the fact that they’re just harder to insure. When you price your car, keep in mind that you’ll likely only get about half of what you ask for it. Price accordingly.

Selling a Car to a Junkyard

By far, the easiest and cheapest way to sell a salvage car in the Golden State is to sell it to a scrap yard. Junkyards do not care what condition your vehicle is in, they’ll take it regardless.

Many of these scrap yards have websites that allow you to plug in the VIN of your car. From there, you’ll enter a few more details about the condition of the vehicle and whether it’s drivable. Within minutes you’ll have a quote. If you accept it, you can schedule a pickup.

You won’t get a bucket of cash for your salvage car if you sell it to a scrap yard; you’ll be lucky to get over a thousand dollars. But there’s really no easier way to offload your salvage vehicle if you need it out of your garage quickly.

Summary: Junk Cars and Salvage Sales in CA 

If you’ve been in an accident, you may be wondering how to sell a salvage car in California. It’s not much unlike other states in that full disclosure is key. However, you have three options: revive your title, sell as-is or sell to a junkyard. Any of these options is a legal way to sell your salvage car in the Golden State.