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Selling your salvage car doesn’t have to be a stressful and frustrating situation. We’ll discuss everything you need to know about selling a salvage car in Tennessee and give you access to the forms you need. Let’s get your salvage car sold in Tennessee!

Table of Contents

What is a Salvaged Car in Tennessee?

The state of Tennessee considers a salvage car (a total loss) if your auto insurance company determines your vehicle is damaged to the point the cost of repairs would exceed the car’s actual cash value (ACV), and the car is less than 10 years old. In general, auto insurance providers will consider the car a total loss if the damage exceeds 75% of the car’s ACV.

If you think your vehicle may qualify as a total loss, you must file a total loss claim with your auto insurance company. In general, your auto insurance provider will decide whether your vehicle meets the criteria for Tennessee salvaged vehicles.

Tennessee Non-Repairable Vehicles

Some cars are damaged to the point they have no economic value except when scrapped or parted out. Once your auto insurance company determines your vehicle is non-repairable, you can apply for a Tennessee Non-Repairable Certificate.

Applying for a Tennessee Non-Repairable Certificate is similar to applying for a Tennessee salvaged title. However, instead of receiving a TN salvage car title, you will receive a Non-Repairable Certificate. Once your car is deemed non-repairable, you will not be able to title or register the car again.

Why Does My Car Have a Salvage Tennessee Title?

Your car has a salvage Tennessee title because it has sustained serious damage. The bottom line is your auto insurance provider determined that your car is a total loss because of the damages it sustained. Technically speaking, the damages your car sustained damages that exceed at least 75% of the car’s actual cash value. Your car can also be deemed a salvage in Tennessee if your car has sustained extensive damage and is less than 10 years old.

Learning About a Car’s Actual Cash Value (ACV)

Did you know that even though your car has been deemed a salvage, it still has value? A car’s actual cash value (ACV) equals the cost of the repairs minus its depreciation. Although the ACT reflects the accounting value of the car, it doesn’t necessarily mean it reflects the car’s economic value, which means the car can be more or less of value than its actual cash value when the car is sold.

How is the Actual Cash Value Determined?

A car’s actual cash value can be determined by taking the following steps:

  • Determine the purchase price of your car
  • Estimate the expected life of your car
  • Calculate the current life of your car
  • Calculate the actual cash value of your car

This is the equation you can use to determine your car’s ACV:

ACV = purchase price x (expected life – current life)  ÷  expected life

What is the Difference Between the Actual Cash Value and the Replacement Cost

Let’s talk auto insurance. When you’re getting a new auto insurance policy, as the policyholder, you’ll probably want to be paid the car’s replacement cost instead of the car’s actual cash value. For instance, if your car was destroyed because of an accident, if you are paid the replacement cost, you can purchase a new car of the same type.

If you are paid the car’s ACV, you probably won’t have enough funds to cover the purchase of a car of the same type because of depreciation. The rule of thumb here is to read the terms of an auto insurance policy, also known as the “fine print”, before signing it. Make sure you can accept the risk that you’re agreeing to.

How Do You File a Total Loss Claim?

Once your car has been severely damaged, you must file a total loss claim with your auto insurance company. Your auto insurance provider will determine whether your car qualifies as a total loss. If so, you can decide whether to keep the car and accept a partial payment from your auto insurance company. The partial payment includes the full settlement minus the car’s value and any deductibles on your policy.

At this point, you have two options. You can sell the vehicle to a business that deals with scrapping, recycling, and dismantling, such as a junkyard or scrap yard. You can also sell your car to a recycling company that will recycle your car’s parts and makes useful items, such as bricks and steel. Your other option is to apply for a TN salvage title, repair the vehicle, and apply for a rebuilt title, which allows you to drive your car again.

If you would like, you can sign the car title over to your auto insurance company and accept full payment minus your deductible. You will also be required to provide proof of lien satisfaction (if applicable). The car will no longer be your responsibility.

Each situation is different, so it’s best to speak with your auto insurance agent before making your final decision to keep the car or sell it. Your auto insurance agent will have some knowledge about the steps that are required to get your car up and running again.

How Do You Sell a Salvage Car in Tennessee?

Selling a salvage car is not illegal in Tennessee, but as the car’s owner, you are required to take specific steps to ensure your car is ready to be sold. First, you need to report your vehicle as a salvage to the Tennessee Department of Revenue (DOR) if you haven’t already done so. Whether you are planning to rebuild your car or sell it as is, the car must be reported to the TN DOR.

Per TN law, individuals can sell up to 5 vehicles per year that are titled in their name without requiring a license. Since you are selling your salvage car in Tennessee, the law requires you to have a title. So, you must obtain a salvage certificate or a non-repairable certificate.

You will need to obtain an Application for Tennessee Salvage/Non-Repairable Certificate form (Form REV 1-21) and mail it to the following address:

Department of Revenue
Special Investigations
Anti-Theft Unit
500 Deaderick Street
Nashville, Tennessee 37242

You will also need the car’s original Certificate of Title. Applications and documents are ONLY accepted by mail and are not accepted in person. Once you mail the required documents and have your salvage title, you will follow the steps required to sell a car in Tennessee.

Why is a Bill of Sale Needed?

In the state of Tennessee, you are required to have a bill of sale to sell a salvage car, and the bill of sale must be notarized. A bill of sale is required for record-keeping when you’re selling your car to another individual, known as a private sale. You can create your bill of sale, but keep in mind this document must be notarized. Your bill of sale must also include the following information:

  • Vehicle information (make, model, year, vehicle identification number (VIN), and current odometer reading)
  • Buyer information (name, address, and signature)
  • Seller information (name, address, and signature)
  • Selling price and date sold

Are There Salvaged Vehicle Restrictions in Tennessee?

Every state, including Tennessee, has salvaged vehicle restrictions. If your auto insurance company deems your vehicle a total loss, it is illegal to operate the vehicle on any road. Your car’s registration will be canceled. Your auto insurance provider should send you the car’s title with the word “salvaged” stamped on it. Remove the license plate(s) and submit them at your local TN DOR branch. You can transfer the registration and license plate(s) to a different car you own.

Can You Sell a Salvaged Car Without the Title in Tennessee?

No. You will need the car’s title to sell it.  Although your car is a salvage, you are required to have the car’s title to sell the vehicle to another individual or a junkyard.

Why is the Car’s Title Important?

A car’s title is an essential document for many reasons. This legal document provides proof of vehicle ownership, which helps prevent the sale of stolen cars. The car’s title includes the name of the owner(s) of the car and the following information:

  • Year, make, and model of the vehicle (may include the body type of the vehicle)
  • Vehicle color
  • Odometer reading
  • The date on which the odometer reading was done
  • Owner or owners of the vehicle
  • Owner’s address
  • The date on which the title was issued

A car’s title can also include the following:

  • Title number
  • The vehicle’s weight
  • The number of cylinders in the engine
  • The engine number
  • The type of fuel used in the car
  • The license plate number

Some states will require information regarding flood damage or a “salvage” label will be included on the car’s title. The car’s title should have the signature of one or multiple state officials who are in charge of motor vehicles or revenue collection, such as the Division of Motor Vehicles or Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), Department of Transportation (DOT), Motor Vehicle Division (MVD), and similar motor vehicle departments.

Can You Sell a Salvaged Car Without the Car’s Registration in Tennessee?

Not having the car’s registration shouldn’t be a problem if you have the car’s title. A car’s registration, like the car’s title, is a legal document that provides proof of ownership of the vehicle. In most instances, the car’s registration is not required to sell a salvage car. Keep in mind that you MUST have the car’s title to sell it in Tennessee.

How to Get a Tennessee Salvage Car Title

To obtain a TN salvage car title, you need to apply for a salvaged title with the TN DOR. You must complete an Application for Salvage or Non-Repairable Certificate (Form RV-F1211801). Make sure you mark whether the car is a salvage or a non-repairable vehicle. In this situation, you must check the salvage option. You will also need your car’s current title.

Once you have the required documents, you can mail them to the following address:

Tennessee Department of Revenue
Vehicle Services Division
Anti-Theft Unit
500 Deaderick St
Nashville, TN 37242

If you have any questions or concerns about obtaining a Tennessee salvage title, you can contact the TN DOR’s Anti-Theft unit at (615) 253-7246.

Tennessee Salvage Car Inspections

If you are rebuilding your salvage car, your car may be required to pass an anti-theft inspection before you will be eligible to apply for a TN rebuilt car title. The TN DOR will decide whether your car needs to be inspected and can waive the inspection for any vehicle if there’s a legitimate reason.

If it is determined that an inspection is required, the TN DOR will tell you when and where to take your car to have it checked for fraudulently acquired or installed parts. At this inspection, you are required to provide the following:

  • Bills of sale
  • Receipts and/or invoices for the replacement parts used to rebuild the vehicle (the TN DOR should already have these documents from the documentation you submitted above.)
  • An affidavit that states the car was repaired to the manufacturer’s and state’s standards (the TN DOR will give you a general affidavit (Form RV-F1311011) to use.)

When your vehicle passes inspection, the inspector will stamp your salvage title as certified, and return it to you with the other documents you submitted, EXCEPT the pictures of your car. Once your car passes inspection, you’re one step closer to obtaining your TN rebuilt car title.

Be advised that if your car requires an inspection, you can call the TN DOR’s Anti-Theft Unit at (615) 253-7246 to confirm you have the correct documents that meet the state’s requirements. It’s a good idea to make sure you have the proper paperwork completed and ready to submit BEFORE your car is scheduled for an inspection. Having all your ducks in a row can save time and avoid having your car re-inspected because of missing paperwork.

Why Are Salvage Car Inspections Tests Performed in Tennessee?

Salvage car inspections in Tennessee are performed for two reasons. First, these inspections are performed to make sure your car was not repaired with stolen parts and to verify that the car itself is not stolen. Second, the inspections are performed to make sure your car is safe to drive, also known as being roadworthy once the necessary repairs were made.

Tennessee Vehicle Safety Inspection Failures

If your vehicle fails the vehicle inspection, the car must be repaired and retested. You may be able to receive free diagnostic information from an Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) – certified technician that will help you understand why the car failed inspection. You can also use the diagnostic information to help you determine what repairs need to be made, have these repairs made, and then have your car retested.

How Do You Register a Salvaged Car in Tennessee?

You won’t be able to register your car if it still has a salvage title because the car has not been repaired. Since repairs have not been made, the car, at this point, is not roadworthy. If you want to register your car, you’ll need to make all the required repairs and have the car inspected. If your car passes the inspection, you will need to have the car retitled. After this, your car will be roadworthy and able to be driven again.

Tennessee Vehicle Registration Fees

It’s good to know where you stand with the registration fees in Tennessee. The vehicle registration fees in Tennessee are as follows:

  • Regular plate and title: $114.25+$19.00 = $133.25 (effective as of July 1, 2022)
  • Transfer a plate and title: $3.50 + $19.00 = $22.50 (transfer plate must be expired and registered in the same name as the buyer)
  • If noting a lien: add $11.00
  • License plate postage: $5.00
  • Duplicate title: $19.00 (you will also need to complete a duplicate car title application) – Click here to download the form.

You can use the Tennessee County Clerk vehicle sales tax calculator to help you calculate your sales tax. Click here to access the vehicle sales tax calculator.

How is a Tennessee Salvage Title Different from a Rebuilt Car Title?

In Tennessee, there are salvage car titles and rebuilt car titles. A car receives a salvage title because the car has sustained extensive damage, and the auto insurance company deemed it a salvage. This often happens because the damages the car has exceeds 75% of the car’s actual cash value, and it would cost more to repair the car than the car is worth. It is illegal to drive a car that has a salvage title in Tennessee.

A Tennessee rebuilt car title, on the other hand, is a salvage car that has been repaired, passed the vehicle inspection, and deemed roadworthy to be operated on roads and highways again.

How is a Tennessee Salvage Title Different from a Junk Title?

A salvage title and a junk title are two car titles that are often confused with one another. Both salvage and junk titles are given to cars that have sustained extensive damage due to an accident of some sort.

A salvage title means the cost to repair the car would exceed the car’s actual cash value. However, the car can still be repaired and inspected, and driven again if the owner chooses to keep the car.

A junk title means the car has no value except for being scrapped or sold for parts. Junk title cars can NOT be repaired, and even if they are, the repairs will NOT be recognized by the TN DOR, and they will never be deemed roadworthy to be driven again, so the only option for cars with this title is to be junked or recycled.

Are There Any Salvage Yards Near Me in Tennessee?

We’re glad you asked! There are a lot of different salvage yards in Tennessee. However, we won’t list them all in this article. The good news is we created a list of a handful of salvage yards in Tennessee that have excellent reviews to point you in the right direction for selling your salvage car.

Ivy Bluff Auto Salvage
7077 Ivy Bluff Rd.
Morrison, TN 37357
(615) 765-7948
Monday – Friday (8 AM – 5 PM)
Saturday and Sunday (Closed)

Advance Auto Salvage
1456 Mount Herman Rd.
Murfreesboro, TN 37127
(615) 896-7700
Monday – Saturday (8 AM – 5 PM)
Sunday (Closed)

Turner Auto Salvage
2429 Nashville Hwy.
McMinnville, TN 37110
(931) 668-4157
Monday – Friday (8 AM – 5 PM)
Saturday (8 AM – 12 PM)
Sunday (Closed)

Tennessee Auto Salvage, Inc.
2082 Duncan Ln.
Greenbrier, TN 37073
(615) 384-5033
Monday – Friday (8 AM – 5 PM)
Saturday and Sunday (Closed)

Mahan’s Auto Salvage
367 Mahan Rd.
Cookeville, TN 38506
(931) 761-5198
Monday – Friday (9 AM – 5 PM)
Saturday and Sunday (Closed)

When Can I Get Auto Insurance for My Salvage Car in Tennessee?

Salvage cars aren’t eligible for auto insurance coverage because they are unroadworthy, and it is illegal to operate these cars on roads and highways. You can, however, rebuild the car, pass the inspection, and obtain a rebuilt car title. Once you complete these steps, you will be able to obtain an auto insurance policy on the car.

Can I Salvage My Car Without a Title in Tennessee?

No. The state of Tennessee requires you to have the car’s title when you’re selling the car. If you have misplaced the car’s title, you can fill out and submit an Application for Noting of Lien, Duplicate Title, or Multipurpose Use (Form RV-F131520), and submit it to your local TN DOR branch.

Will a Rebuilt Tennessee Title Affect My Car’s Value?

Yes. Rebuilt cars are deemed roadworthy, but the car will not be worth what it once was, such as the price it was when you purchased the car. The car’s decrease in value is due to depreciation and the damages the car sustained. Even though you repaired the car, the car will never have a standard (clean) Tennessee car title.

How Can I Get the Most Money for My Salvage Car in Tennessee?

Who doesn’t want to get the most for their money? We get it. There are different ways you can sell your salvage car in Tennessee, but it depends on if you want to wait to receive the best offer for your car or get the car sold quickly.

Selling Your Salvage Car in a Private Sale

A lot of people choose to sell their salvage car in a private sale, which is when you sell your car to another person. Selling your car in a private sale is an option that can possibly get you the most money for your salvage car, but it can take some time to find a buyer.

Selling Your Salvage Car to a Salvage Yard or Junkyard

You can also sell your car to a salvage yard or junkyard. This is an appealing way to sell your salvage car in Tennessee if you want to sell the car quickly. Since you’re not selling your car to an individual, you don’t have to wait for someone to want to take on the responsibility of a salvage car.

Selling Your Salvage Car for Parts

Selling your salvage car for parts or “parting” your car out is another way to maximize your funds from selling your car. With this method, you sell the parts of your car that are in the best condition and worth the most money. You can get a mechanic to help you sort through your car’s parts and determine which parts are of value. Be advised that this method of selling a salvage car can take some time. Once again, you have to wait for someone to come along who needs the parts you’re selling.

Selling Your Salvage Car As-Is

You can always sell your car as-is, which is a selling option that can either take a while or get your car sold quickly. When you sell your car as-is, you’re telling buyers that they get everything they see in the picture, which should be a picture of your car. Make sure the pictures are clear. You should also create a description informing buyers of the repairs that need to be made.

This is a popular option with a lot of people who are selling a salvage car who don’t have the time, or money, or don’t want to put in the effort to make the necessary repairs. There’s always someone who is looking for a DIY project!

The Woes of Selling a Salvage Car

Selling a salvage car can be more difficult than selling any other type of car. Why? Since your car doesn’t have a “clean” title (a car that has a title with no accidents or damage), a lot of buyers will be cautious of buying the car, especially if repairs haven’t been made. Your ideal buyer is a mechanic or a DIY guru who is looking for a project to complete in their spare time.

The Importance of Disclosing Information

As the seller of a salvage car, you are responsible for disclosing ALL information that pertains to the vehicle, such as the car having a salvage title. Other information you should include in the car’s description are the repairs that need to be made or list the repairs you’ve already made.

You need to keep receipts of all transactions that were made regarding the car. If you’ve made the repairs or had repairs made, keep a copy of the invoice or receipt of the repairs and information on the parts that were used to repair the car. Having these documents are an excellent way to establish trust with potential buyers.

What is a Tennessee Rebuilt Car Title?

A Tennessee rebuilt car title is given to vehicles that were previously declared a total loss but have since been repaired and passed the TN vehicle inspection. In Tennessee, a car is declared a salvage or a total loss when the cost of repairs exceeds at least 75% of the car’s retail value.

How Do You Apply for a Rebuilt Car Title in Tennessee?

Obtaining a rebuilt car title in any state can be a daunting task. We’ll help you through this entire process. First, you’ll need to apply for a salvage title.

Applying for a Tennessee Salvage Title

Since you want to rebuild your car, the first step is to get a TN salvage title, so you can keep the car. To apply for a salvage title, you  need to do the following:

  • Fill out an Application for Tennessee Salvage/Non-Repairable Certificate (Form RV-F1311801)
  • Have the car’s current Certificate of Title

You’ll submit these documents by mail to the following address:

Tennessee Department of Revenue
Vehicle Services Division
Anti-Theft Unit
500 Deaderick Street
Nashville, TN 37242

After you receive your salvage title, you can start the process of repairing your car.

Making the Necessary Repairs

Before you start the repair process, make sure you take full-color pictures of the car. You’ll submit these photos with your application for a rebuilt car title at the end of this process. The photos should be from different angles to ensure all vehicle damage is documented. You’ll need to take the same pictures once the required repairs are made.

You also need to download an Application for Motor Vehicle Identification Certification (Form RV-F1315401) to keep track of and disclose the parts you repair and replace during the rebuilding phase of this process. This certification form must be notarized before you submit it to the TN DOR as part of your application for a rebuilt car title.

Make sure you have the bills of sale, invoice, receipts, and any other documentation for parts. You should also make copies of each document for your records. The originals will be sent to the TN DOR.

Here’s a list of the items that must be included on ALL receipts:

  • The buyer’s and seller’s names and mailing address
  • Receipts for salvage parts MUST include:
    • Make
    • Model
    • Year
    • Vehicle identification number (VIN) of the vehicle from which the salvage parts were taken
  • Receipts for new parts MUST indicate the parts are NEW
  • Receipts for parts from an in-house supply MUST include a copy of the front AND back of the car title to prove ownership

If you hire a mechanic to rebuild your salvage car, the TN DOR requires a notarized General Affidavit (Form RV-F131101) that states the rebuilder’s name and full mailing address.

Applying for the Tennessee Rebuilt Car Title

Once the car’s repairs are made, and the car has passed the vehicle inspection, it’s time for you to apply for your TN rebuilt car title! You can apply for a Tennessee rebuilt car title by submitting the following by mail to the TN DOR:

  • The vehicle’s title
  • A completed and notarized Application for Motor Vehicle Identification Certification (Form RV-F1315401)
  • A completed and notarized General Affidavit (Form RV-F1311001) – this form is required if you hired someone to make the necessary repairs and rebuild your car.
  • Full-color photos of the vehicle both before and after the repairs were made
  • All receipts, bills of sale, and/or invoices for replacement parts
  • Check or money order for the $75 rebuilt title fee

You must mail the above-listed documents to the following address:

Tennessee Department of Revenue
Vehicle Services Division
Anti-Theft Unit
500 Deaderick Street
Nashville, TN 37242

If your vehicle is required to have an anti-theft vehicle inspection, the TN DOR will inform you of when and where the inspection will take place. You can help the inspection process along by contacting the TN DOR’s  Anti-Theft Unit at (615) 253-7246 to confirm you have everything required for the inspection appointment.

At the inspection, you must provide the following:

  • Bills of sale
  • Receipts
  • Invoices

The TN DOR should have these documents. However, this is the time when the copies you made during the vehicle repair process can be handy. You will also need an affidavit stating the car was repaired to the manufacturer’s and Tennessee’s standards for operation and safety.

When your vehicle passes the TN anti-theft inspection, the inspector will stamp your car’s salvage title as “Certified”, and return all other documentation you originally submitted to the TN DOR (EXCEPT the before and after photos of the vehicle) to you to obtain your TN rebuilt car title. If your vehicle doesn’t require an anti-theft inspection, the TN DOR will return the above documentation to you, so you can use them to obtain your TN rebuilt car title.

Obtaining Your Tennessee Rebuilt Car Title

Now that you’ve completed the anti-theft certification process, you can pick up your Tennessee rebuilt car title. All you need to do is take the required documents you got back from the TN DOR to your local Tennessee county clerk’s office. Your documents will be verified and you will receive your TN rebuilt car title. That means you can legally operate your car on roads and highways. Congratulations! 

How Long Does it Take to Receive a Rebuilt Title in Tennessee?

Once you submit the rebuilt title application, you should receive the title in the mail within 14 days. During this time, the TN DOR will review and verify your information and put the new information for your vehicle into their system.

You’re awesome! You just learned the different ways to sell your salvage car in Tennessee.