How to Evaluate Salvage Trucks for Sale

May 31, 2012

Get answers to frequent questions about salvage trucks, what to look for in a salvage truck, and how to avoid common salvage truck scams.

Vehicles are deemed salvage trucks by insurance companies when the cost of repair damage is more than 75 percent of their value. However, if you have the knowhow or a mechanic you can trust, buying such a vehicle can be advantageous. They can be bought from the salvage yard, a salvage car auction or online at a fraction of the price you would pay a dealer. Sometimes, the damage is minor, and some bodywork repair can make the vehicle as good as new.

A few websites that sell salvage trucks at competitive prices include and Worldwide Auto. Before deciding which salvage truck to buy, buyers should bear a few tips in mind that will help them during the selection process.

  • The salvage yard should have a clear title to the vehicle so that you can register it in your name
  • Ensure that the truck is repairable
  • Identify that spare parts required are easily available at reasonable prices
  • Even if you have found a truck online, it's best to see it in person to confirm the vehicle isn't impractical to salvage
  • Find out the reason the vehicle has a salvage title. If the frame is damaged, it's best not to buy the vehicle, as such a car wouldn't hold up in an accident
  • Find out if an insurance company is willing to insure it, as most insurance companies don't insure salvage vehicles
  • You need money in hand to buy a salvage truck, as they aren't financed by banks as a rule
  • Find out the requirements from the DMV to have the salvage vehicle deemed roadworthy

2 Common Salvage Truck Scams to Avoid

If you're purchasing a salvage truck or another vehicle from a scrap or salvage yard, be aware that vehicles in these locations are extremely inexpensive for a reason. Salvage vehicles tend to be missing key component parts or are otherwise damaged in some way, and almost always require significant repair and restoration before they'll be fully functional again. Nonetheless, it is still important that dealers be honest and straightforward about the salvage trucks they sell to you, so be on the lookout for the following scams.

Power Steering Scam
Because of the difficulty of testing out certain parts of a salvage truck before you purchase it, given the vehicle is likely to be inoperable at the time of sale, it's difficult to check on many of the components. Be cautious of dealers who assure you that a vehicle has power steering, especially when the vehicle itself is an older model. It can be helpful to have an expert or mechanic examine the vehicle before purchasing to confirm or deny that claim.

Low Towing Capacity
When salvage car dealers advertise trucks, they often include information that is pertinent to new trucks of the same type, such as towing capacity. A damaged or otherwise compromised truck will not have the same towing capacity as a brand new vehicle because of differences in the power of the engine and the strength of the various frame components. Be careful to check on the towing capacity listed for a new version of the truck in question before you buy it, and recognize that your salvage truck is likely to have one that is much lower.

Frequently Asked Questions about Salvage Trucks

When considering a truck with a salvage title you should be as meticulous as possible with your research before making a purchase. Here are some common questions that consumers have about salvage trucks.

What Sort of Laws Govern Salvage Vehicles?
While laws vary from state to state, the common thread with salvage title vehicles is that they have been claimed as a "total loss" by an insurance company. That means that the insurance company has paid out a substantial portion of the car's value in a claim and subsequently sold their remaining interest in the vehicle to an auto recycling or recovery firm. The recovery firm then rehabs the car and offers it for sale back to the general market. In some states a salvage car must be submitted to a state inspection before it can be re-licensed.

Why Are Vehicles Issued a Salvage Title?
It's important to note that not all vehicles are issued a salvage title because of a collision. Although salvage title vehicles are often placed into that category after a collision, there are plenty of other reasons that a car might have a salvage title. Cars that are stolen and then recovered after a claim has already been paid will often be classified as salvage. This can also include cars that are damaged by other means such as floods or fire. For example, a large number of flood-related salvage vehicles came on the market after Hurricane Katrina caused widespread flooding in New Orleans. Less commonly, cars that have been abandoned and are recovered by towing companies can fall in this category as well.

Can a Salvage Vehicle Be Insured?
The answer to the insurance question is complex and varies from carrier to carrier. You should have no problem getting liability insurance for a salvage vehicle. However some companies have special rules concerning the type and amount of collision coverage that they will offer on a vehicle with a reconstructed title. Some companies will only offer partial coverage (30 to 60 percent of normal value) for a salvage truck. However it's important that you don't let your insurer take advantage of you. Make sure that you understand the concepts of insurance coverage and check with your state insurance regulator about the laws of your state about insuring salvage cars. Make sure you take advantage of all the protection the law provides you.

What Should I Do before Buying a Salvage Car?
If you are considering the purchase of a salvage car, it's probably a good idea to get it checked out by a trusted ASE certified mechanic first. Make sure you tell them that it is a salvage vehicle and you want to know if it's a good idea to buy. Just by nature of being rehabbed, salvage cars can be prone to hidden problems. Having an inspection done lessens your chance of having any surprises down the road.

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