If you want to sell a car that's been in an accident, you may find that the buyer isn't comfortable with the fact that you don't have a "proper" title to it. That's because cars that have been "totaled" by an insurance company are not designed to be driven after that. But what makes a vehicle "totaled," anyway? That depends on the insurance company, and many insurance companies will write off a car if the vehicle's repairs would cost more than it's worth. That doesn't mean the vehicle can't be repaired and driven, though. To do that safely and legally, you'll first need to get a salvage title.

What Does the Vehicle Have Now?

Sellers should take care to understand the kind of title or ownership documents they have for the vehicle they want to sell. It might already have a salvage title, but the chances are it doesn't. It could have a salvage certificate, though, which means you own the car but it's not titled because it's not being driven. Legally, cars can't be driven on a salvage certificate and they can't be registered or insured for on-road use. Some people use these kinds of cars for things like off-roading and other experiences where they aren't on public roadways.

Working From a Salvage Certificate

When you have a salvage certificate, the next thing you'll want to do is working on getting a salvage title. But make sure you understand your state's laws. In some cases, a title and a certificate are the same thing. In other cases, they're two separate documents. If they're the same, you don't need to do anything to get a salvage title, because you already have one. If they're different papers, though, you'll need to fill out the application and send in the fee. The cost is usually low, and you don't have to do a lot to get a title like this.

Who Do You Get a Salvage Title From?

Who you need to get a salvage title from, and the exact process for getting one depends on the state you live in. In some states, your insurance company will automatically apply for a salvage title for you. This generally happens if the insurance company totals out the vehicle after it's been in an accident. This way you can still show ownership of the vehicle, and even make repairs in the future if you decide to.

In other states, you'll need to make the application for a salvage title yourself. You'll still get information and estimated costs to repair from your insurance company, along with information on the value of the vehicle. In short, your insurance company will still show your vehicle as totaled, but they won't be getting a salvage title for you. There's a small fee for applying for the title, and you might also have to send in your insurance company's estimate. You'll get a salvage title, and can use that to sell your vehicle to someone else.

owner obtaining a salvage title for a Car damaged in a crash

You Can't Drive on a Salvage Title

A lot of people mistakenly think they can get a salvage title and then register the car and drive it. But unfortunately, that's not the case. What you need to be able to drive the car on public roads is a rebuilt title, and you can't get that until all the repairs are made to the car. Then you can have it inspected, and if it passes inspection, you can get it street legal and registered again. These kinds of vehicles can also be insured and driven anywhere, just like vehicles on standard titles.

But a buyer who wants to fix up the vehicle can work toward getting a rebuilt title once they buy the car. That's not something you need to be worried about unless you intend to fix the car up before you sell it. When you have a salvage title, you'll want to make sure you're clear on that when you list the car for sale. Then you're being up-front with buyers and reducing the chances that they might misunderstand what they're getting when they buy from you.

Getting a Salvage Title Is a Good First Step

For anyone who has a car they want to fix up and drive again, or anyone who's selling a car that's been damaged in an accident and totaled by an insurance company, the salvage title is the place to start. Your particular state of residence will have an impact on how you go about doing this, though, and any requirements you have to meet first. In some cases, you'll need to show the insurance estimate for repairing the car before a salvage title will be issued. Make sure you have the title in hand before you list your vehicle for sale.

Having Help Makes the Process Easier

There are plenty of ways to get help and support when it comes to a salvage title, but the best way is to work with a trusted company that can help facilitate the transaction between buyer and seller. It's true that you'll need to follow your state's particular procedures to get a salvage title. But after that, you can sell your car to anyone in any state. Doing that doesn't have to be complicated, but it's often easier when you have professionals available to help you.

With PrivateAuto, private party car sellers can get assistance to make their transaction smoother and less difficult to handle. One of the advantages to doing this is efficiency since there are new features coming to PrivateAuto that will make selling your car easier than ever before — even if you have a salvage title. You don't have to sell for less than your car is worth, or struggle to find a buyer and handle the paperwork. By working with a trusted company, you can sell your vehicle, salvage title and all, to a buyer who's happy to get the car they're looking for at a fair price.