There can oftentimes be confusion whether a vehicle in question is salvage, clean or rebuilt and how to go about updating the car’s title accordingly. Far too often I get asked by the customer when selling a car whether it’s rebuilt or salvage. There is a difference and I’ll show you how you can change your title to rebuilt from a salvage-title.
How can someone change the car title from salvage to rebuilt?
When a vehicle has been written off after an accident by the insurance company, it’s re-branded as a salvage-title car. Once the vehicle has gone through a thorough inspection before and after repairs by an authorized State inspector, you can go to the DMV or Tag Office and change the car title to ‘Rebuilt’. The title will be re-issued with the word ‘Salvage’ removed.
I’ve fixed dozens of cars in the Georgia and South Carolina, and although both States have similarities, Georgia has much more strict rules and regulations when it comes to the process of State inspections and getting the title re-branded. If you’re planning on buying a salvage-title car or currently trying to get it re-titled to ‘rebuilt’ this blog post is for you.
What Is Salvage?
When a vehicle has been in an accident, the owner’s car insurance may write the car off as a ‘total loss’ if the car has too much damage or will not be repaired. It’s then usually sent to a salvage auto auction yard.
So a once ‘clean title’ car now becomes ‘salvage title’ and will stay that way until it’s been repaired and inspected by a local authorized salvage inspector.
The title will usually be re-branded as salvage prior to entering an auction where it goes up for sale. You will know that it’s a salvage title car because it will usually tell you right on the front side of the title. Some salvage auto auctions put a red stamp ‘salvage’ on the title and paperwork to make sure there is no mistake.
Each State places the word ‘salvage’ in different places on the title itself. Some will blend it in with the border of the title where it’s not so easily seen. In the State of Georgia, where I live, they put it in bold in the very center of the title.
Clean vs Rebuilt vs Salvage
Right from the manufacturing date, a new vehicle is given a clean title. This means that the title issued to the vehicle has a matching VIN to what’s on the car and has never been in any serious vehicle accident.
After a vehicle accident, the insurance will appraise the damage. If the damage is insignificant, they may simply have you go to an authorized repair shop and the car may still retain its clean-title status.
Some States brand these cars as clean-title with salvage history. However, if the vehicle was written off as a total loss, it’ll usually end up going to an auction where it will be sold off to a licensed auto dealer, broker, or authorized individuals.
Once someone begins to repair a salvage car, it’ll need to go through a few checkpoints. First, an initial inspection before the car is re-built. Second, in my State of Georgia, the inspector will need to re-inspect before it is painted with the new body panels already installed.
Finally, after a full rebuild is complete including the body, engine, interior and electrical, the salvage inspector will submit the paperwork to the Tag Office or DMV on your behalf and you can begin to register the car and apply for a new title.
The re-issued title will be in your name and will no longer have the word ‘Salvage’ on it but rather ‘Rebuilt.’ This let’s any future potential buyer know that this vehicle has been fully inspected and rebuilt according to State laws.
Getting The Vehicle Inspected
Now most auto body shops that do business in States that require adhering to these kinds of inspection laws, will usually be in contact with a salvage inspector and make the necessary arrangements for them to come out to the body shop and inspect the car.
If you are working with a body shop that doesn’t know how that process works, that responsibility would fall on you to get all of your paperwork ready for inspections and would require you to schedule the appointments for inspection.
You would have to inform the body shop you’re working with about the scheduled appointments because if they go ahead and paint the car without an inspection it could mean trouble and even fines.
Most salvage inspectors are willing to drive to you and inspect the vehicle however many of them are booked weeks even months in advance so planning them needs to happen in accordance. Some inspectors even allow you to bring your vehicle to them if they have a facility for inspections.
In my State of Georiga, a salvage inspection is usually $125 per visit. The salvage inspector will check for things like diagnostic lights that should come on during ignition II key-cycle, and for any lights that are staying on that shouldn’t be like an airbag light, check engine, etc…
They will also check for receipts on repairs, parts purchased and visually inspect the areas that were damaged and repaired. I usually print out the images of when my car was wrecked so they can have a hard copy.
Cost of Getting a New Title
Prices for a new title vary depending on the State you live in. For more information on how much it’ll cost exactly in your State visit this site here.
Registering the vehicle and getting an issued title for that car are two separate entities. In my State, it’s required that I provide proof of already existing insurance, salvage inspection papers, all documents from the salvage yard where I bought the vehicle from, and the original title along with the corresponding paperwork to go along with the signatures on the back of the title.
The Tag Office and the DMV are two separate buildings here in Georgia whereas in South Carolina it’s all done in the same building. The worker will typically check all the paperwork and then request that payment be made on sales tax, registration, a new tag, and finally a re-branded title.
Sales tax and registration are normally required prior to getting a vehicle title but not always. The heftiest fees normally come from sales tax since many States charge on a percentage of the vehicle’s current fair market value. For a new title, the fee in Georiga is currently $18 and the registration fee is $20.
I can’t stress enough, how much a salvage title process varies not only on the State but also on the county you live in. However, this is a typical depiction of the extra paperwork and hassle involved with getting a re-issued title from Salvage to Rebuilt.
If you’d like to know what States require annual car inspections click here. Note, an annual car inspection is different from a salvage inspection but I thought it’d be a good idea to share the different expectations for every State.
The process may be longer and more tedious when it comes to getting a vehicle’s title re-branded but you have to keep in mind that these inspections are actually for the public’s benefit. Yes, more paperwork and fees associated can be a pain, but the alternative is having cars on the road that aren’t safe and a potential hazard to other drivers.
Once the necessary inspections are done, it’s business as usual and will no longer need a salvage inspection. Your vehicle will only need a regular annual inspection if the State you live in requires it.
It’s rewarding to finally get a ‘rebuilt’ title after all the headache and extra paperwork but the reward is that your car will no longer be considered salvage. I know that rebuilt and salvage often times get mixed up with each other but hopefully, this blog post has been helpful in distinguishing the difference between them.
Have you ever bought a salvage or rebuilt title car?
- Digest of Motor Laws AAA. “Title and Registration Fees.” https://drivinglaws.aaa.com/tag/title-and-registration-fees/
- Parts Geek. “Car Inspection Requirements By State: A Compendium.” https://www.partsgeek.com/mmparts/car_inspection_requirements_by_state_a_compendium.html