How To Remove Salvage From Car Title

Car inspector checking the condition of the vehicle

There can oftentimes be confusion about whether a vehicle in question is salvage, clean, or rebuilt and how to go about updating the car’s title accordingly. Any time I sell a car online, the first question asked by most potential buyers is whether it’s rebuilt or a salvage title. There is a difference and I’ll show you how you can change your title to rebuilt from a salvage title.

To remove a salvage title, you will need to get an 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.” Once all the paperwork is sorted, the title will be re-issued with the word “Salvage” removed.

I’ve fixed dozens of cars in 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.

Damaged cars at a salvage auto auction lot

Clean vs Rebuilt vs Salvage

Clean Title

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.

Salvage Title

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 individual.

Rebuilt Title

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 rebuilt. 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 lets any future potential buyer know that this vehicle has been fully inspected and rebuilt according to State laws.

GA Georgia Rebuilt Title
Rebuilt Car Title

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, most of them are by appointment only so make sure to book in advance as well as make sure the vehicle is ready for inspection. Some inspectors allow you to bring your vehicle to them if they have a facility for inspections.

In the 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, and any replacement 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.

Mechanic doing a car inspection with the car engine hood open

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, 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 because many States charge 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 can vary 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.

Inside a car DMV department of motor vehicles with people seated while waiting in line
Department of Motor Vehicles

Conclusion

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 are not 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 both “rebuilt and salvage” oftentimes 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?

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Ernest Martynyuk

An automotive enthusiast who's been tinkering with vehicles since I was 15-years old. Repairing automotive electronics has been my main job for over a decade now and have a passion for everything technical regarding cars.

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