Assessing the Risks When Buying a Salvage Car

Every state in the US has its own regulations regarding which vehicles are branded salvage cars. Generally, cars that have sustained damage equivalent to 75% of their value will earn the dreaded tag. In a few states, stolen cars are also declared salvage cars.

Buying a salvage car can represent tremendous cost savings for you, but it does come with certain risks. If you are on a tight budget, these cars can be an ideal option. Before buying a salvage car, do your homework. You should know the exact reason why a vehicle was declared salvage and how the car was damaged.

Some simple ideas to start your investigation include:

  • Ask the seller about the damage
  • Obtain a vehicle history report
  • Ask for the insurance claim filing report
  • Get the car inspected by a reputable mechanic

A vehicle history report will generally tell you if the car was in a collision, flood or fire. Other reasons to declare a vehicle as salvage might include a biohazard or chemical incident with the car. Let’s review the issues related to each salvage reason.

Collision Damage

There can be “good” and “bad” collisions. Cars that sustain minor damage in a collision will rarely be labeled salvage, so you know that a car that is salvage due to a collision must have suffered major damage. If the car only had body damage, or damage to working parts which can be replaced, you may take a calculated risk and buy that particular salvage car.

If the car sustained frame damage during an accident, things can get a lot trickier. Although a damaged frame can be straightened out, it is a risky proposition. Once the metal has been bent in a severe collision, its reliability is weakened. This could be a serious safety issue in case of a future accident.

Recent models of luxury cars can cost a bundle to repair, so a luxury-model car, like a Mercedes-Benz E-class, does not have to be completely devastated to be declared salvage. If the damage is limited to the car’s body or mechanical parts, they can be repaired and you can save a lot of money by buying this type of salvage vehicle.

Water & Flood Damage

A car that is declared salvage because it was in a flood or due to other water damage is a big concern. You will rarely be able to find out how long the car was submerged in flooded waters and the extent of the damage. Mold can be difficult to get rid of, especially if it has penetrated various mechanical parts so even though the car may look and work great currently, you will face the risk of mold growth. Therefore, it’s best to avoid salvage cars with water damage.

Fire & Heat Damage

Fire is similar to flood. You can never really guess that electrical damage caused by the fire and future problems could potentially arise, so it’s best not to venture that way.

However, heat damage is an entirely different beast. A car that was parked in the driveway of a house on fire may have experienced heat damage. This could be some serious melting of the body. However, a quick tour of the auto body repair shop could take care of the problem and the car won’t have any other underlying mechanical problems that you would have to worry about in the future.

Other Types of Damages

A stolen car can be classified as a salvage car in certain states. These could be excellent bargains is they may not have suffered any damage, except for some cosmetic issues.

A car with a biohazard is likely a vehicle in which a person bled and thus this is another option that could save you a lot of money.

Each salvage car has to be evaluated on an individual basis and future risks have to be considered. You also need to keep in mind that it may be difficult to insure a salvage car beyond the minimum requirement imposed by the law. This means in an accident, your car could be a total loss. Before buying a salvage car, also ensure you will want to keep it for the long-term as resale values for these cars are extremely poor. Hence, the reason you would want to purchase one!