When buying a car with a salvage title, it's important to know that you will have to register the vehicle before you can drive it. Also, you will have to understand the process for registering a salvage vehicle in California. 

This guide will walk you through all the steps necessary for registering a salvage title: what documents are required, where you can register your salvage vehicle, and more.

Key Highlights
  • A salvage title is given to a car if it has been damaged so badly that the cost of fixing it would be more than what the car is worth.
  • If your vehicle was deemed a total loss by your insurance company, and you bought it back then it is considered a revived salvage title.
  • It may not be easy to find full insurance for a salvaged vehicle. But there are a few insurance companies in California (including Progressive, State Farm, and Mercury) that might offer full coverage beyond liability.
  • Check with your local DMV in regards to their salvage title laws. Each state has different guidelines for salvaged vehicles.

What is a salvage title?

A salvage title is given to a vehicle that has been damaged in such a way that the cost of repairs exceeds its fair market value. Insurance companies will then declare this vehicle as "total loss" and issue a certificate for salvage vehicles.

Salvage certificate California

When an insurance company determines that a vehicle is a total loss, it will request and obtain a salvage certificate from the California DMV. After the insurance company writes off the vehicle, it will get the title from its owner and apply for a salvage certificate with California DMV. The insurance company will get the car title in its name and then they might sell it at auction.

Salvage certificate vs salvage title

In most cases, the DMV issues either a salvage title or a salvage certificate for vehicles that have been wrecked and declared a total loss. Salvage certificates and titles are the same things, but they serve different purposes. You can drive a vehicle with a salvage title but vehicles with salvage certificates cannot be driven on the road. 

How to register a salvage title in California?

Can you register a car with a salvage title? Yes, you can register a car with a salvage title in California. 

Follow the steps mentioned below to register a salvage title in California:

  • The first step is to apply for a Salvage Certificate.
  • Fill out an application for Title or Registration (REG 343).
  • Get done with the vehicle inspection by the DMV or CHP.
  • You need to gather the relevant paperwork and proof of ownership for your car.
  • Pay the inspection fee, history fee, and registration fees.

How much does it cost to register a salvage title car in California?

The basic registration fee for a vehicle with a salvage title is $46, but there are other fees you're likely to pay, including a $50 Salvage and Dismantled Vehicle Inspection fee and a $2 Prior History fee.

California car insurance law marks vehicles under a salvage title because they were involved in an accident or suffered major damage from another source, such as a flood or vandalism. This brand includes previously dismantled (junked) vehicles.

The California DMV requires that you file various documents to register a vehicle with a salvage title, including:

  • Application for Title or Registration (REG 343)
  • California Certificate of Title or Salvage Certificate or Application for Duplicate
  • Verification of Vehicle (REG 31) or CHP Inspection Certificate
  • Brake and Light Adjustment Certificates

The DMV notes that, depending on the type of motor vehicle that has the salvage title and its use, you also may need to file all or some of these documents:

  • Smog Certification
  • Weight Certification
  • Vehicle/Vessel Transfer and Reassignment Form (REG 262)
  • Statement of Facts (REG 256)
  • Declaration of Gross Vehicle/Combined Gross Vehicle Weight (REG 4008)
  • Permanent Trailer Identification (PTI) Application/Certification (REG 4017)

How to insure a salvage title car in California?

It may be something of a challenge to find full insurance for a salvage vehicle. There are, however, a few insurers in California (including Progressive, State Farm and Mercury) that may offer full coverage beyond liability, but on a case by case basis. You'll have to check around to see what coverage is offered and at what cost.

If you are considering buying a car with a salvage title, here are a few precautions to take:

  • Have a trusted professional mechanic check out any vehicle you are considering. The better the deal you're getting, the more you should insist on an inspection.
  • Get a vehicle history report. Carfax and Autocheck are the top two providers.
  • Check the National Motor Vehicle Title Information System. This federal database was supposed to cut down on title fraud. While it has helped, it is incomplete, as not all states participate. Search the database for the VIN of any car you are interested in.
  • Check with your local DMV in regards to their salvage title laws. Each state has different guidelines for salvage titles. Understand the local policies before you buy.
  • Check with your insurance company in regard to coverage and car insurance rates before you buy.

Read more about How to insure a salvage or rebuilt title car?

What is a revived junk vehicle?

A revived junk vehicle is a vehicle that was once reported to DMV as demolished but has now been restored to good condition and can be driven again. If your junk car has been revived, remember that you'll have to register the vehicle again with the state DMV.

How to register revived junk vehicles in California? 

To register a revived junk vehicle in California, you will have to take the following steps:

  • Fill and sign the Application for Title or Registration (REG 343) form.
  • You will need a junk receipt issued by your state's DMV.

If your junk receipt is with someone else, that person will have to fill and submit a Statement of Facts (REG 256) form explaining the full details of the vehicle's appearance and what happened to the original junk receipt.

  • Besides, you will also require a DMV employee or the California Highway Patrol (CHP) approved Verification of Vehicle (REG 31) form.
  • For a California Highway Patrol inspection of your vehicle, you will have to make an appointment by contacting CHP at 1-800-835-5247.
  • Submit brake and light adjustment certificates.
  • Pay the fees.

You'll need to file all or some of these documents with the DMV depending on the type of vehicle you drive:

  • Smog certification
  • Statement of Facts (REG 256) form.
  • Permanent Trailer Identification (PTI) Certification/Application (REG 4017) form.
  • Declaration of Gross Vehicle Weight (GVW)/Combined Gross Vehicle Weight CGW (REG 4008) form.
  • Weight certificate from a California Certified Public Weighmaster.

What is a revived salvage vehicle?

A revived salvage vehicle is a vehicle that was once declared a total loss by the insurance company but has been rebuilt and is functional. However, to take the vehicle back on the road, you will have to re-register it with the DMV.

How to register a revived salvage vehicle in California?

To register a vehicle with a salvage title in California, you will have to submit the following documents to the DMV:

  • Application for Title or Registration (REG 343) form
  • Bill of Sale (REG 135) form or a Vehicle/ Vessel Transfer and Reassignment (REG 262) form
  • Verification of Vehicle (REG 31) form/ CHP Certificate of Inspection (CHP 97C) form.
  • Brake and light adjustment certificates.
  • Pay the fees.

Depending on the type of motor vehicle you own and its use, California DMV may require you to attach additional documents to register your revived salvage vehicle:

  • Application for Salvage Certificate (REG 488C).
  • Vehicle/Vessel Transfer and Reassignment (REG 262) form.
  • Statement of Facts (REG 256) form.
  • Declaration of Gross Vehicle Weight (GVW)/Combined Gross Vehicle Weight (CGW) (REG 4008) form.
  • Permanent Trailer Identification (PTI) Application and Certification (REG 4017) form.
  • Smog certification.
  • Weight certificate from a California Certified Public Weighmaster.

How to insure a revived salvage title car in California?

If your vehicle was judged to be totaled by your car insurance company and you bought it back then it would be considered a revived salvage title.

A revived salvage vehicle is defined by the California DMV as one that was reported to them by the owner or insurance company as a total loss and now has been restored to operational condition.

To register a revived salvage vehicle, the DMV says you will need:

  • Application for title or registration signed by all listed owners.
  • Proof of vehicle ownership. You can provide proof with an application for duplicate title, certificate of title or salvage certificate in your name or endorsed for you to transfer into your name.
  • Vehicle inspection must be performed on the vehicle by the DMV or, if required for your specific vehicle, by the California Highway Patrol (CHP) before the DMV inspection. There is a non-refundable inspection fee due at the time of your registration application.
  • Brake and light inspection certificate. If it's determined that you need it for your specific vehicle, you can find a state-licensed brake and light inspection station in your area through the Bureau of Automotive Repair (BAR) website.
  • Weight certificate is required for some trucks and pickups. The DMV says this type of certificate can be obtained through many moving and storage companies if you pay them a small fee.
  • Smog certification is due for most vehicles with a few exceptions for hybrids, motorcycles and electric vehicles. The DMV can tell you if the smog certificate is due for your particular vehicle.

Then there are the fees. Here is a list of some of the main fees that may be required to register, depending on your vehicle and its use.

We included the specific amount when it was provided by the DMV:

  • Registration fee ($46)
  • California Highway Patrol fee ($24)
  • Vehicle License fee (also called VLF and based on the value of the vehicle)
  • Weight fee
  • Commercial Vehicle Registration Act (CVRA) Motor Vehicle fee
  • County fees ($1 to $19, varying by county)
  • Cargo Theft Interdiction Program (CTIP) fee ($3)
  • Permanent Trailer Identification (PTI) fee (most trailers -- $7 to $20)
  • Salvage Certificate fee ($20)
  • Duplicate Title fee ($20)
  • Substitute Plate fee ($20)

Then there are service fees that are also due:

  • Salvage and Dismantled Vehicle Inspection fee ($50)
  • Prior History fee ($2)
  • Non-Resident fee ($20 - if the vehicle was last registered out of state)

Finally, a transfer or use tax may also be required This fee is not due if the vehicle was bought from a licensed dismantler or was already titled in your name previously.

To get more information about the registration process on salvage titled vehicles contact the California DMV directly. Its website has much helpful information; you can also call 1-800-777-0133 to get a more exact amount of the total fees that will likely be due.

Source: Revived Junk & Revived Salvage vehicles