Q In California, what are the costs to register a salvage title car?

A 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:

  1. Application for Title or Registration (REG 343)

  2. California Certificate of Title or Salvage Certificate or Application for Duplicate

  3. Verification of Vehicle (REG 31) or CHP Inspection Certificate

  4. 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 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:

  1. Registration fee ($46)

  2. California Highway Patrol fee ($24)

  3. Vehicle License fee (also called VLF and based on the value of the vehicle)

  4. Weight fee

  5. Commercial Vehicle Registration Act (CVRA) Motor Vehicle fee

  6. County fees ($1 to $19, varying by county)

  7. Cargo Theft Interdiction Program (CTIP) fee ($3)

  8. Permanent Trailer Identification (PTI) fee (most trailers -- $7 to $20)

  9. Salvage Certificate fee ($20)

  10. Duplicate Title fee ($20)

  11. Substitute Plate fee ($20)

Then there are service fees that are also due:

  1. Salvage and Dismantled Vehicle Inspection fee ($50)

  2. Prior History fee ($2)

  3. 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 a salvage titled vehicle contact the California DMV directly. It's 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.

How to insure a salvage title car in California

It may be something of a challenge finding 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.