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Written by:
Laura Longero
Executive Editor
Laura is an award-winning editor with experience in content and communications covering auto insurance and personal finance. She has written for several media outlets, including the USA Today Network. She most recently worked in the public sector for the Nevada Department of Transportation.

A car with a branded title, either salvaged or rebuilt, will be worth less than a vehicle with a clean title. A car with a salvage title or rebuilt title can be thousands of dollars lower in value than a comparable car with a clean title.

Auto and insurance industry sources report that the decrease in value of a vehicle with a rebuilt or salvage title is typically between 20-50%, depending on the type of vehicle and its age.

Kelley Blue Book (KBB) notes that a salvaged, reconstructed or otherwise clouded title permanently negatively affects a vehicle’s value. Their industry rule of thumb is to deduct 20% to 40% of the Blue Book value, but salvage title vehicles should be privately appraised on a case-by-case basis to determine their market value.

Key Highlights
  • A vehicle with a branded title—salvage or rebuilt—will be less valuable than one with a clean title. 
  • An automobile with a rebuilt or salvage title may be worth hundreds of dollars less than a comparable model with a clear title. 
  • A salvaged, rebuilt, or otherwise clouded title has a long-term detrimental impact on a vehicle’s value, according to Kelley Blue Book (KBB). 
  • A preliminary estimate of the value of a salvage vehicle can be obtained by searching up the model’s value (with a clean title) in an automotive reference book like KBB or NADA, and then deducting 40% of the value. 

How to determine the salvage value of a car

One way you can try to determine the value of a salvage vehicle is to get a rough idea by looking up the worth of the model vehicle (with a clean title) in an automobile guide such as KBB or NADA, and take 40% of the value. You may even want to take off 50% of the value since if an insurance company totals it out, it is not uncommon that they will only pay out 50% of what the vehicle would be worth with a clean title (not salvaged).

Another way to determine the value of a salvaged vehicle is to ask a local dealership what the car would be worth with a clean title. If you have a car that has a salvaged title, you could take it to the dealership for them to appraise its value for you.

Now if an insurance company has found your vehicle to be a total loss and you are thinking of repurchasing the car for salvage value, then the amount you would owe the insurance company (or have taken out of the settlement amount) is determined by the insurance company.

There is no universal list for how much salvage value would be on any particular car; it depends upon the vehicle and its damages and how much it is worth in its current state after being found a total loss.

Salvage value is the amount of money the insurer would recoup when selling the vehicle through a licensed salvage vendor. So, instead of selling it to a salvage vendor, they allow you to repurchase your car, get the needed repairs and drive it again.

The salvage value in a buyback situation is the car’s worth in the condition it is in with the damages it sustained in the accident. If you wish to buy back a car from an insurance company that deemed your vehicle a total loss, you should discuss the value of the car and the cost to buy it back.

You can check around with local salvage yards to ensure the salvage value the insurance company quoted you is correct for your vehicle.

Learn more about what are the values of vehicles with rebuilt titles vs. clean titles.

Laura Longero

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Laura Longero

Executive Editor

Laura is an award-winning editor with experience in content and communications covering auto insurance and personal finance. She has written for several media outlets, including the USA Today Network. She most recently worked in the public sector for the Nevada Department of Transportation.

John McCormick

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John McCormick

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John is the editorial director for CarInsurance.com, Insurance.com and Insure.com. Before joining QuinStreet, John was a deputy editor at The Wall Street Journal and had been an editor and reporter at a number of other media outlets where he covered insurance, personal finance, and technology.

Leslie Kasperowicz

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Leslie Kasperowicz

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Leslie Kasperowicz is an insurance educator and content creation professional with nearly two decades of experience first directly in the insurance industry at Farmers Insurance and then as a writer, researcher, and educator for insurance shoppers writing for sites like ExpertInsuranceReviews.com and InsuranceHotline.com and managing content, now at CarInsurance.com.

Nupur Gambhir

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Nupur Gambhir

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Nupur Gambhir is a content editor and licensed life, health, and disability insurance expert. She has extensive experience bringing brands to life and has built award-nominated campaigns for travel and tech. Her insurance expertise has been featured in Bloomberg News, Forbes Advisor, CNET, Fortune, Slate, Real Simple, Lifehacker, The Financial Gym, and the end-of-life planning service.

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author image
Executive Editor

Laura is an award-winning editor with experience in content and communications covering auto insurance and personal finance. She has written for several media outlets, including the USA Today Network. She most recently worked in the public sector for the Nevada Department of Transportation.