A car with a branded title, either salvage or rebuilt, will be worth less than a vehicle with a clean title. A vehicle with a salvage title or rebuilt title can 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 that has a rebuilt or salvage title is typically between 20 percent up to 50 percent depending on the type of vehicle and its age.

Kelley Blue Book (KBB) notes that a salvaged, reconstructed or otherwise clouded title has a permanent negative effect on the value of a vehicle. Their industry rule of thumb is to deduct 20% to 40% of the Blue Book value, but salvage title vehicles really should be privately appraised on a case-by-case basis in order 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. 
  • A 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 salvage value of a car?

So 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 then take off 40 percent 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 vehicle would be worth with a clean title and then if it was with a salvaged 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 your vehicle has been found by an insurance company to be a total loss and you are thinking of buying the car back for salvage value you 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 certain car, it depends upon the car and its damages and how much it is worth in its current state after being found a total loss.

In general 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 are allowing you to buy your car back, get the needed repairs and drive it again.

So the salvage value in a buy back situation is the worth of the car 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 make sure the salvage value the insurance company quoted you seems correct for your vehicle.

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