October 12, 2018
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As you probably know, the United States has a high rate of auto accidents. There are plenty of cars out there that are declared total losses by their insurers, but are not too far gone to be rebuilt and put back on the road again. For an insurer to call a car a total after a collision, the repair estimates (body, frame, electrical, mechanical) must exceed the actual blue book value of the car.
Older cars have a lower blue book value; thus it'll require less in the way of actual body damage for the insurer to write the car off. Sometimes it can mean nothing more than sheet metal, bumper, paint or headlight/taillight/body glass damage for the insurer to call the car a total.
Many states will record a salvage title or junk title for a car that's been declared a total loss. Some states, however, do not. The following states only have clean-title designations for cars:
Remember that some unscrupulous sellers will launder a car's salvage title by transferring it to a state that has clean titles only.
You'll need to know what you're getting into before you buy any wrecked car, clean title or salvage title either one. Some collisions are going to leave a car with safety issues (ABS, airbag, sensor problems), mechanical issues (engine mounts, transmission mounts, internal driveline damage, brake, suspension or steering problems), electrical problems or other things that will make the car treacherous to drive on the highway. Other collisions can leave a car with negligible body damage, but a bent frame or other problems that will mean a car that will never drive or handle properly. If you're in doubt about your own skills at assessing a wrecked car, bring a mechanic or body man friend with you at auction time.
Also remember that if you go to an auction, you're going to be bidding against people who make a living from doing just that -- buying clean title wrecked cars, restoring them and selling them at a profit. Don't go in any deeper on the front end of the purchase than what you can afford. That may not mean so much if you want to keep the car as a daily driver, but it can cut into your profit if you want to resell. The upside of this is that a clean title rebuilt car is going to sell for more money than a salvage-title car will.
It's possible to get a car at 50-70% off the book value at a car auction broker site such as iBidSafely.com if you buy a clean title wrecked car. Just be aware of the pitfalls, play your cards carefully and you can come out with a reliable daily driver or a car that you can turn around and sell at a profit of a couple of thousand dollars.