Can a Salvage Car Be Insured in California?

salvaged car in junk yard

The most direct answer is no, you cannot get car insurance for a salvage car in the State of California. However, you can get around that with a fair amount of work and planning. Your goal must be to, in effect, bring the totaled vehicle back to new life. You just have to figure out if it’s worth your time and effort to make this attempt. 

Let’s start with a basic understanding of what legally constitutes a salvage car. 

A Salvage Car Has Been Totaled 

A “salvage” vehicle is likely to be in just as bad a condition as the name makes it sound like it would be. A salvage car has been totally disabled as the result of a collision, flooding, or other jarring events. The insurance company has determined that it would be cheaper to give the insured driver a settlement based on the full value of the vehicle rather than attempting to make all of the needed repairs

As a result of the obviously poor condition of the vehicle, no California insurance company would even think of insuring it in the condition it’s presently in. And it would be against state law to offer coverage even if you could find a car insurer willing to offer it. 

So Why Would Anyone Even Want a Salvage Car? 

Good question. The short answer is that most people wouldn’t want one. 

However, if you’re a good authorized mechanic or have a brother-in-law or close friend in the business, you might figure that you can pick up a salvage for next to nothing (or actual nothing) and bring the vehicle back to life for a cheap price. 

From that point, perhaps you’re thinking of selling the car for a profit or just making it your “beater” ride. Or you conclude that you have so many new parts in the vehicle that it’s practically off the showroom floor. 

Those are some of the reasons you might consider bringing a salvage car back from the dead, like some mechanical Frankenstein monster. 

Why Would I Want Car Insurance on My Salvage Ride Anyway? 

If you keep the salvage vehicle, it’s probably simply because it’s cheap. So why would you think about investing in car insurance? 

Even if the condition of the vehicle is such that it wouldn’t be much of a financial loss even if it was totaled (again), you still need car insurance on it. That’s simply the law in California and almost everywhere else in the US. Only in the state of New Hampshire can you hit the road without car insurance. (That’s not saying it’s a good idea because it’s not.) 

Also, the vehicle must be insurable if you put it up for sale. And like we said earlier, it’s not legal to insure a salvage car in the Golden State. That’s because such a vehicle isn’t considered to be safe to drive (big surprise). 

Fortunately for you, you’ve got such a thing as a revived title to shoot for. 

front of a salvaged car

What’s a Revived Title? 

It’s a legal document that recognizes that a former salvage car has been properly rebuilt and reconditioned to the point where it is now safe to drive and can be licensed and insured. In order to get a revived title on what used to be a salvage car, you have to take the following actions to get the vehicle in roadworthy shape and be able to prove it to the authorities: 

  • Take the vehicle to an authorized mechanic. 
  • Keep track of all bills and repairs made. 
  • Photograph the vehicle before and after the repairs. 
  • Accumulate the required paperwork
  • Bring the paperwork with you to the California DMV office to get your revived title. 

Only with this title can you license, insure or resell the vehicle. If you sell it, be sure to inform your buyer that it used to be a salvage car. 

Is Getting a Revived Title for a Salvage Car Worth the Effort? 

That’s for you to decide. There’s certainly a lot of work involved. It could get very expensive unless you can do it yourself (as an authorized mechanic) or have a source for the extensive repairs at a lower cost. The effort will also take time. 

Once the work is completed, you have more challenges ahead of you if your goal is to sell the reconditioned vehicle. That’s because there’s a natural suspicion among car buyers of vehicles that insurance companies formerly totaled. It’s your responsibility to make it known that the vehicle is a former salvage and convince them that all necessary repairs have been made and documented. This could kill the sale or make the buyer insist on a very good price. 

Can you make a profit at the price at which you might be forced to sell the car? If you want it for yourself or are thinking of buying a car with a revived title from someone else, you have to wonder how dependable your ride will be. That will depend on the quality of the rebuild. 

However, if all works out, you will either have a car with a lot of new parts and new life at a bargain price or one that you can legally sell at perhaps a sizable profit. Good luck with your efforts! 

Final Step: See a Cost-U-Less Insurance Agent for Affordable Auto Insurance 

We look forward to insuring your revived title automobile. Just contact an independent insurance agent at Cost-U-Less to discuss your auto insurance needs. Call (800) 390-4071 or request a quick online car insurance quote. You can also find a California location near you