Just Found Out My Car Has a Salvage Title [What to Do]

Just Found Out My Car Has a Salvage Title

Just found out my car has a salvage title – help! If your car has a salvage title and you just found out after buying it, you can sue the seller. Every state requires the seller to disclose the title to the buyer. In your case, the seller failed to disclose the title, which is illegal.

The seller may have issued you a fake title (another crime) that says the title is clean, whereas the original title says “Salvage”. This is often a case of title washing or title laundering, and the seller (or call him a curbstoner) concealed the salvage title just to pass the burden of repairs to you and still get paid.

What Does It Mean When a Car Has a Salvage Title?

When a car has a salvage title, it means that the insurance company has declared it a total loss. Usually, this is because the insurance company determined that it would be uneconomical to repair the car due to the cost, and thus, wrote it off. The insurance company also notified the Department of Motor Vehicles or the authorized title agency of the state, which changed the car title to “Salvage”.

If you have a car with a salvage title, the only way to use it on the road again is to rebuild it following your state’s rebuilt car standards. Usually, you will need a licensed repair expert to make sure it passes an inspection. If it does, you will get a rebuilt title. Unfortunately, you can never legally change this rebuilt title to clean again. Some people still manage to turn a rebuilt title to a clean title through title washing.

Another problem is that you cannot find an insurance company for a salvage title car. Why think of getting insurance when it is even illegal to drive such a car on public roads in the first place?

Just Found Out My Car Has a Salvage Title

It will be easier to fix this if you purchased the car in your state and not out of state. Also, if you still have contact with the seller, then be happy. That said, do the following if you just found out your car has a salvage title:

1. Understand Your Legal Protections

If a dealership sold you a car with a salvage title without telling you, that is dealer fraud. Dealers are legally required to clearly and honestly tell you about the salvage title before selling the car. They cannot hide it in tiny writing or use confusing words. Also, they can’t claim they didn’t know about it because they should easily find this information. The same applies to a seller.

The title disclosure statement is usually located on the back of title certificates. According to the New York DMV:

If you fail to disclose the salvage history of a vehicle, you can pay a maximum fine of $2,000, and any additional penalties described in the New York State Penal Law.

According to the Nevada DMV:

Improperly selling a salvage vehicle can be a serious felony offense. Sellers must disclose in writing that the vehicle is a salvage vehicle.

2. Get Legal Help

If a dealership conceals information about a car’s title, you can take legal action as the buyer. If you prefer, you can request a refund, cancel the deal, or get compensation for any car-related injuries. The first thing to do is get a lawyer. A lawyer will help build a case against the dishonest dealership or private seller and represent you in court. You will certainly get compensation for the salvage title car.

3. Initiate Legal Steps

Once you have a lawyer, you can start legal proceedings against the dealership or private seller that sold you the salvage title car without telling you. Usually, it is not too hard to prove they did not disclose the title information properly. So your case might go well.

Besides getting a refund, ending the transaction, or getting compensation, the dealership could also face fines or lose their license to sell cars.

4. Consider Selling the Car

If you are uncomfortable with the idea of driving a salvage vehicle, you might consider selling it. However, be transparent with potential buyers about the title status. I made a guide for you to sell a salvage car, unfortunately, you will not get the same value as a clean title.

A rebuilt title car can fetch you more money, but that comes at the expense of spending money to rebuild the car and then getting a “Rebuilt” title brand.


Just found out my car has a salvage title – don’t panic anymore. This article has provided you with the steps to get out of this mess.

However, if they did not lie to you about the salvage title, you can’t sue them. They only need to tell you about problems that you would not find out with a normal check. Not checking the car’s history works against you. If you asked them directly about the salvage title and they lied, you might have grounds to sue. But if you did not ask and they did not disclose, you may not be able to sue them depending on your state, even if they knew about it. Moreover, they can lie that they did. I am not a lawyer but I at least know how these things work. So, discuss with your local attorney to know your options.

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