Is Buying A Used Car With A Salvage Title Right For You?

Posted on: 5 May 2016

When shopping for a used car, most drivers are wary of vehicles that have a salvage title. After all, a salvage title means the car was damaged to the point that the repairs cost more than the value of the vehicle. Worrying about reliability issues and a diminished resale value is entirely justified when considering a car that was damaged so extensively.

However, you can also save a lot of money by purchasing a car with a salvage title. Sometimes vehicles can be issued a salvage title simply because of cosmetic damage, in which case there will likely be no reliability issues at all. Even if the damage was more extensive, reliability may not be a concern as long as all the repairs were done properly by an experienced mechanic.

If you're in the market for a cheap used car, don't completely dismiss the idea of buying a vehicle with a salvage title. With some careful testing and inspection, you can sometimes get a perfectly good model for pennies on the dollar.

Before you even see the car, it's a good idea to look up its vehicle history report so you're aware of the damage that occurred. That will help you know exactly what to look for while driving and inspecting the vehicle. You should also keep the following tips in mind. 

Go Over the Exterior with a Fine-Tooth Comb

Carefully examine all of the exterior panels that were damaged. Ensure that the replacement panels are securely attached and properly aligned. It's best to examine the exterior in bright sunlight so you can make sure that the repainted areas properly match the rest of the vehicle. If there are any issues with fitment or color matching, bring them up to the seller and try to negotiate the price down. After all, a bit of mismatched paint won't affect the car's drivability whatsoever.

Inspect the Engine and Drive Train

If the car you're considering suffered mechanical damage, it's important to ensure that all of the repairs were done properly. Otherwise, you may wind up stuck with a lemon that leaves you stranded on the road.

Pop the hood and carefully examine the engine and accessories. Use a flashlight to see all the way down into the engine bay. Make sure none of the mechanical components are still damaged. Pay especially close attention to components that are attached with gaskets, as those are the most likely culprits for fluid leaks.

Also, look for signs of shoddy workmanship such as components attached loosely with cable ties or empty threads where nuts and bolts should be. Once you're done with the engine, get under the vehicle and inspect the entire drive train and all of the suspension components with the same level of scrutiny.

Take It for a Long and Thorough Test Drive

If the car appears mechanically sound, it's time to go for a test drive. Many drivability issues are impossible to spot visually, but they'll generally make themselves known during a thorough test drive. Keep the windows down so you can listen closely for squeaks, rattles, or excessive ticking noises coming from the drive train and suspension. Make sure you drive the car harder than you normally would to bring any issues to the surface. Wind the engine out to its rpm redline and lay on the brakes several times to make sure everything still performs optimally.

After your drive, thoroughly inspect the engine and drive train once again. Make sure nothing has come loose, and look out for fluid leaks that the seller may have tried to clean up before your test drive. Also be aware of any strange burning smells, because that may be a sign that components are overheating or otherwise not functioning properly.

Have a Reputable Mechanic and Auto Body Shop Inspect the Vehicle

If the test drive goes well, it's time to take the car to a trusted mechanic and body shop like Rocky Mountain Collision of Sandy. Mechanics can perform more thorough procedures such as compression tests and leak-down tests to ensure the engine internals are functioning properly. Trained auto body specialists know exactly what to look for when it comes to exterior and chassis repairs. If any corners were cut, a specialist will be able to spot the issue right away.

If everything still checks out, you can rest assured that you won't be purchasing a car that's on its last legs. The best part is you'll have found a car that can be purchased at a fraction of the price compared to the same model with a clean title.