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What Does "Salvage Value" Mean for My Car?

confused about what salvage value means for your car

How much is a salvage title car worth, and what does salvage title mean when it comes to your car? Depending on what you’re talking about, it can actually mean several things.

Typically, a salvage car refers to a car with a salvage title. These are vehicles that have been declared total losses by an insurance company and given a salvage branding on their title.

Salvage brandings are typically permanent, which means once it is placed on a title, it can’t be removed. In some states, you can rebuild a salvage title car and get a rebuilt branding as well, but all future buyers will still know that the car was declared a total loss at one point.

In most cases, salvage title cars are junked, torn apart and recycled for their parts. Some parts can be repaired and resold to someone who is willing to take on the risk (and the insurance bump) on a salvage title car.

Sometimes the term salvage car is used colloquially for a car that is at the end of its life, or has experienced damage but hasn’t received the salvage branding yet. It can also be applied to cars with major mechanical damage.

To best figure out a scrap car’s value, a calculator with scrap metal prices will help you out immensely.

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How to Calculate the Salvage Value of Your Car

The actual math for determining salvage car prices is pretty straightforward.

For all vehicles, depreciation will proceed at a predictable rate for the lifetime of the car.

calculate the salvage value of your totaled car
  • After One Minute a brand new car will lose an average of 10% of its value the moment it is driven off of the dealership lot. That means a $30,000 vehicle is immediately worth $3,000 less once those wheels hit a public road.

  • After One Year a new car has suffered its biggest drop in value. Those first 12 months of ownership will result in a car being worth 20% less than what it was purchased for. That $30,000 car is now only worth $24,000.

  • After Five Years the car will have lost around 60% of its total value. The steep dip of the first year is replaced by a 15-25% depreciation each following year until the five year mark. That $30,000 is now worth $12,000.

For salvage vehicles, however, you also have to factor in additional wear and tear. A car’s salvage value is typically much lower than its used car value, especially if it’s no longer running.

Common Issues With Salvage Cars:

  • Blown Engine

  • Broken Transmission

  • Dead Battery

  • Check Engine Light

  • Bad or Broken Brakes

  • Faulty Electrical Systems

  • Body Damage

  • Fuel System Issues

If a car has not been repaired after a major accident, it will only be worth 10%-50% of an equivalent used car’s value. Even if repaired, you’re still only likely to receive about 70% of its undamaged value.

What's The Salvage Value of A Totaled Car?

calculate salvage value by weight

Your totaled car will fetch a different price depending on where you sell it.

Some buyers will value your vehicle for its weight in scrap metal, which means you’ll get paid the scrap value of your car. Others will see value in it as a collector’s piece that just needs some repairs.

Here are the options to sell your salvage vehicle:

Dealerships:

If your totaled car has you in the market for a new car, you may be looking to find a dealership to complete the trade.

The amount you receive on a car you’ve traded in is influenced by if your car can quickly go onto the dealership’s used lot for sale. If not, they’ll be selling it for parts and giving you a fraction of what it’s worth. You may also have to pay to have your car towed to the dealership!

Dealerships specialize in roadworthy vehicles, which your salvage car is not. Expect a salvage title car’s value to be a lot lower than a clean title car.

Private Buyers:

Selling your salvage car to a private buyer is a viable option. These buyers are often looking for a specific model of car and willing to repair it.

The amount they’re willing to pay, however, may not match what you’re selling the salvage vehicle for. This often leads to uncomfortable haggling between both parties.Furthermore, expect the vetting process for each prospective buyer to be a slow one.

Junkyards:

Junkyards are a direct way to sell a high maintenance car that isn’t able or likely to be driven anymore.

At a junkyard, your car will be valued based on what can be earned back selling the individual parts of the car as well as its overall metal.

Selling to a junkyard comes with its own share of risks; never sell a car without ensuring your title has been transferred and always consider the cost of towing your car.

Online:

There are several online platforms where you can attempt to sell a salvage car. As with junkyards, not all of these sites are reputable and may have hidden fees.

Online car sites allow you to complete transactions from the comfort of your home and that convenience is an attractive benefit.

CarBrain is one of the online platforms that provides you with both efficiency and convenience.

We specialize in appraising, buying and selling less-than-perfect cars, which means we can often get you more for your old total loss vehicle than almost anyone else out there.

What's the Quickest Way to Find the Salvage Value of my Car?

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To ensure you’re getting a fair scrap value for your vehicle it’s essential to get a second opinion so that you have a basis for comparison.

The quickest way to do that is by using our online pricing tool here at CarBrain. We can help you calculate a car’s scrap value fast. It couldn’t be easier — it’s just three steps!

  1. Fill out our online form with information about your vehicle, and get a quote in just 90 seconds!

  2. Look over our offer. If you like what you see, accept it — and then we’ll help you to schedule a pickup at a time that works for you.

  3. Collect your payment and hand over the keys when the tow truck driver arrives!

It’s really that easy.

We buy salvage vehicles for top dollar all over the country. Calculate the value of your damaged car instantly!

You’re free to shop around, and there’s never any pressure to sell, so you’ll get peace of mind knowing you can always sell your vehicle and its parts to CarBrain, without the hassle of expensive repairs.

Need answers? Get FREE advice from our client care experts NOW!

Frequently Asked Questions

How Do You Determine the Salvage Value of A Car?

Determining the salvage value of a vehicle is a dynamic process. Market values for cars of different conditions vary based upon factors such as local demand and scrap metal prices.

Why is Salvage Valued Lower?

Typically, whenever potential buyers notice there’s an accident history or past damages on a vehicle of interest, they will have reservations about the car.

Buyers anticipate that other buyers will value the vehicle lower because of its history, so they choose to do the same. It's not always clear why buyers prefer lower price points on salvage cars, but that is just the way that markets currently work.

How is Salvage Value Different from Scrap Value?

Salvage value refers to the value of the remaining parts in a vehicle. For instance, the engine, transmission and catalytic converter retain a lot of value because they’re complex tools that are crucial to a vehicle’s operation. Some cars are sold for their remaining parts — these are typically the vehicles referred to as salvage cars.

Scrap value, however, refers to when a vehicle no longer has those functioning parts and is only good for the metal that can be extracted from it. A functioning catalytic converter can be reused, but a yard can also extract the precious metals inside the catalytic converter and recycle or sell them instead.

For what it’s worth...

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