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10 Reasons a Car Might Have a Salvage Title

The owner chose not to have the vehicle totaled.

Sometimes a person falls in love with his or her car to the point where, if it's damaged in an accident, he or she would rather keep it than have the insurer total it and help pay for a new one. Some owners may do this to avoid filing excessive claims with their insurers, or because they feel they can get a better price for the damaged vehicle by selling it themselves. Depending on how the insurer-owner agreement is arranged, this may result in the car receiving a salvage title.

When considering buying a salvage-title car with this kind of backstory, evaluate the situation like an insurer. How bad is the damage? Can the car be made roadworthy at reasonable cost? Is the owner telling the truth about the vehicle's condition? An owner who waives a totaled-car claim may ask an unreasonably high price for the vehicle, so be prepared to negotiate if you want the car, feel it's worth the effort to make it roadworthy and believe you can offer a fair price for it [sources: Carfax, Ohio Department of Public Safety, Connecticut Department of Motor Vehicles].