How to Get a Salvage Title Removed

You can replace a salvage title with a rebuilt title once your vehicle has been repaired, inspected, and approved by the DMV.
Written by Hillary Kobayashi
Edited by Georgina Grant
Reviewed by Jessica Barrett
You can’t turn a salvage title into a clean title, but you can replace it with a rebuilt title if you have it repaired, pass a state inspection, and file a rebuilt title application with your state’s DMV. 
  • A car receives a salvage title after a car insurance company has declared it a total loss.
  • Most states will not allow you to legally drive a car with a salvage title, but with some work, you can rebrand the car with a rebuilt title.
  • To replace a salvage title with a rebuilt title, you will need to repair your vehicle and have it undergo an inspection by the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) in your state.

How to get a salvage title cleared

Technically, you can’t “clear” a salvage title—once a car is declared a total loss, it will never have a clean title again. But you can apply for a rebuilt title, which improves the car’s resale value and certifies that it’s safe to drive. All you need to do is repair the vehicle, get it inspected, and submit the proper paperwork to the DMV. 

Clean title vs. salvage title vs. rebuilt title

Before attempting to get your salvage title removed, it’s important to understand the different types of vehicle titles. 
Each title type indicates something about the vehicle’s safety and history of damage:
  • Clean title
    : The vehicle has never been deemed a total loss by an insurance company.
  • Salvage title: The vehicle has been deemed a total loss by an insurance company and is unsafe to drive. 
  • Rebuilt title
    : The vehicle previously had a salvage title but has since been repaired and deemed safe to drive by the DMV.
Salvage titles and rebuilt titles are both examples of
branded titles
Most states will not allow you to drive or fully
insure a car with a salvage title
. You might also find it difficult to trade in the damaged vehicle at a dealership.
You can’t remove the salvage title from a vehicle and give it a clean title—but you can rebrand the car as a rebuilt title (also known as a reconditioned title or assembled title).
In a sense, the car title will be "cleaned"—but potential buyers and insurers will understand that the car had a salvage title in the past.

How to get a salvage title removed

Although the process varies from state to state, here are the general steps required to replace your salvage title with a rebuilt title:
  • Complete all necessary repairs: Unless you’re a licensed rebuilder, the salvaged car repairs must be done by a certified mechanic. Take care to document all the work you’ve done on the car, including taking lots of pictures.
  • Submit the necessary documents to the DMV: This will likely include the salvage title, the bill of sale, and any photos and receipts from the repair process. Check your state’s requirements to determine whether you’ll need any other paperwork or title application fees.
  • Schedule a vehicle inspection at a state-approved site: Many states allow you to do this online. You’ll also likely need to pay an inspection fee.
  • Have your car towed to the inspection facility: It’s illegal to drive a salvage title car.
  • Apply for a rebuilt title: Complete the forms required by your DMV and submit proof of a passed inspection to your state’s title department.

One more thing: it’s illegal to try to hide the history of your car

This is called car title laundering and it’s a crime.
Before you try to change a salvage vehicle title, get acquainted with your state’s registration and titling laws.
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According to Kelley Blue Book, a salvage title can decrease the value of a car by anywhere from 20% to 40%.
You cannot purchase insurance for a salvage title vehicle because it’s not allowed to be driven. It may even be difficult to find insurance for a car with a rebuilt salvage title, and your premium may be more expensive than a comparable car with a clean title.
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