Things to Consider When Buying a Used Car in California


Buying a used car from a dealership or salvage car from an auction is a great option if you want to save money. Used and salvage vehicles can be in pretty good condition, while their price is significantly lower than the cost of a new vehicle.

However, the regulations for buying used and salvage vehicles vary from state to state in the US. If you’re planning on buying salvage cars in California, there are a couple of things for you to take into account.  

What is “salvage‘ in California?

According to the California Department of Motor Vehicles, a vehicle that was wrecked or destroyed in a collision is considered salvaged when repair costs exceed the pre-accident value of a vehicle. In this case, the vehicle is not repaired and its owner gets the pre-accident car cost from an insurance company. The vehicle then gets a Salvage Certificate.

Revived salvage vehicles

While salvage vehicles are deemed not-roadworthy in California, revived ones can be officially registered and be driven. 

A “Revived Salvage” vehicle is the one that was reported as the total loss and later repaired to a drivable condition. Vehicles of this type are then re-registered by the DMV and get the “Revived” title known as “Rebuilt‘ in other US states. 

To re-register your salvage car in California, you should:

  • Prepare the bill of sale for all the parts used to reconstruct the car
  • Prepare an application for registration and vehicle construction statement and provide them to DMV
  • Get your vehicle inspected by the DMV or California Highway Patrol (CHP)

After all these steps are accomplished, the DMV will issue a “Revived” title for your vehicle and you can drive it anywhere in California. 

Getting vehicle insurance

California laws require all registered car owners to have insurance on their motor vehicles, new and used.

Getting insurance for a revived salvage vehicle in California is not that easy, but possible. Most insurance companies will only provide liability coverage for your car, rather than full coverage. The minimum liability car insurance requirements in California are listed as 15/30/5, which means coverage up to $15,000 for each person injured in a collision, up to $30,000 for the entire accident, and up to $5,000 worth of coverage for property damage.

Buy with Salvagebid

Salvagebid auto auction gives you access to salvage vehicles right from the IAA marketplace, no dealer license required. You can sign up with Salvagebid to bid online or contact our support center for help: Happy car hunting!

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