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How to Get a Salvage Title Cleared in California

How to Get a Salvage Title Cleared in California

If a car was declared a total loss by an insurance company after an accident or other incident, it was issued a salvage certificate.

This means the vehicle cannot be legally driven, sold, or registered in its current condition.

However, you can clear the salvage title and get the car back on the road by making the necessary repairs and going through the required steps with the California DMV. Here’s how to do it:

Step 1: Repair the Vehicle

Repair the Vehicle

The first step is to repair all the damage and get the vehicle restored to safe operating condition. Make sure to:

  • Use a reputable repair shop or do the work yourself if you have the skills
  • Keep detailed records and receipts for all parts and labor costs, especially if you did the work yourself
  • Take before and after photos to document the repairs. Even taking photos during the process would be helpful

Step 2: Complete the Required DMV Forms

Complete the Required DMV Forms

Next, fill out the following forms:

Step 3: Get the Vehicle Inspected

Get the Vehicle Inspected at the appropriate California highway patrol office

Before the DMV will issue you a new title, the vehicle needs to pass several inspections:

  • Brake and light adjustment inspection at a state-licensed repair shop
  • Smog check if the vehicle is less than 20 years old
  • CHP safety inspection at a California Highway Patrol office – schedule an appointment and bring:
    • Proof of ownership (salvage title, bill of sale, etc.)
    • Receipts and photos documenting the repairs
    • $50 inspection fee

The CHP will issue a Certificate of Inspection (CHP 97C) if the vehicle passes.

Schedule your appointment here:

Step 4: Go to the DMV

Go to the DMV

Take your completed forms, proof of ownership, repair documentation, inspection certificates, and fees to your local DMV office. The fees include:

  • $23 title fee
  • $58 registration fee
  • Any applicable taxes and county fees

After the DMV reviews and approves your application, they will issue you a new title branded as “Revived Salvage” or “Revived Junk.”

This means the vehicle is now legal to drive and sell, but the title still shows it was previously salvaged and there is no way of ever removing that!

The DMV will mail you the new title within 4-6 weeks.

Step 5: Get Insurance

The last step is to shop for car insurance. Not all companies will insure a revived salvage vehicle, and those that do may only offer liability coverage, not full coverage.

Be prepared to pay higher premiums as well. Some of the major insurers in California that might insure your vehicle include:

Related Article: Rebuilt Title Insurance Cost


With some time and certainly a lot of effort, you can clear the salvage title on a car in California.

While it will never have a clean title again, you can drive it, insure it, and sell it once you receive the revived title from the DMV.

The most important parts are repairing the vehicle properly, documenting everything thoroughly, and following the DMV’s instructions to a T.


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Picture of Steve Momot - Author

Steve Momot - Author

Steve, a seasoned expert in the automotive industry, formerly held a car dealer license in Florida. With extensive experience spanning across car trading and mechanical work, he founded Autohitch. His mission? To guide both buyers and sellers through the intricate maze of car purchasing, ensuring a seamless and informed experience. Outside of the automotive world, Steve has a passion for fishing and capturing the beauty of nature through photography.


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