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How to Turn a Salvage Title into a Rebuilt Title

How to Turn a Salvage Title into a Rebuilt Title

You’re considering buying a salvage title car from an auction because the price is too good to pas up, but you’re probably wondering how to turn a salvage title into a rebuilt title so it can be driven and sold.

The good news is that there are straightforward processes in each state to accomplish this, but I won’t promise you they are always simple.

StepAction Items
1– Purchase salvage title vehicle- Obtain salvage title in your name <br>- Run vehicle history report
2– Make necessary repairs- Keep detailed receipts for parts/labor
3– Application for rebuilt title- VIN inspection form- Odometer statement- Repair receipts- Rebuilt vehicle statement- Photos of repairs- Applicable fees
4– Schedule visual inspection (e.g. state police)- Pass inspection
5– Submit paperwork, fees, inspection report, and salvage title to DMV
6DMV reviews documents- Issues rebuilt title if approved
Table summarizing the steps to turn a salvage title into a rebuilt title (Varies by state)

The hardest car I had to get a rebuilt title for was a 1993 Supra that I had imported from Europe, which was even more complex than simply fixing a damaged car.

To help simplify the process as much as possible, I created the guide below for you to read over before you decide to buy a salvage title car.

Key Takeaways:

  • Salvage titles are placed on vehicles by insurance companies when they are declared total losses after accidents or damage.
  • You can’t drive most salvage title vehicles, but they can be repaired, inspected, and issued a rebuilt title by your state’s DMV.
  • The rebuild process involves fixing all damage, documenting repairs, passing a vehicle inspection, and submitting paperwork/fees to the DMV for a new title.
  • Expect to pay $2,000+ for repairs in addition to DMV fees. Value drops 20-40% even with a rebuilt title.

Related Articles To Read:

Defining Title Types: Clean vs. Salvage vs. Rebuilt

Before going further, it’s crucial to understand the terminology around vehicle titles:

Clean Title: Issued to new vehicles and used vehicles with no insurance claims. Fully driveable and insurable.

Salvage Title: Placed on vehicles deemed a total loss by insurance after an accident, flood damage, etc. Not legally driveable.

Rebuilt Title: A salvage vehicle that has been repaired, inspected, and titled again as “rebuilt” by the DMV. Driveable with restrictions.

Now let’s get into the specifics on how to turn that salvage title into a rebuilt title.

Step-by-Step Process to Convert a Salvage Title

Follow these essential steps:

1. Purchase the Salvage Vehicle

  • In some states only licensed rebuilders can buy salvage title cars upfront.
  • Private parties may need to wait until repairs and inspections are complete before buying from a rebuilder.
  • Cost: Anywhere from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars depending on damage.

2. Make Repairs & Document the Process

  • Damaged parts, mechanical issues, electronics must be repaired or replaced.
  • Keep all receipts for parts/labor as well as photos detailing damage.
  • Estimates Cost: $500 to $5,000+ depending on vehicle

3. Get a Vehicle Safety Inspection

  • Inspection by an authorized DMV facility required to prove roadworthiness.
  • Submit repair records, parts invoices, photos.
  • Inspection fee typically $50 to $200 depending on state.

4. File Paperwork with Your State DMV

  • Application forms, salvage title, inspection docs, fees required to apply for rebuilt title.
  • State reviews then issues a “rebuilt/reconstructed” branded title.
  • $100+ in mandatory state fees common.

5. Register & Drive with Your New Title

  • Must register rebuilt vehicle as usual through DMV to get license plates.
  • Insurance options limited compared to clean title vehicles.

State-Specific Salvage & Rebuilt Title Rules

Requirements can vary in certain states:


  • Vehicle must pass a visual inspection by an authorized inspector like an auto body shop or rebuild specialist. A completed inspection form is required.
  • Submit the salvage title, inspection form, receipts for all parts/repairs, and completed application for a rebuilt title to the FL DMV. Fees apply.
  • FL will review the paperwork and issue a “Rebuilt” branded title if approved. Vehicle can then be registered and driven.


  • Damaged vehicle must be fully repaired and restored to good working order. Keep all repair receipts.
  • Schedule an inspection with DMV or CHP and pass their safety and smog checks.
  • Fill out REG 343 “Application for Title” form and submit along with inspection forms, repair receipts, salvage title, fees to CA DMV.
  • CA will review and issue a “Revived Salvage” branded title. Vehicle can then be registered and insured.


  • Only licensed rebuilders can rebuild a salvage vehicle in IL. Damaged parts must be repaired/replaced.
  • Rebuilders must submit salvage title, repair documentation, fees, and inspection forms to the Secretary of State office.
  • If approved, IL issues a rebuilt title. The vehicle can then be registered and driven.


  • Obtain the salvage title by completing the Salvage Title Application (VTR-441) and paying the $10 fee.
  • Make necessary repairs and keep receipts for parts/labor. The vehicle must be road-worthy and in safe condition.
  • Complete the Rebuilt Vehicle Statement (VTR-61) detailing repairs. Get inspection and report.
  • Gather other documents: application for title (Form 130-U), insurance proof, odometer statement, receipts, photos.
  • Submit paperwork, fees ($65), inspection report, and original salvage title to county tax office.
  • If approved, the TX DMV issues a branded rebuilt title allowing registration and legal operation.

The process takes 4-6 weeks in Texas. Check the TX DMV website for specifics on required forms, fees, and inspection regulations for successfully converting a salvage title to a rebuilt title.

Check your local state DMV’s website for more specifics on rebuilt title requirements where you live.

Frequently Asked Questions

How much does a rebuilt title decrease the value?

Expect a 20-40% hit to a vehicle’s worth even after you have a rebuilt title. Significant for resale down the road.

Can you get a car loan or financing for a rebuilt title car?

Lending standards are strict, but some specialty lenders like LightStream offer auto loans for rebuilt cars in some scenarios. Rates are higher, though.

Is a rebuilt or salvage title car cheaper to insure?

Unfortunately no – rebuilt titles actually increase your auto insurance costs. Some standard companies won’t even offer coverage on these vehicles. Shop around for specialty insurers.

My Final Thoughts

Converting a salvaged vehicle into a road-legal rebuilt title car takes diligence – but it can be done in most states. Just be prepared to invest money and time into repairs to pass inspections before the DMV will re-title the car. Check all state regulations before buying a salvage vehicle.

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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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