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What is a Certificate of Destruction for a Car

What is a Certificate of Destruction for a Car

A Certificate of Destruction is a document issued by an insurance company when a vehicle is deemed unfit for use on public roads and is destined for destruction. This certificate indicates that the car can never be registered, titled, or driven legally again.

A Certificate of Destruction is different from a salvage title, which can eventually become a rebuilt title if properly repaired and inspected.

Related Article: Certificate of Destruction Florida

Key Takeaways

  • Certificates of Destruction permanently prevent a vehicle from being registered or driven on public roads
  • Insurance companies issue them to limit liability for future accidents, even if the vehicle isn’t badly damaged
  • Unlike salvage titles, Certificates of Destruction can never be changed or removed from a vehicle’s record
  • Vehicles with Certificates of Destruction are sold for parts only and cannot be rebuilt
  • Only the issuing Insurance Company can reverse a Certificate of Destruction

What is a Certificate of Destruction?

When an insurance company declares a vehicle a total loss and takes ownership of it from the insured party, they have the option to process the title as a Certificate of Destruction.

This means the car is intended to be destroyed and never used on the road or registered again. Even if the vehicle appears to be in acceptable condition, the insurer may still issue a Certificate of Destruction to limit their liability in case the car is involved in a future accident due to a pre-existing defect.

Some reasons an insurer might issue a Certificate of Destruction include:

  • Suspected damage to the airbag system
  • Weakened or compromised frame
  • Unwillingness to pay for a detailed inspection
  • Desire to quickly sell the vehicle to a junkyard

Certificate of Destruction Vs Salvage Title

While both salvage titles and Certificates of Destruction are issued for vehicles not considered roadworthy, there are significant differences:

  • A salvage title allows a vehicle to be repaired, inspected and legally driven again. A Certificate of Destruction permanently bans the vehicle from road use.
  • Salvage titles are issued for cars that have lost a certain percentage of their value (usually 75%) due to damage or theft. Certificates of Destruction are for vehicles that will never be operable again, regardless of their condition.
  • Removing a Certificate of Destruction brand from a title is a federal crime, while salvage brands can sometimes be cleared if the vehicle is repaired.

Buying a Vehicle with a Certificate of Destruction

Vehicles with Certificates of Destruction are usually sold at insurance auctions for parts only, not rebuilding.

Buyers should be aware that:

  • The vehicle can never be made road-legal again, regardless of repairs
  • The cost of parts may not cover the purchase price
  • Major components like the chassis cannot be junked without a regular title
  • The vehicle may change hands multiple times as people realize they cannot rebuild it

If a Certificate of Destruction is not disclosed prior to sale by a licensed dealer or auction, the buyer can usually return the vehicle. Sales by unlicensed dealers should be reported to the DMV and law enforcement.

Can a Certificate of Destruction be Reversed

The only way I know a Certificate of Destruction can be reversed is if the issuing insurance company reverses it themselves. Outside of that, there is nothing you can do.


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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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