Determine the Value of a Salvaged Car

Although there is not one set calculation for determining the value of a salvaged car, there are basic methods you can use to determine the approximate salvage value. A common rule of thumb is that a vehicle with a salvaged title is worth approximately half of what it would be with a clean title, while insurance companies may value you it ever lower. A reputable repair facility can often get you a fair assessment of the value of the vehicle, as well as any issues with the repairs, as well.


Estimating Value Based on a Non-Salvaged Price Point

  1. Identify the year, make and model of the car. The value of a vehicle can be effected by a number of variables, but the most important information to start with includes the year, make and model of the car. Locate this information in the car’s owner’s manual or on the salvage title itself.[1]
    • The value of a car can vary significantly from one year to the next, so it’s important to identify specific information about the vehicle.
    • The title should provide all of this information.
  2. Determine the trim of the vehicle if possible. Many cars can be purchased in a variety of trim packages. These trim levels determine things like interior accommodations, engine size and suspension components, as well as the appearance of the car. The trim may be indicated on the title, or it may be included in the name of the car.[1]
    • Some automakers like BMW include the trim in the model. The BMW 3 Series comes in a variety of trims indicated by the numbers after the 3; such as the 318 or 335i.
    • Other automakers will add letters to the model to identify the trim such as a Chevrolet Cobalt LT.
    • You may be able to find guidance on the automaker’s website to better identify the trim of the vehicle.
  3. Look up the blue book value based on what you know. There are a number of websites that will allow you to enter the information you’ve gathered in order to see the current market value of the vehicle if it did not have a salvage title. Use one of these sites to determine what the car would be worth with a normal title.[1]
    • Look up the value of the vehicle on a website like, or
    • Be sure to include information regarding options the car has such as a sunroof, CD player or alloy wheels.
  4. Reduce the figure provided by fifty percent. Once you have determined the market value of the vehicle if it had a normal title, take that figure and divide it in two (or reduce it by fifty percent) to establish an estimated value for the car with a salvage title.[1]
    • This method will only give you a ball park value for the vehicle.
    • Insurance companies often will reduce the value by 75 to 80 percent instead of 50 for claims purposes.

Having the Car Appraised

  1. Contact a local automotive repair facility. In order for the vehicle to have a salvage title, it means it must have been repaired by a certified repair facility and inspected to ensure the car was road-worthy. Contact a local repair facility that you trust and ask them if they would be willing to inspect the vehicle to determine its value and the quality of the repairs.[2]
    • Some repair facilities may specialize in certain work and be unable to assess the entire vehicle.
  2. Transport the vehicle to the repair facility. In order to accurately assess the vehicle, mechanics will need to be able to go through it fairly thoroughly, which means putting the vehicle on a lift and spending some time with it. The best way to ensure they can get an accurate idea of the quality of the repairs of the value of the vehicle is to bring it to them to inspect.[3]
    • If the vehicle can be legally driven, do so, otherwise you may need to have it towed.
    • If you are unable to bring the vehicle to the repair facility, you may ask if a mechanic will come with you to inspect it, but they will not be able to be as thorough.
  3. Provide any information about the damage and repair. There are a number of ways a vehicle can be damaged that would result it in being considered “totaled” and then “salvaged.” If you know what the damage was, it will make it far easier for the mechanics to assess the repairs. Water damage, for instance, would require significant interior work and likely a new engine, whereas a serious accident may have resulted in frame damage and repair.[3]
    • Ask the seller to provide you with any information they can about the damage and the repairs conducted.
    • You can also pay to have the vehicle’s Car Fax report pulled, which will indicate why it was totaled.
  4. Have the shop provide you with an estimate. Once the mechanics at the repair facility have gone through the vehicle, they will be able to provide you with a fair estimate of the value of the car, as well as any possible issues you may need to address as a result of the repairs.[4]
    • This estimate will likely be higher than that provided by the insurance company.
    • The repair facility may also be able to indicate any other potential issues with the vehicle not tied to the title or repairs.

Requesting a Value From Your Insurance Company

  1. Gather all the pertinent information you can. Just as you did to create an estimated value for the car, gather any information you have regarding the year, make, model and trim of the vehicle. Make notes of any options the car has that may increase its value.[5]
    • It’s better to have more information than you need to ensure you can get the most accurate value possible.
    • You may also need to provide the VIN number for the vehicle.
  2. Contact your insurance company. Your insurance company will assess the value of your vehicle in order to determine the projected cost to provide the car with insurance coverage. Call your insurance carrier and tell them that you would like to assess the value of a vehicle you are considering purchasing and insuring. They will connect you with an agent that can assist.[6]
    • Your insurance company will need to determine the car’s value in order to calculate what they will charge you for coverage.
  3. Provide the agent with the information you have. The insurance agent will ask you a number of questions regarding the vehicle. Tell them everything you are able to in order to establish the most accurate estimate possible.[6]
    • If you aren’t sure of an answer, tell them so. It’s better to be accurate.
    • If you know any information about the repairs that were done to the car, that may help.
  4. Receive a valuation from your insurance company. Once the insurance agent has calculated the information you provided against the equation they use to determine values for salvaged vehicles, they will provide you with their valuation of the car.[6]
    • This valuation will likely be much lower than those established by estimates or even the market.
    • The insurance value may be lower than the asking price, particularly if it is a rare or exotic vehicle.

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Sources and Citations