In South Carolina, a salvage vehicle is defined as a motor vehicle that an insurance company has declared a total loss. Alternatively, a salvage vehicle may also be a vehicle that requires repairs which exceed 75 percent of the value of the vehicle before the damage occurred.
A salvage vehicle may also be a vehicle that has damage to the body, unibody (combined frame and body) or frame to the extent that the vehicle is unsafe for operation.
What Is Salvage Title?
A salvage title is the title to a salvage vehicle. A salvage vehicle title indicates that the vehicle fits one of the above descriptions regarding damage. The South Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) types a salvage vehicle as having a “salvage brand.”
A salvage brand is a tag that a department or bureau of motor vehicles adds to the description of a vehicle to indicate that it experienced some type of incident or damage that compromised it.
An insurer will not put any coverage, including full coverage, on a vehicle that has a salvage title and is not rebuilt to the extent that it can be operated on South Carolina’s roads. But, an insurer may choose to put coverage on a salvage vehicle that has been rebuilt and can be operated on South Carolina’s roads.
Types of Title Brands
South Carolina’s title brands include:
- Salvage, formerly called salvage or “salvage non-removable.”
- Salvage flood, formerly called “salvage water.”
- Salvage fire.
- Salvage rebuilt.
- Junk, formerly called “salvage non-rebuildable.”
- Lemon law.
There are two new terms, “salvage flood rebuilt” and “salvage fire rebuilt.” A vehicle has the “salvage rebuilt” brand if it has a salvage title and is transferred to a new owner who has repaired the vehicle, completed the proper documents and had the vehicle inspected by an authorized agent of the SCDMV before titling in the new owner’s name.
Salvage Flood Brand
A vehicle has the “salvage flood” brand if it is declared salvage due to water damage. This brand should never be removed. It stays with the vehicle throughout the history of the vehicle. The exception is if a person rebuilds the vehicle and is issued a salvage flood rebuilt title.
Salvage Flood Rebuilt Brand
The brand “salvage flood rebuilt” is for a vehicle with a salvage flood title that was transferred to a new owner who repaired the vehicle, completed the proper documents and had the vehicle inspected by an authorized agent of the SCDMV before titling the vehicle in the new owner’s name.
Such a vehicle will have both the brands “salvage flood” and “salvage flood rebuilt” on the title.
Salvage Fire Brand
The brand “salvage fire” is for a vehicle that is declared salvage due to damage caused by fire. This brand should never be removed. It stays with the vehicle through its history unless a person rebuilds the vehicle and is issued a “salvage fire rebuilt.”
Salvage Fire Rebuilt Brand
The brand “salvage fire rebuilt” is for a vehicle that has a salvage fire title, is transferred to a new owner who has repaired the vehicle and completed the proper documents and had the vehicle inspected by an authorized agent of the SCDMV before titling in their name. Such a vehicle will have the brands “salvage fire” and “salvage fire rebuilt.”
The term “rebuilt title” generally refers to vehicles that have been repaired after being declared salvage vehicles.
Vehicles Labeled as Junk
A vehicle has the brand “junk” when an insurance company declares the vehicle has been damaged to the extent that it cannot be repaired for operation. An insurance company can also declare a vehicle junk if the vehicle is only of value as a source of parts or scrap metal. A vehicle with a junk brand cannot be driven on South Carolina’s roads.
Lemon Law Brand
The brand “Lemon Law” is added to the vehicle’s title if the new vehicle was defective and the manufacturer or dealer made three attempts to fix the vehicle, but could not do so. A “Lemon Law” brand is negative, but not as negative as a “salvage vehicle” brand.
Registering a Salvage Title Vehicle
A vehicle owner should only register a salvage vehicle if the car is rebuilt so that it can be driven on South Carolina roads. This means the car must have at least one of these brands:
- Salvage rebuilt.
- Salvage flood rebuilt.
- Salvage fire rebuilt.
The owner must complete the proper documents and get the vehicle inspected by an authorized agent of the SCDMV before titling it in their name.
A buyer can obtain information on a vehicle by completing a request for vehicle information form (SCDMV form 5027-A) or a request for collision report (SCDMV form FR-50). They should mail the form to the address provided on it. Most requests are $6 per individual report or record.
Regular Titling and Registration
A vehicle owner can register a vehicle in South Carolina if they are a new resident by getting a South Carolina driver’s license and transferring the vehicle’s title and registration. Before they transfer their title and registration, they must pay vehicle property taxes with their county treasurer.
The vehicle owner cannot receive their new title in the mail until their out-of-state title is cleared through the National Motor Vehicle Title Information System. After the title is cleared, the owner’s new South Carolina title will be mailed to their South Carolina address.
Steps for First-Time Registration
A vehicle owner titling and registering their vehicle in South Carolina for the first time is required to follow these three steps in order:
- Provide their auto insurance company with their new South Carolina address.
- Contact their local auditor’s office and provide the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) of the vehicle being registered in South Carolina.
- Visit their local branch of the South Carolina DMV with a specific set of documents.
Required Registration Documentation
The vehicle owner must have these documents:
- Original paid vehicle property tax receipt from the county treasurer’s office.
- Completed certificate of title application.
- Most recent out-of-state vehicle lien and/or registration and the name and address of the company that holds the lien.
- Form of acceptable identification, such as valid South Carolina or out-of-state beginner’s permit or driver’s license.
- Car insurance company information.
- $250 infrastructure maintenance fee (IMF).
- Title and registration payment.
Registering a Leased Vehicle
If the individual is leasing the vehicle, and the title application is signed by the lessee (registrant) on behalf of the lessor (title holder), the vehicle owner must also bring a document that establishes power of attorney.
South Carolina Registration Fees
In most cases, if the owner has a regular passenger vehicle that will be titled and registered in South Carolina, they will pay $305 per vehicle. This includes the $250 IMF, $15 title fee and $40 registration/license plate fee.
The registration/license plate fee will be higher if the vehicle is over 4,000 lbs. The $305 does not include the property tax the owner must pay to their county of residence.
The vehicle owner will pay the IMF once per vehicle, and will not have to pay it again. The owner will pay the registration/plate fee every two years. The registration/plate fee may be more if the owner buys a specialty plate.
Registration Without South Carolina License
A vehicle owner who does not have a valid South Carolina beginner’s permit, driver’s license or identification card is required to complete the statement of vehicle operation (SCDMV form TI-006). This form provides that one or more of the following applies:
- Owner is an active duty military member in South Carolina.
- Owner is enrolled in a school in South Carolina.
- Vehicle is kept in the state at least six months of the year.
If an owner is from out of state and is attending school in South Carolina, they must keep registration and proof of insurance in the vehicle. If the owner keeps the car in South Carolina for at least six months of the year, they should show one of the following at an SCDMV branch:
- If the person owns the vehicle and is a homeowner or lessor in South Carolina, they must have one South Carolina proof of address, such as a Social Security check or current utility bill.
- If the person owns the vehicle and is employed in South Carolina, they must have a letter from their employer saying they work in the stateI
- If the person owns the vehicle and lives with a homeowner or a person leasing a home in South Carolina, they must complete SCDMV form TI-006 and show a copy of the homeowner's valid, unexpired South Carolina beginner's permit, driver's license or ID with their correct address. The homeowner must bring the vehicle owner to
a local DMV office
to complete an affidavit of vehicle principally garaged at South Carolina residence (SCDMV Form TI-006A).
The above requirements do not apply to mobile homes if the home address is a South Carolina address. If an out-of-state vehicle does not have a title, the South Carolina DMV will register it depending on the vehicle’s year and the year the other state started titling vehicles.
In this case, the vehicle owner needs the bill of sale, which they can get from an SCDMV branch or the SCDMV can mail it to them. The bill of sale must be an original document, not a copy.
Fees for Salvage Vehicle Registration
The title fee is $15. There is no special or extra fee to title a fee with a salvage brand. The registration fee for a vehicle depends on the type of vehicle that is being registered. Examples of registration fees include:
- $40 for a passenger car.
- $40 for an RV.
- $10 for a motorcycle or moped.
South Carolina also imposes a gross vehicle weight (GVW) fee. This fee depends on the weight of the car. A partial schedule of GVW fees is:
- 1,000 to 4,000 lbs: $30.
- 4,001 to 5,000 lbs: $40.
- 5,001 to 6,000 lbs: $50.
A standard car weighs approximately 4,100 lbs.
The SCDMV charges a $1, plus 1.7 percent service fee for transactions paid using a debit or credit card. This is not a SCDMV fee. It is a service fee for processing debit and credit cards. To avoid the service fee, the vehicle owner can use cash to pay for a transaction when visiting the DMV in person.
Restrictions on Unregistered Vehicles
Until a vehicle owner pays their fees, they cannot:
- Renew their South Carolina driver’s license.
- Rnew their South Carolina vehicle registration.
- Replace a lost or stolen South Carolina driver’s license.
- Replace a lost or stolen South Carolina license plate.
- Apply for a disabled placard in South Carolina.
- Buy a copy of their driving record from the SCDMV.
Methods of Payment
A vehicle owner may pay with cash, check, credit or debit card at a SCDMV branch. If they are paying with a credit or debit card, the card must be in their name. It cannot be in the name of a business or company they represent.
A person completing an online transaction must pay with a credit or debit card. A person mailing a transaction should make out a check or money order to the SCDMV. They must mail the paperwork and payment to the appropriate business unit. The address of the business unit will be on the form the person submits.
Late Registration Fees
There are fees for late registration. The penalties differ depending on how late the fee is submitted. For example, a registration submitted between one and 14 days late requires a fee of $10, while a registration 15 to 30 days late requires a fee of $25.
- South Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles: Salvage Pool Operators
- South Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles: Moving to South Carolina - Vehicle
- South Carolina Code of Laws: Title 56, Motor Vehicles
- South Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles: Title Brands
- South Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles: Driver Services Related Fees
Jessica Zimmer is a journalist and attorney based in northern California. She has practiced in a wide variety of fields, including criminal defense, property law, immigration, employment law, and family law.