A Pennsylvania vehicle owner whose insurance company has declared their car to be a total loss can put it on the road again. But first, they need to apply for a salvage title and repair the vehicle. Once the vehicle is safe to operate again, they’ll get an enhanced-safety inspection at a state-certified inspection station.
Then, they take a completed reconstructed title application, the salvage title with other documents, and fees to their local Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) office to get a reconstructed or rebuilt title. This allows them to register the vehicle.
What Is a Salvage Title?
In the commonwealth of Pennsylvania, a vehicle with a salvage title is one that has been deemed to have incurred damages that cost more to repair than the vehicle is worth. Salvaged title vehicles do not include those that qualify as classic or antique. Typically, an insurance provider determines if a vehicle is a salvage title or “total loss.”
To be roadworthy in Pennsylvania, the vehicle must have its title changed from salvage to reconstructed. Vehicles that are not classic or antique that have a salvage title and are restored to operating condition after meeting equipment and inspection standards can get a reconstructed title.
Used Car Dealers and Salvage Title Requirements
A dealer of used vehicles must disclose if the vehicle they’re selling had a salvage title, even if repairs have occurred. If the car doesn’t have a salvage title, the dealer must notify the buyer if the vehicle:
- Has a frame that is bent, cracked or twisted.
- Has a cracked engine block or head.
- Did not pass a state inspection.
- Has a damaged, defective or deteriorated transmission to the degree that it must be replaced.
- Has sustained damage in a flood.
- Has a damaged, defective or deteriorated differential to the degree that it must be replaced.
While Pennsylvania requires dealers to divulge these damages, potential buyers should also get a vehicle history report, which reveals if the vehicle suffered any accidents or has ever had a salvage title.
Filing Insurance Company Claims
When an owner seeks a salvage title for their motor vehicle after an accident, they first file a total loss claim with their insurance company. If the company deems the vehicle to be a total loss, the owner must choose between accepting a full or partial settlement.
With a full settlement, the vehicle owner’s insurance carrier pays them for damages to the vehicle in full, less any financial reductions or deductibles. The owner signs the car’s title over to the insurance company, and it becomes the company’s responsibility.
With a partial settlement, the owner keeps the vehicle and may apply for a salvage title. They can repair the car, get an inspection and a reconstructed title so they can legally drive it. The insurance company will provide the owner with a buy back/retention letter, which they need when applying for a reconstructed title. They also have the option of selling it to a dismantler of totaled vehicles.
Applying for a Salvage Title
A vehicle owner who wants a salvage title must apply for it via PennDOT by downloading an Application for Non-repairable or Salvage Certificate from the agency's site. They provide their name, contact information, drivers license number and vehicle identification number (VIN) on the application and attach the original title to this document.
If there was an accident, they must also include the police report. If they do not have it, they fill out the bottom of the form with information that would be on the report, including the law enforcement officer’s information.
Cost for Salvage Titles
There is no cost for salvage titles in Pennsylvania, except when a vehicle has an out-of-state title that is assigned to an in-state resident who transfers ownership to another person living in Pennsylvania – in that instance, the fee is $55.
The completed application can be filed at any PennDOT office or mailed to the Pennsylvania Bureau of Motor Vehicles, 1101 South Front St., Harrisburg, Pennsylvania 17104.
Getting an Enhanced Safety Inspection
After the owner repairs their salvage-titled vehicle to meet Pennsylvania’s requirements, they need an enhanced safety inspection that can only be obtained at a state-approved vehicle inspection station. They must bring:
- Application for Reconstructed, Specially Constructed, Collectible, Modified, Flood, Recovered Theft Vehicles and Street Rods (Form MV-426B). This application is currently available only at a PennDOT location or inspection station. The inspector will need to fill out part of the form during the enhanced safety inspection.
- The salvage title for their vehicle. If it is not in their name, they must also include a complete Application for Certificate of Title (Form MV-1). This application is currently available only at a PennDOT location or inspection station.
The vehicle owner must show any receipts for parts and services used in the vehicle’s repair, as well as proof of insurance. Fees vary by inspection station.
Applying for a Reconstructed Title for Salvage Vehicles
Should the vehicle owner wish to get their car back on the road, they need to file an application for a reconstructed vehicle title. They must submit:
- Complete Application for Reconstructed, Specially Constructed, Collectible, Modified, Flood, Recovered Theft Vehicles and Street Rods (Form MV-426B)
- Application for Correction of Vehicle Record or Verification of Vehicle Identification Number (Form MV-41), only if the vehicle requires a replacement VIN plate.
- Vehicle’s salvage title. If not in their name, they must include the complete Application for Certificate of Title (Form MV-1) with a bill of sale.
- Vehicle photos taken by the safety inspector.
- Auto insurance company’s buy back/retention letter.
The vehicle owner also needs to show any receipts for parts and labor used in the vehicle’s repair. Payment may include fees for a reconstructed title ($55), registration and plates ($85), plus sales and county taxes.
- Consumer Law PA: What Are Salvage Titles?
- DMV.org: Salvaged Vehicles in Pennsylvania
- PennDOT: Fact Sheet September 2017 Reconstructed Vehicle Titling Procedure
- PennDOT: Application for Nonrepairable or Salvage Certificate
- PennDOT: Application for Correction of Vehicle Record or Verification of Vehicle Identification Number
Michelle Nati is an associate editor and writer who has reported on legal, criminal and government news for PasadenaNow.com and Complex Media. She holds a B.A. in Communications and English from Niagara University.