California Motorcycle Salvage Titles Laws

By Leslie Bloom - Updated August 13, 2018
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red motorcycle image by Goran Bogicevic from Fotolia.com

If you are in a motorcycle accident and the damage to your bike is too extensive to repair, it may be considered unsalvageable by your insurance company. When that happens, the California title to your motorcycle will include a notation that it’s a salvage vehicle that was not repaired.

When your motorcycle is totaled and there is no hope for repair, you must apply for a Salvage Certificate. However, if your motorcycle can be and is repaired to an operable level, you can reregister it with the California DMV.

Getting a Salvage Certificate

Damage to your motorcycle may be so bad that it is considered a total-loss, salvage vehicle that doesn’t make sense to repair. This is the case if the cost to fix the motorcycle is more than the value of the vehicle.

If you are the registered owner of the motorcycle at the time it was wrecked, you can apply for a Salvage Certificate. The insurance company who deems your motorcycle a total loss and pays you can also apply for a Salvage Certificate.

The Salvage Certificate becomes the ownership document associated with salvage vehicles. If you choose to sell your totaled motorcycle, you must disclose to the buyer that you have a salvage title on the motorcycle.

To get a Salvage Certificate, you must submit the appropriate form to the California DMV and show proof of ownership.

Registering a Salvage Title Motorcycle in California

If you have salvage title on a motorcycle in California but restore it to a point that it’s usable again, you can reregister it with the DMV as a legally drivable vehicle.

To do this, you must submit to the California DMV an application that includes the cost of repairing the vehicle along with proof of ownership and any associated fees. Salvage vehicles must be inspected by the DMV or the California Highway Patrol to ensure they are in working condition. The inspection must include a brake/light inspection at a California state-licensed inspection station that specifically inspects motorcycles.

Can You Get Insurance on a Salvage Title Motorcycle?

Insurance is required for any drivable vehicle in California. That means salvage vehicles do not need or qualify for insurance, since you cannot drive them. However, if you repair and reregister your motorcycle, you must be insured to drive it.

Many auto insurance companies stay away from insuring salvaged vehicles, but some companies will issue insurance. Even those that do may not offer comprehensive coverage, but only liability coverage, in the case of an accident. This is because the cost to repair a previously salvaged vehicle may not be worth it to an insurance company, especially if the repairs weren’t done up to par.

If you have a salvage title to a motorcycle in California and want to repair it, make sure you go to an authorized mechanic who can get your vehicle back into top-notch working order. Doing so will make finding insurance coverage that much easier.

About the Author

Leslie Bloom earned a J.D. from U.C. Davis’ King Hall, with a focus on public interest law. She is a licensed attorney who has done advocacy work for children and women. She holds a B.S. in print journalism, and has more than 20 years of experience writing for a variety of print and online publications, including the Journal of Juvenile Law and Policy.

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