We’ve recently been asked about whether Salvage title cars are still safe to drive and why are there are so many in the Portland market when doing Pre-purchase inspections. Lets breakdown some of the information that we know about used cars in Portland and how titling works in Oregon and other states, and things will surely start to make more sense as to why the car market is so flooded here with Branded/Salvage vehicles.
Oregon has fairly relaxed laws when it comes to Salvage vehicles and Total loss vehicles, in terms of how they treat them at the DMV and how a consumer can re-title them without much of an inspection – unlike Washington, where the Police Department does all the car inspections for Salvage titled vehicles and vehicles coming from out of state.
An Oregon Salvage Title Certificate indicates the vehicle was totaled, wrecked, dismantled, stolen, or abandoned. Salvage titles are issued to vehicles when the car has been through the following conditions:
- When the vehicle has been wrecked, dismantled, disassembled or substantially altered (ORS 819.010) and you intend to rebuild or repair the vehicle.
- When the vehicle is totaled and the title is required to be surrendered (ORS 819.012 or 819.014).
- When you buy an abandoned vehicle sold under ORS 819 (appraised at $500 or less).
This usually means that when a car has endured damage of over 70% of its value and the insurance company will pay out a claim on the Total vehicles value, take possession of the vehicle and either have the car sold in a Salvage Auction (usually IAAI, Insurance Auto Auctions, or Copart Salvage auctions in Portland or anywhere in the USA) or offer it back to the original owner at a fraction of the cost of the value of the car.
At this point, the car is either sold through auction or back to the original owner (which they can then turn around and either resell or fix the vehicle) and the process of either Parting out the vehicle begins or Repairing the vehicle begins – usually the latter.
One of the biggest problem’s we’re seeing with cars with Salvage/Branded Titles is that repairs are Sub-par, meaning that aftermarket parts from China and other countries are being substituted for OEM body parts from the Actual car manufacturer. This isn’t always an issue for people – what this means is that gaps in the body panels with be a little off at times and fitment may not be perfect.
Not only are sub-par parts used, but many times Airbags are Blown, Major body damage occurs and many times, there is Frame damage. Driving a car that has endured Frame damage which was not fixed Correctly can be a serious danger. We’re not saying that all cars with frame damage are dangerous, but those that were not fixed correctly can be a hazard, which is what we’ve seen in the field.
The bigger issue with Salvage Cars is when you see something like this
Below you will see a Real ad that we found in Portland Craigslist section for a late model vehicle selling at a fraction of the cost of a new one. We did some further digging around and found some very interesting and rather shocking information that a potential buyer should know about before purchasing.
Do not count on the seller to disclose any information pertaining to the vehicles past damage history fully. Many will make up a story about how it was “lightly damaged”, as you can see in the ad below. When we start a pre-purchased car inspection for any of our clients, we look thoroughly through auction databases to find out if a vehicle has been involved in a serious accident, as this one has, and get to the bottom of what the seller is Actually selling!
This particular example of a vehicle that has only the the “Bumper, headlight, hood were changed” is False!
The seller doesn’t disclose in the ad that this car has had its Airbags deployed, Bumper reinforcement replaced and more likely than not Engine parts replaced as well as the drivers side apron. For an airbag to deploy in a vehicle, there had to be a serious enough impact in order to deploy the airbags.
In Oregon, there are no major mandates stating that a Police Department or any qualified person has to Inspect the vehicle before they issue you a Title. People who buy and repair salvage or wrecked vehicles will simply fix the car, take it to DEQ for Emissions inspections (they don’t inspect the car for previous damage, etc), drive it to the DMV for a Vin inspection if it is from out of state, and fill out a Registration Form and Pay for titling and License Plate Fee’s. At this point, the Car can be legally driven or resold (even to folks with bad credit, regardless if they’ve fixed it with a credit repair agency, like those seen here).
As you can see, there is no process for ensuring that the car is Road worthy or has been fixed Correctly. As in the example above, you see the the Car’s Airbags were deployed and it endured massive front-end damage. How does a unsuspecting customer know that this vehicle has been fixed correctly and airbags have been replaced along with clock-springs and other airbag functionality?
The simple answer is they Don’t know.
This is why we recommend all buyers get a pre-purchase car inspection on a used vehicle, especially if you see that it has a Branded/Salvage/Totaled Title. Sellers are becoming more covert about how they represent the vehicle online and when showing it, pawning off the fact the car has had major damage by saying they have only “replaced a bumper and a fender”. If this was the case, the car would have never been considered a Total Loss.
Please share this article with your Friends and family to raise awareness about potentially unsafe vehicles on the roads!