Junk Title: Can I Repair or Drive One?
A Junk title is a type of branded title issued to vehicles damaged beyond repair. This means that the vehicle:
- can never get a roadworthy title again, at least with its current VIN
- using it on public roads will be illegal even after doing repairs or restoration works
Depending on how bad the damage is, junk vehicles can only be used as a donor vehicles for parts or as scrap. Also in some states only licensed dealers and bodyshops are permitted to buy such vehicles at salvage auctions. In some states, such vehicles get a Junk Certificate instead of a title as a proof of ownership, this is done in order to prevent the title washing scam,
A Junk vehicle is often used as a collective term for non-reparaible statuses of a vehicle. Depending on the state, the documents supplied with such vehicles as a proof of ownership may be:
- Junk Title
- Non-Repairable Title
- Certificate of Destruction
- Parts Only Title
Who decides on a Junk title or its equivalent for a vehicle?
This is done by the insurance company when the insurer decides there is no way to fix the car or sell it as a Salvage Car at a decent price. For instance, in case of a severe frame / unibody damage, fire or extensive water / flood damage. Please note that recovered stolen vehicles, being a 100% loss, often get a Salvage title because they sustain little or no damage at all and may be fit for roads even without repairs or require only minor fixes.
Can I register a junk vehicle with its current VIN?
No, the VIN receives a permanent non-reparable status.
Today, state DMV offices add all the essential vehicle data regarding the VIN to the federal vehicle history database (NMVTIS database) so that the information about the vehicle status and major events in its history is available statewide.
Can I fix a Junk vehicle and drive it later?
As a non-repairabe vehicle can still be used as a source of parts for other restored or reassembled vehicles, a new vehicle can ve built on the basis of a junk vehicle. Which is why junk vehicles sometimes can get back on the road with a new title and license plates. However, legally, that will be a different vehicle, a new vehicle registered with a new VIN and a Reassembled or Restored title, that brand is also permanent. Just like rebuilt vehicles, such vehicles are thoroughly inspected prior to issuing a new title. In the course of inspection, much attention is paid to the origin of the components used in the process of reassembling in order to prevent the use of parts taken from stolen vehicles. The registrant will have to provide all the receipts and other prooves that the source the parts were obtained from is legal.
As to safety, the inspector can only check the operabilty of the basic functions on the vehicle. A state inspection does not warrant that the vehicle is in perfect order or won't give your serious trouble down the road.
How is the new VIN placed on the vehicle?
It is attached to a major vehicle part.
How can I find out about Junk history?
Get a VIN history report . If you see records like Junk, Non-Repairable, Certificate of Destruction or Parts Only anywhere in the history and the vehicle has a roadworthy title (clean or rebuilt) that might be the case of title washing. Vehicles with Reassembled / Restored titles also need extra caution. As said above, those might me Junk vehicles restored as a totally different vehicle with a new VIN. These exists a change to come upon a clip-job with such a vehicle, the one where the fron comes from one vehicle and the back from another. Such vehicles my break apart and the clip-job can only be detected by an expert.