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All Topics > Title Transfer > Registering a car with a Salvage Title not a Salvage Certificate

Registering a car with a Salvage Title not a Salvage Certificate

Last Updated: 06-02-2022

I see a lot of info online about registering a Salvage Title but hope they mean a Salvage Certificate. I am planning to buy a car with a Salvage Title. The current owner has already been through the inspections and received new plates and a new title. Do I need the go through any special steps when registering or is it processed like a normal registration/transfer now? Thank you.


Registering a Salvage Title Vehicle is Identical to Registering a Non-Salvage Title Vehicle

Both salvage title and salvage certificate are in essence the same thing in terms of identifying a vehicle's branding. The difference is, when a vehicle is issued a Salvage Certificate it may not be operated on public roadways, while, when a vehicle is issued a Salvage Title, it can. Converting a salvage certificate to a salvage title requires a safety inspection from a brake and lamp inspection station and a VIN (vehicle identification number) verification from an authorized VIN verification agency (or CHP office if and when the DMV requires it). Filing an Application for Title or Registration (REG 343) with the DMV is also required. Follow this link where we explain how to change a salvage certificate to a salvage title in greater detail.
Revive Salvage Certificate

How Can I Make Sure The Vehicle Has a Salvage Title and Not a Salvage Certificate?

In this specific case it appears the seller has already converted his/her salvage certificate into a salvage title by obtaining the required inspections; which is really the only way they would have in their possession a certificate of title as opposed to a salvage certificate.

Inspect the document the seller intends to give you as proof of ownership. If the document has a wide red border and reads Salvage Certificate across the top, the vehicle is not ready to be operated in California and requires a certificate of title with salvage branding. If the document has a wide blue border, reads Certificate of Title across the top, and says Salvage in the red box on the upper right hand side, it's a Certificate of Title with Salvage branding. It's simple to transfer the vehicle to your name and no special requirements apply other then what is required for a non-salvage titled vehicle... such as registration renewal fees which might due and a smog check inspection if one is required.

Smog Check Requirement for Salvage Title Vehicles

The smog check requirement does not change for a salvage vehicle. Unless a salvage vehicle is being transferred between family members, or is 4 years old or newer, or the vehicle has received a smog inspection in the last 90 days, a smog check certificate will be required in order to complete the title transfer. You can learn more about the California smog check by visiting

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