How To: Obtain a Salvage or Nonrepairable Vehicle Certificate

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What is a Total Loss Salvage Vehicle?

A vehicle that has been wrecked, destroyed, or damaged to the extent that the owner or insurance company considers it uneconomical to repair and, because of this, the vehicle is not repaired for the owner.

A Salvage Certificate is issued instead of an ownership certificate for a total loss salvage vehicle and becomes the ownership document. This certificate can only be issued in the name of the registered owner shown on DMV records at the time the vehicle was wrecked, or to the insurance company (California Vehicle Code (CVC) §544).

What is a Nonrepairable Vehicle?

A vehicle that meets one of the following criteria and has no resale value except as a source of parts or scrap metal:

  • Declared by the owner solely as a source of parts or scrap metal.
  • Completely stripped (surgical strip) when recovered from theft.
  • Completely burned hulk with no usable or repairable parts.

A Nonrepairable Vehicle Certificate is the ownership document for a nonrepairable vehicle. Once this certificate is issued, the vehicle cannot be titled or reregistered for use (CVC §431).

What is an Owner-Retained Total Loss Salvage or Nonrepairable Vehicle?

A salvage or nonrepairable vehicle retained by the owner.

Does the Insurance Company Have to Report a Total Loss or Nonrepairable Vehicle?

Yes. An insurance company that makes a settlement and takes possession of a total loss salvage or nonrepairable vehicle must report and obtain either a Salvage Certificate or Nonrepairable Vehicle Certificate within 10 days from the date of the settlement (CVC §§11515 and 11515.2).

If the vehicle owner retains possession of the vehicle, the insurance company must notify DMV of that retention and inform the owner of his/her responsibility to obtain a Salvage Certificate or Nonrepairable Vehicle Certificate within 10 days from the date of the settlement.

Is a Total Loss Salvage Vehicle Disclosure Required?

Yes. The seller who transfers the ownership of a total loss salvage vehicle must disclose to the purchaser at, or prior to, the time of sale, that the vehicle has been declared a total loss salvage vehicle. A seller who fails to make the disclosure may be subject to a civil suit or penalty (CVC §11515(h)(1)).

What Do I Need to Obtain a Salvage Certificate or Nonrepairable Vehicle Certificate?

If submitted by or on behalf of an insurance company, by an occupational licensee of the department or by a salvage pool authorized by an insurance company who is unable to obtain the ownership certificate or other appropriate evidence of ownership, a Salvage Certificate can be issued if 30 days have passed since the “Acceptable Date of Settlement” and all of the following are submitted:

How Do I Obtain a Duplicate Salvage or Nonrepairable Vehicle Certificate?

If a Salvage Certificate was issued, but it was not received or was lost, stolen, or mutilated, the insurance company or person who applied for the original Salvage Certificate may apply for a duplicate. The requirements are: