Total loss vehicles and salvage titles

If a vehicle sustains more damage than it is worth, it is considered a total loss and becomes considered salvage.

What to know

A total loss salvage motor vehicle is a motor vehicle:

  • Which has been stolen and unrecovered, or

  • Which has been wrecked, destroyed, or damaged by collision, fire, water, or other occurrence to such an extent that the owner or, if the vehicle was insured, the insurer considers uneconomical to repair

If a vehicle has been declared a total loss the owner or the insurance company must apply for a Salvage Title.

Passenger vehicles 10 or more model years old at the date of the event which caused the vehicle to be declared a total loss are exempt from the Salvage Title process. These vehicles will carry a Reconstructed Prior Salvage brand.

A vehicle with a Salvage Repairable Title cannot be registered until the vehicle has passed the required Salvage Inspection. A salvage title is permanent and a salvage vehicle can never be issued a clear title.

 

Exemptions to salvage

Other vehicles that are exempt from the salvage process include:

Applying for a salvage title without a certificate of title

Insurance companies and Massachusetts dealers (Class 2 or Class 3) applying for a salvage title may use the Affidavit in Lieu of Certificate of Title for Salvage Vehicle to certify that a valid Certificate of Title is not available for the vehicle (as detailed in M.G.L Chapter 90D, Section 20(e)(1) or 20(e)(2)).  The standard $50 Salvage Title fee must be paid for this transaction.

If the vehicle is a passenger vehicle ten or more years old, the insurance company or dealer may use this new affidavit to apply for a Certificate of Title.

Note that this affidavit can be used as a substitute for the former vehicle owner's Certificate of Title if, and only if, the Certificate of Title is not available and the insurance company or dealer has met all the requirements listed below.

Insurance companies

An insurance company must submit the following documentation:

•      Completed Affidavit in Lieu of Certificate of Title for Salvage Vehicle.  The insurance company must certify all of the following by signing the affidavit:

  • It has paid a total-loss claim to the former owner of the vehicle

  • It has satisfied any existing lienholder

  • It has not been able to obtain the Certificate of Title from the former owner

  • It has made two written attempts to contact the vehicle’s former owner (via certified mail)

  • Documentation of the total-loss claim paid to the former owner

  • Legible copies of the two written attempts to contact the former owner (via certified mail)

Dealers

A dealer must submit the following documentation:

  • Completed Affidavit in Lieu of Certificate of Title for Salvage Vehicle.  The dealer must certify all of the following by signing the affidavit:

  • An insurer requested the dealer take possession of the vehicle as part of an insurance claim

  • A total-loss claim was not paid on the vehicle

  • The vehicle has been abandoned on the dealer’s property for more than 30 days

  • The dealer has made two written attempts to contact the vehicle’s former owner and any known lienholder (via certified mail)

  • The dealer has not been able to obtain the Certificate of Title from the former owner

  • Documentation of the insurer’s request for the dealer to take possession of the vehicle

  • Legible copies of the two written attempts to contact the former owner and any known lienholder (via certified mail)

Brands on a salvage title

Each Salvage Title requires a primary brand and a secondary brand. A primary brand indicates to a potential buyer that he/she is buying a salvage vehicle, and it also indicates the specific reasons the vehicle is considered salvage. A secondary brand describes the type of damage or event that caused an insurance company to declare a vehicle a total loss. These brands are placed on the Salvage Title as part of the Salvage Title application process.
 

There are two types of primary Salvage brands: Repairable or Parts-Only. A Repairable brand (REPR) means the vehicle can be repaired and returned to its operating condition. A Parts-Only brand (PART) means the vehicle can never be registered in the Commonwealth. The insurance company that declared the vehicle a total loss determines whether a vehicle is branded “Parts-Only.”

There are seven types of secondary Salvage Title brands which tell a customer the event that caused the insurance company to declare his/her vehicle a total loss. These secondary salvage brands are as follows:

  • Collision (COLL)

  • Fire (FIRE)

  • Flood (FLOO)

  • Flood/Salt (SALT)

  • Theft (THEF)

  • Vandalism (VAND)

  • Other (OTHR) – (OTHR brand applies only when the event that caused the vehicle to be declared a total loss was not collision, fire, flood, salt, theft or vandalism.)

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