Car Law A to Z: S is for Salvage
Under North Carolina law, a salvage vehicle has sustained damage for which the cost to repair exceeds 75% of the vehicle’s value at the time of the damage. Sometimes it is referred to as a “totaled” or “total loss” vehicle. A salvage vehicle is not required to be taken to the junkyard; it can be repaired and put back on the highway but the vehicle’s Certificate of Title must be marked/branded to show it is a salvage vehicle. If a car has been deemed a salvage, the seller or transferor must provide written disclosure of this fact before or at the time of the transfer of ownership of the vehicle.
Salvage can mean different things in different states and there is an ongoing problem of vehicles from states outside of North Carolina which have sustained significant physical damage yet were not deemed a salvage. In these cases the consumer who purchases the vehicle in North Carolina often faces a tortured road in determining the vehicle’s history let alone establishing any potential liability for any failure to disclose damage. Some second-tier used vehicle dealerships (often referred to as “Mom and Pop shops” or “buy here, pay here lots” or the like) regularly acquire salvage vehicles from auctions and then clean them up and/or fix them up for sale to consumers. When shopping a used vehicle it is MANDATORY that you do your own due diligence before you decide to make that purchase or lease. While there are times when you may be able to salvage your unknowing purchase of a salvage vehicle you should not rely on this as a strategy in your due diligence. Look before you make the leap.
If you acquire a vehicle and subsequently learn it was a salvage you may have valuable legal rights. Take some time to get your documents and paperwork in order and then contact an experienced consumer law attorney for a consultation.