New York State Salvage Title Laws

Tough Requirements Protect Buyers, Keep Sellers Honest

Car crash against pole by road
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If you think New York is a state with lots of laws on the books, you're right. So it's no surprise that its salvage title laws for used cars are so thorough, governing not only the age a vehicle must be to qualify for a salvage title but also what components—like airbags—can legally be removed or must remain. Whether you are a buyer or a seller of a salvage vehicle, you should familiarize yourself with the laws governing these kinds of vehicles in the State of New York.

How New York Defines a Salvage Vehicle

At its most basic, a vehicle in New York can receive a salvage title when it is eight model years or newer (i.e. a 2008 model year car is eligible for a salvage title in 2016) and it has been "destroyed or received damage of 75 percent or more of the retail value of the vehicle at the time the damage occurred." 

Furthermore, according to the law:

"A salvage vehicle is a vehicle that was transferred to an insurance company because it was stolen or because it has significant damage. The damage can occur because of a collision, theft, vandalism, or damage from water."

New York law also states that automobile dealers must inform any vehicle buyer if:

  • The vehicle was damaged before the first sale of the vehicle, or
  • The title certificate has a brand that displays "REBUILT SALVAGE:NY", or
  • The previous retail owner supplied a salvage disclosure statement as described above.

Good Advice

The following is good advice from the state, even if you are a private seller:

"The dealer must confirm on the bill of sale that the buyer was notified that the vehicle was damaged. To protect yourself, ask the buyer to write their initials next to your statement on the bill of sale."

That means you have to keep a copy of any bill of sale if you ever sell a vehicle with a salvage title in New York State. If a fraud is perpetrated and a future owner attempts to sell the vehicle as not having a salvage title, you can accurately reflect that you sold the used car as a salvage vehicle. That can't be stressed enough. Protect yourself.

Built-In Protections

One advantage to buying a rebuilt salvage title used car in New York State is that it must have a brand-new airbag installed if the previous airbag was damaged or deployed. A used airbag can't be installed. Of course, there is nothing to prevent an unscrupulous seller from removing a new airbag once it has passed inspection, so before purchasing make sure you have a bill of sale showing that a new airbag was installed.

Clean Bill of Health

New York does allow a vehicle that once had a salvage title to get a clean bill of health (or at least a title that says "Rebuilt Salvage:NY").

Here's how that can happen:

  • To apply for a new title certificate only, bring the title certificate and proof of sales tax payment or purchase price to a DMV office.
  • The DMV must examine the vehicle. If the DMV issues a title certificate, the certificate receives a brand that displays: "REBUILT SALVAGE:NY".
  • You must show a sales receipt for each of the replaced parts, or your proof of ownership for other vehicles that you used to supply replacement parts. The proofs must show the complete VIN of the vehicle. The receipts and the proofs must match the correct parts included in the rebuilt vehicle.
  • Check for stolen vehicle parts. Frequently a person buys a vehicle part and does not know that the part was stolen. NYS law requires the DMV to confiscate a vehicle part if the DMV investigator determines during the examination that the vehicle part was stolen. The DMV can impound the complete vehicle if the stolen part is a major part like the engine or the transmission.