Salvage Title Motorcycle Risks

If you’re in the market for a new motorcycle but you’re on a budget, then a salvage title motorcycle can be a very appealing option. After all, you can buy a model for a fraction of its usual retail value. 

Before rushing out and buying your salvage title motorcycle, you need to weigh up the risks. There are a lot of other potential costs that you need to take into account too. What seemed like a bargain, could soon turn into a waste of money if you don’t know what you’re doing. 

Here we take you through the risks of buying a salvage title motorcycle so you can make the best decision. 

What is the Difference Between a Salvage Title and a Rebuilt Title? 

Every day, motorcycles are damaged in road traffic accidents or other incidents. Because they are quite small, they are often prone to damage from cars and other types of vehicles. 

As part of an insurance claim, the motorcycle damage is inspected. This is to assess if it is cheaper to repair it or junk it and reimburse the policyholder for the market value. If the company decides it’s cheaper and less hassle, they’ll declare the motorcycle ‘totaled’. Then it will end up in a scrap yard or salvage dealers. 

The motorcycle salvage company will look at the motorcycle and decide what to do with it. This will either involve breaking it up into parts, selling it as is (as a salvage title) or repair it and sell it as a roadworthy motorcycle (a rebuilt title). So the difference between the two types of title is the condition of the motorcycle when sold. A salvage title motorcycle will need to be repaired by you, a rebuilt one has already been repaired, and will cost more. 

Buying a rebuilt title could be the preferred option if you’re looking for a cheap motorcycle but don’t have the knowledge or skills to be able to assess it and repair it. 

The Issues Associated With Salvage Title Bikes

Limited Insurance Options

Once a motorcycle has been declared ‘totaled’, it is impossible to get this removed from its records. As such, insurers will deem it a high risk and may decline to offer you insurance at all. Others will insure you, but for an inflated price. This is true no matter how professionally it has been repaired. 

If your insurance premiums are too high, it could be easier to wait a little longer and save up for a used motorcycle rather than a rebuilt or salvage title model. 

Limited Choice of Motorcycles

There’s a good chance that you won’t get much of a choice in which motorcycle model you’ll buy if you have your mind set on a salvage title. The number of motorcycles that have been declared as totaled but considered repairable will be very small. 

Expensive Repair Costs

The level of damage to the salvage title needs to be economically repairable to make the purchase worthwhile. You won’t know the exact repair costs until you have either started to repair it yourself and have a professional mechanic look at it. 

There can be unexpected damage that you hadn’t budgeted for, or parts could be difficult to source. Suddenly, the bargain salvage title motorcycle you bought is seriously impacting your finances. You’ll have to decide to either swallow the cost of the repairs or cut your losses. 

It Can be a Long Process

If you’re looking for a motorcycle to ride quickly, then you’re likely to be disappointed by a salvage title. First you need to do the repairs. Then there are several stringent legal assessments and inspections before it can be classed as roadworthy and legal. These can take time and the requirements vary from state to state. 

Loss of Value

Unless you’ve somehow been able to bag yourself a vintage motorcycle for a few hundred dollars, it’s very unlikely you’ll be able to make any future profit from your salvage title motorcycle. 

Yes, there are some professional mechanics who buy wrecks for next to nothing, fix them up and sell them at a profit, but these are serious professionals, who know what they are doing. So don’t get your hopes up about any resale value. Think of it as a bargain that you can ride around for a few years until it’s no longer possible to repair.

Safety Issues

The older the motorcycle, the more likely it is to break down. Add to this the fact that it has already sustained heavy damage in the accident that led to it being declared totaled and you raise the risk of reliability and safety issues, which on a motorcycle can have terrible consequences for the rider and other road users. 

Where to Buy a Salvage Title Motorcycle

If you are fixed on the idea of buying a salvage title, then there are a few different options to look at. Some people choose to advertise them online on a specialist website. Do not buy sight unseen though. Always arrange to see the motorcycle first, with a professional mechanic if you don’t have the experience. 

You can also visit local salvage yards to see what they have available at the moment. Many states have auctions devoted to selling rebuilt and salvage title motorcycles. If you are looking for a particular model or motorcycle and time isn’t an issue, you can ask salvage yards and dealers to contact you if a particular model comes in, circumventing the auctions. The same applies for dirt bikes.

Is it Worth Buying a Salvage Title Motorcycle?

There isn’t an easy answer to this question. Some people find excellent salvage title deals which provide them with a reliable motorcycle and/or give them a quick profit. The chances of this are far greater if you’re a professional bike mechanic or have access to people and parts. 

For many people, the risks aren’t worth it and they would rather go for the safer option. 


James is an avid junkyarder and mechanic. He has visited Junkyards in every US state and has restored over 30 makes and models of vehicles. He has several automotive and recycling related blogs that generate over 150K views a month.