Ultimate Guide for Buying Salvage Cars in the US

Buying Salvage Cars

Buying a car can be a stressful experience. It is one of the biggest purchases we make in our lives next to a home. To make it even more stressful, buying the wrong car can end up costing you hundreds or thousands of dollars on top of the purchase price.

When you are looking for salvage cars for sale, the stress can be even greater knowing that the car will need repairs to be road-worthy. We have put together this ultimate guide to buying salvage cars in the US to try to help alleviate some of the stress. Going into a salvage auto auction prepared will help you land great salvage car deals.

Ultimate Car Auction Guide

Here are some ways to prepare yourself once you have decided that you would like to buy salvage vehicles at used car auctions.

Research the Auto Auction

Before you can bid on repairable cars, you need to figure out which seller you would like to purchase from. There are several factors that go into this decision; so, make sure to choose wisely. 

One of the first things you will want to consider is the seller’s location. If the seller is far away, transportation costs for getting the vehicle home may be very expensive. Search for “used car auctions near me” to see your options closer to home.

Another thing to research is the seller’s reputation. Look for reviews online or elsewhere from people who have purchased repairable cars from the seller in the past. Most US auctions have good reputations but check to make sure you are not considering one with a less than stellar reputation.

Finally, you will want to find a seller that will have wrecked cars for sale that fit your interest level. For example, if you are looking for a classic car, make sure the auction offers classic cars. There are plenty of crashed cars for sale; so, you can find an auction that will have the vehicles that you are looking for.

Find a Good Mechanic

Even if you are considering doing all of the work needed for your new purchase, it is highly advisable to have a mechanic look over the car to give you a good idea of what needs repair. They may also be able to help point you in the direction of good junk yards that will have the needed parts for your new purchase, or they may know of junkyard cars for sale in your area. Keep in mind that auto auctions also sell “parts-only” vehicles also known as “non-repairable” vehicles—which are a great source for car parts.

It will end up costing some money to hire a mechanic to help you go over your intended purchase, but it may end up saving you hundreds or thousands of dollars that you might waste purchasing a vehicle that will not be cost-efficient to repair. Mechanics are essential to a good purchase.

Come Up with a Good Repair Estimate

Before you begin looking at upcoming car auctions, research some cars that you think would be a great fit for your needs. Then, look at the damages and talk to some professional mechanics or vehicle inspectors to help you come up with a good budget for repairs. This will keep you from purchasing a vehicle that will cost too much to repair and will prevent you from spending more than what you were looking to spend.

Make sure to keep in mind that everyday vehicles will be less expensive to repair than luxury vehicles. That Mercedes G Wagon that you have your eye on is going to cost much more for parts and labor (if needed) than a Chevrolet Suburban. They are both big trucks, but you must determine if the prestige is worth more money to you.

One of the biggest ways to save money on your repairs is to search for used parts online or in junkyards near you. You can find makes and models at junkyards and they will almost always have something you will need for your repairs.

It is a good idea to plan on repairs costing more than you planned for. That is incredibly important to keep in mind if you are on a strict budget with cars and bids available to you.

Come Up with a Backup Plan

You may realize that buying a salvage vehicle is going to take you more time and cost you more money than you expected. If you are not able to find a project that is going to fit within your budget, then come up with a backup plan outside of buying a salvage vehicle. Look for vehicles that are the same or similar to what you are considering, price them with a clean title, then see if the salvage car you are considering will save you money.

Be Prepared to Walk Away

Do not get your heart set on any one car or even on buying a salvage vehicle in general. If you decide that you do not have the time, money, or expertise for a specific car, be prepared to walk away from that idea. Sure, it would be fun to own a cool car, but do not limit yourself. 

Find the Right Auto Auction 

You have done your research and you have decided that a salvage car is a correct path for you. So, where can you buy a salvage car? Here are some great options to consider:

USA Auto Online – USA Auto Online has access to thousands of salvage cars being auctioned every day. They also have services available to help with transporting the vehicle wherever you need—even overseas. Their website offers a handy cost calculator to help you figure out exactly how much you will have to spend on your new purchase. They even offer professional advice on purchases.

A Better BidA Better Bid is one of the leaders in salvage vehicles—offering over 300,000 vehicles for sale daily with over 190 locations nationwide. They have tons of wrecked trucks, motorcycles, RVs, boats, and cars for sale and online live auctions hosted daily; so, you won’t even need to leave your house to buy the vehicle of your dreams. As registered Copart brokers, they offer their members access to wholesale auction vehicles that are typically only available to dealers. Using A Better Bid, you can cut out the middlemen and save tons of cash. No dealer’s license is needed.

Manheim – With locations all over the United States, Manheim has an impressive catalog of cars for sale. Registering for the site will give you access to the world’s largest selection of inventory and advanced imaging to help you make the best decision. You can even have Manheim recondition the car for you so that it arrives ready to roll.

Mecum – Mecum specializes in beautiful classic rebuilt cars for sale. They hold auctions all over the country; so, you are sure to find one in your general area. Their used cars and trucks are the cream of the crop if you are looking for anything from a 1970 Plymouth Cuda to a Bentley Mulsanne. If you have cash or credit available, you can find an absolute masterpiece at Mecum.


Buying any car can be a stressful experience. You want to make a wise purchase that will save you money or get a vehicle that you have been dreaming about for a good price. Follow this guide and you will end up with a great deal on a salvage car that you will love!


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