By John Burns
As I wander through the Craigslist and Marketplace wonderland, I can’t help noticing there are some really good deals on bikes with salvage titles. All the sellers always claim these bikes run great, cosmetic damage only if they admit to any damage at all. I’m new to motorcycling, so I probably don’t want a bike that’s perfect anyway – and money is definitely an object. Is a salvage bike a bad idea? What are they hiding?
“Salvage title” is another one of those phrases that strikes fear into the hearts of many – similar to “used Jaguar” or “please come into my office and close the door.” All those phrases, though, can portend good news just as easily as bad.
Basically what’s usually going on is that an insurance company has decided that the cost to repair damage to a vehicle – be it from a crash, flood, angry ex-spouse with flamethrower or what-have you – exceeds what the insurance company thinks the vehicle is worth. At that point, they write the owner a check and take the vehicle, which they’ll probably then sell at an auction unless it’s totally beyond repair, or sometimes back to the owner. At that point, the new title will have something like “salvaged vehicle” stamped on it like a scarlet letter, and its value will have been greatly reduced in the process.
For the average civilian who moves blithely from Civic to Kia to Camry and makes payments, this is probably a medium-sized, quickly repressed financial setback. For the savvy repair-minded person, however, the salvage title can be the ticket to a great deal, since anything branded with the scarlet “S” title is worth way less money.