Reader Question: Salvage Titled Odyssey?

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Here’s the latest reader question, along with my reply!

Mark asks: I am interested in a 2016 Odyssey which had an accident and now has a salvage/rebuilt title. I am told the front bumper, fender, and driver’s door were replaced, and the driver’s side sliding door was repaired. Two airbags deployed and were replaced. Everything now hunky dory per the dealer. It is apparent the accident history has resulted in a very favorable asking price for this low-mileage vehicle. How deleterious should I regard the accident history in making my decision?

My reply: This could, indeed, be a great opportunity to nab a fantastic deal. You are quite right that a “salvage” or “rebuilt” title will scare away many potential buyers – not unreasonably.

If these two statements seem at odds, let me explain:

If the vehicle was correctly repaired – if it was possible to correctly repair it – then the “salvage” or “rebuilt” title is of no real meaning insofar as the soundness of the vehicle. But it is very, very important to find out that the damage wasn’t so extensive that repairing it should not have been attempted.

Most modern cars – including this Odyssey – are unibody designs, which means the structural parts and the exterior body parts are welded together (mostly; some external panels such as front fenders are still bolt on/off). This saves weight but when there is an accident, the unibody can be bent such that it’s very hard to straighten everything out to what it was, with the result being problems such as leaks and rattles and poor panel fitment, etc.

That said, it is very easy to “total” almost any modern car that’s more than three or four years old and very repairable – except for the cost of doing the repairs relative to the value of the vehicle itself. In such a case, the insurance company will often just cut a check for the “book value” rather than have the vehicle repaired. The vehicle is then either parted out/scrapped or – as in this case – repaired and resold by another party, with the “salvage” or “rebuilt” title.

My advice is to have the car thoroughly checked out by an independent mechanic who knows how to check for frame issues/accident damage and – if it checks out ok, then proceed.

But don’t commit until you’ve had the Honda looked over… carefully.

. . . 

Got a question about cars, Libertarian politics – or anything else? Click on the “ask Eric” link and send ’em in!

If you like what you’ve found here please consider supporting EPautos. 

We depend on you to keep the wheels turning! 

Our donate button is here.

 If you prefer not to use PayPal, our mailing address is:

721 Hummingbird Lane SE
Copper Hill, VA 24079

PS: Get an EPautos magnet or sticker or coaster in return for a $20 or more one-time donation or a $10 or more monthly recurring donation. (Please be sure to tell us you want a magnet or sticker or coaster – and also, provide an address, so we know where to mail the thing!)

My eBook about car buying (new and used) is also available for your favorite price – free! Click here.  If that fails, email me at and I will send you a copy directly!

Share Button


  1. When it comes to an Odyssey, I’d be more worried about the transmission! Contrary to Honda’s usual record of reliability, they never seemed to be able to make an Odyssey with a reliable transmission (Not sure, but I think they use the same tranny from one of their cars- which works fine in a car…but not in a heavy van). Buy that van and it’s just a matter of time till the tranny will take a dump- and they are VERY expensive to replace. Feeling lucky?
    I’ve been driving salvage vehicles for decades. You do have to be careful, because they can run the gamut from very well repaired to hacked together with baling wire and duct tape, to two halves of different vehicles being welded togher…and if you don’t spot the signs, it may look and drive great initially…..but have unrepairable issues before long….so before buying ANY salvage vehicle, MAKE SURE TO HAVE A BODY EXPERT of your own choosing give it a good once-over. Also check with you insurance co.- as in some places they will not issue comp and collision policies on salvage vehicles.
    And even if the van checks out and you are willing to gamble on the tranny……make sure you are getting a SCREAMING deal, because even when done right, there can be issues. Example: My neighbor, who owns a shop, hit a tree with his 4×4 dually. Damages wasn’t too bad. He fixed it himself. While the truck is fine in every other regard…he can now not keep a transmission in that truck, ’cause something got tweaked in the accident apparently, just a hair, that is causing him to blow through transmissions now…and he doesn’t even drive that truck much…..
    I’ve been very lucky with my salvage vehicles…but I’ve always made sure to get them at a price that was low enough “that I can’t lose” even if there were a problem. That’s the way to play it with salvs….and more so with late model ones, and even more so with minivans (Family vehicles), which are VERY hard to resell if they have a salvage history. If you want that van, offer the dealer HALF of what he was asking…seriously. Casually mention that family men typically don’t want to put the wife and kids in a janky salvage vehicle…much less one with a reputation of massive transmission failures.

    • Nunz, Honda uses the same sorry JATCO transmission as many other European made brands. They have ruined their reputation as has every company that uses those transmissions.

      For the last several years as I cover maybe 700 miles in a day, I see countless burned cars on the side of the road that look brand new. You don’t notice it much with framed vehicles although for a few years there RAM trucks were often just sitting on the shoulder, often with dealer tags.

      As much as they like to brag about their pickups the drivelines and suspension vary greatly with some having coil springs and a very easy ride, definitely not meant for work. Less than two years ago I rented one from Avis to haul some things and not leave the wife at home with no decent vehicle. It had that high performance engine in it and I can’t knock it for the way it ran or the fuel mileage but I didn’t care for the handling but I did have to listen to lifters that were on their way out just like all of them for a few years.

      Every time I’m in a new vehicle the longer I’m in it the more “cheesy” comes to mind. The last time the wife rented a car she had to take a Challenger. It was about 7 am on a bright summer day. I was loading things and flipping all the seats and headrests down so she’d have a modicum of view. There was a light at the bottom of the passenger door so bright I couldn’t look at it. I couldn’t figure out why you’d want a light there so I scooted over that way and it was just a gap between the gasket and the door sill. My old Chevy Z 71 ain’t anything to brag about but it’s pretty reliable. I spoke with a guy who was driving a regular cab K2500 Chevy the other day, the first 8′ bed I’ve seen in a long time. He said he bought it with 300,000 miles and had 400,000 on it at the time and the LS engine still didn’t burn any oil or have any problems and neither did the transmission or transfer case and it was a work truck. To add to the durability the driveline must have had, he said it had locking front and rear diff’s on it with manual shifting into the different mode. I worry about those damned lighted buttons on mine but it does have a mode that’s exceptionally good in much and other slick stuff and that’s Automatic 4 wheel drive. I had always used 4 high or 4 low and didn’t notice the auto 4wheel drive for a long time.

      I know there are machines that supposedly line up unibody everything after a wreck. I don’t know how reliable they are. I think I’d take a salvage title unibody to a dealer or shop with one of those machines and get it checked. The frame machines these days make the frame better than it was originally.

      • Hey Ya Eight!
        Yeah, T’is a shame the way Hinda has gone. I was never a huge fan of ’em, but at least they did used to be reliable and last. I mean, I’d never drive one- li’l cars those other things they make, crossdressers or whatever ya call ’em, ain’t my thing…..but DAYUM, JATCO?! I know Nissan uses that crap, but I thought Honder made their own.

        I don’t know of anyone making a good full-sized pick-up these days……as if it’s not bad enough what those things cost these days- I wouldn’t pay $70K for a pick’up even if I could, ’cause it’s ridiculous- but to think, that can’t even get a durable, reliable truck for even that much!

        It’s hard to truly perfectly line-up a unibody vehicle once it’s been popped. Minor hit to just one area, not bad…but some of the stuff ya see them pulling….might drive O-K, but it’s never truly right…tires wear funny and faster…”feels a little off”, etc. And a lot of ancillary components that ya wouldn’t think would be affected just because the car got hit, are.

        Funny thing too, as the overlords make more and more decrees to keep relatively easily repairable vehicles from being repaired, and cost of replacing all of the airbags and other safety crap is causing insurance companies to total ’em out easier too- there are actually a lot more rebuilt vehicles out there these days, ’cause so many late-model vehicles with low miles end up at the salvage auction- some wash the titles; some just sell ’em a li’l cheaper with a branded title, but as usual, the government tyranny is doing the very opposite of it’s stated puirpose…and the insurance co.s don’t care, ’cause they can just up everyone’s rates.

        Good thing it wasn’r raining when ya rented that car- ya might’ve drowned!

        Make any progress on Blackie lately?

        • Nunz, I made a bad trade for a 3/4 T like it but it’s beaten worse than I thought. I’ve been sick for a year and a half but hopefully am coming out of it. The problem now is I got fired because my boss’s son wanted to lease my farm and I was having none of that. The day I turned him down I told the wife I wouldn’t be employed much longer and I was spot on. Blackie is just getting worse but hope springs eternal and I’ve found a gasoline body like it but no bed and it was a short bed to boot. I won’t have to worry about Blackie if I don’t get well. I need to buy a sleep apnea machine and see if that doesn’t bring me back around. I still suffer from a piece of threaded 3/8″ pipe that went through my skull. I didn’t see it in the dark and was trying to finish up when I walked fast right into it. Stupid is as stupid does. Thanks for asking. Hope you and your mother are ok.

          • Aww, man, Eight- I hope that you AND Blackie get back up to snuff! Just watch out for them doctors! They’ll give you 7 ailments to cure one. I know two people who lately went to their respective doctors just for painful joints/arthur-itis, etc. Got some kinda steroid shot which ultmately will make their artur-itis worse but gave them temporary relief…and these two otherwise healthy people within 6 months of their “treatment” came down with other MAJOR problems…like sudden heart problems, and kidney problems (duh!) and a skin probablem, where if one of ’em just gets a small injury, they end up with a degloved limb! I told them not to take the damn injections…and now they’re planning on taking the COVID shot!!
            My mother is doing pretty good for 96. Actually better than a few years ago! She walked down and opened the gate for me yesterday when she knew I’d be going to town!
            Walking into a 3.8ths pipe? Sounds like something I’d do…but at least I got an excuse for it! I must be getting old- Took a flop off the back porch back at the end of October- and think I cracked a rib or two, and bruised the thang behind it (possibly my liver I guess) between the two ouches, it really wasn’t till just about last month that I was totally back to normal.
            And look at this! We’re sitting around talking about health ailments…like a pair of old farts! 😀

            • Morning, Nunz!

              I sometimes am grateful I can’t afford to get my shoulder looked at – and for the Diapering idiocy, which makes it so I would not go even if I could afford to go. As you say, they “cure” you… and then you get sicker. I’ve been making some progress with self-repair via home-brew physical therapy (e.g., stretching exercises, Turmeric three times a day) and while I am not 100 percent, I’m also not crippled by quackery, either!

              • Well boys, I was carrying some big totes down my lethal front steps that were torn up by horses and did a dive on the top of my head. I still have bruises all over me but the hide on my head has grown back. A week later I had a 5 gallon buck of water in this little triangle where you can go to my bedroom or the bath. I heard the old lady holler although it was a dream but I hear it plenty anyway when she’s on the floor and can’t get up. I tore off, forgot about that that 5 gallon bucket of water, did a flip and spin and hit it with my already bruised hips and back.

                I swear I’m going to be dead if I don’t quit falling down. I backed out of a job yesterday.. I had no equilibrium and the wind was blowing about 30 and then it sounded like a bomb went off and I called and said I couldn’t do it. I’d have fallen over everything. My Shingles are fired up and my left arm is about to rot off. I lost my kit(think somebody stole it out of the pickup)but I’m going to get the doc to prescribe me this ointment that really makes it better. When I break out on both sides I know my Shingles and my MRSA are working together on me. I know I won’t be taking a medrol dosepack again. Like Nunz says, that stuff makes you feel a little better for a few days and then it brings down the wrath of big pharm on you. So why is anyone surprised congress passed a bill giving big pharm a bye on vaccinations. Whatever bad it does to you is just your bad luck.

              • Eric, I had a shoulder injury which several doctors and a couple of specialists couldn’t solve. Finally went to a physiotherapist (after 5 years of pain). He gave me some very lightweight exercises to do, and within two months the pain was gone. The only downside? I’m still doing them, because when I stop, the pain comes back, usually in 3 months or so. But it’s not really a downside – those exercises are part of my normal workout routine.

  2. I remember years ago I produced a television commercial for a body shop that specialized in fixing high end vehicles that were in accidents. Because they were so expensive the insurance company didn’t total them. Pretty amazing machines that used lasers and hydraulic rams to pull the parts back into alignment. The owner claimed when he was done the vehicle would track better than it did before the wreck.

    Apparently there was a design flaw in the Audi R8 that could cause the front struts to put too much strain on the body mount and put tears in the aluminum. If this happened insurance companies would total the vehicle. There was a YouTube series about a guy who bought one on salvage and repaired it, saving thousands of dollars, but he basically had to pull the entire front end of the vehicle out to get to the struts. Of course there were a bunch of other issues too…


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here