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What is a Branded Title

Branded Title Meaning

Have you ever come across a used vehicle listing with an unusually low price, only to discover it has a “branded title“?

As a former auto dealer, I’ve helped many buyers understand what branded titles are, why they matter, and navigate the pros and cons of purchasing branded title cars.

A branded title indicates that a vehicle has a troubled past – it likely sustained major damage, was flooded, had fraudulent odometer tampering, or was deemed unsafe to drive.

This article will break down everything you need to know about the risks and potential rewards of buying cars with branded titles.

Key Takeaways

  • Branded titles are designations applied to vehicle titles by the DMV indicating past damage, defects or other concerning history
  • Major types of title brands include: salvage, rebuilt, flood, lemon law buybacks and odometer rollbacks
  • Branded titles can help buyers beware of vehicle issues, but title washing hides brands across state lines
  • Branded title vehicles may sell for 20-40% less than clean title cars, increasing affordability
  • Benefits beyond lower prices include accessing better-equipped rides, while drawbacks range from steep depreciation to lingering mechanical defects
  • Careful inspection, research, contracting and budgeting for added costs are key to purchasing branded title cars

What Exactly is a Branded Title?

In short, a branded title is a permanent designation applied to a vehicle’s title by a state’s Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). It signals that the vehicle endured events that potentially impacted its integrity and value.

Common scenarios leading to branded titles:

  • An insurance company declares the car a “total loss” after an accident when repair costs exceed its cash value
  • The car is flooded or waterlogged after a hurricane or flood
  • There is “odometer rollback” fraud – the true mileage is illegally altered
  • A new car has severe defects and is repurchased under “lemon laws”

These title brands stick with cars permanently, even after repairs or resale. Now let’s explore the different types you may encounter.

Major Types of Branded Titles

While specific title brands vary by state, below are some of the most prevalent:

Title BrandDefinitionPotential Issues
SalvageDesignates vehicle previously deemed a total loss after major damage; Repairs may have been performedStructural/mechanical defects; Safety concerns
RebuiltApplied after salvage title car is repaired and inspected; Special certification may be requiredLower resale value; Pre-existing defects resurfacing
FloodSignals prior water damage from a flood or hurricaneRust/rot issues; Mold/mildew; Damaged electronics
Lemon LawIndicates manufacturer repurchase under state lemon laws for chronic defectsInitial problem recurrence; High depreciation
Odometer RollbackDiscovered fraud where true higher mileage of vehicle was hiddenExcess wear concerns; Suspicion of hidden issues
Types of Branded Titles

Salvage Titles

A salvage title means the car was badly damaged (often in a crash) and cost more to fix than its value. While salvaged cars can be rebuilt, buyers should beware of lingering issues.

Rebuilt Titles

A rebuilt title indicates the car has been repaired and inspected after first being classified as salvage. But due to its history, the car’s value remains impacted. Ensure repairs were properly done before purchasing.

Lemon Law Buybacks

Lemon buyback titles apply when carmakers buy back severely defective new vehicles under state lemon laws after multiple failed repair attempts. These vehicles may be fixed and resold but at reduced value.

Flood Titles

Cars with flood titles have endured water damage, often requiring major work to electrical, engine, and interior components prone to rust and mold. Watch for signs of lingering moisture issues.

Odometer Rollbacks

A car will get an odometer rollback brand if fraud is discovered and its true higher mileage was deliberately concealed. This causes suspicion of excess wear or hidden defects.

Why Branded Titles Matter

Branded titles serve an important purpose – informing potential buyers to thoroughly research vehicle history before purchasing rather than assume it’s problem-free.

However, branded title details can sometimes be intentionally hidden through illegal practices like title washing. This involves selectively selling damaged vehicles across state lines to mask brands not recognized elsewhere.

That’s why employing vehicle history checks through CARFAX or AutoCheck using the car’s VIN is so important. These services can uncover all border-crossings and title brands issued over the vehicle’s lifetime.

Knowing a car’s true past enables making better decisions about costly purchases. Now let’s weigh notable pros and cons of buying branded title vehicles.

Potential Benefits of Purchasing Branded Title Vehicles

Affordability – Vehicles with branded titles often sell for 20% to 40% below comparable cars with clean titles. This allows stretching car budgets further.

Feature-Packed Rides – Since a cheaper purchase price is the main allure of branded title cars, buyers may access more nicely equipped vehicles than otherwise possible.

Minor Damage – In some cases, the issues triggering a branded title may be relatively minor or mostly cosmetic rather than mechanical. Thorough inspections help determine this.

Potential Drawbacks of Purchasing Branded Title Vehicles

Resale Challenges – Branded titles slash resale value. Many buyers hesitate purchasing such vehicles, making selling harder.

Financing Difficulties – Lenders view branded title cars as high risk, so fewer financing options exist. And those available often have higher interest rates.

Insurance Obstacles – Similarly, insurers consider branded title vehicles riskier to cover. Securing affordable policies can require careful shopping around.

Lingering Defects – No matter how well repairs are done, severely damaged vehicles may continue exhibiting mechanical or safety issues. Poor driving characteristics often persist.

Unknown Problems – With branded title cars, you gamble on a vehicle history that may contain troublesome incidents in its past you aren’t yet aware of that could later require pricey fixes.

Tips for Purchasing Branded Title Cars

If willing to accept additional risks, used vehicles with branded titles can prove smart buys with careful precautions:

  • Thoroughly research title brands indicated in the car’s history and understand the associated problems those represent
  • Have a trusted mechanic fully inspect it for defects before finalizing any purchase
  • Be prepared for potentially higher loan rates, insurance premiums, and diminished value
  • Get promises of proper repairs or lingering issues addressed in writing
  • Confirm new title will reflect actual branded status when registered in your name

My Final Thoughts and Recommendations

While enticingly affordable, branded title vehicle purchases require going in with eyes wide open. Arm yourself with complete title history details, mechanical assessments, conservative value estimates, and contractual seller guarantees.

What questions about branded title cars remain on your mind?

As someone who has bought and sold many branded vehicles, I’m happy to offer additional advice or clarity to help determine if one might make sense for your situation.

Sources and References:

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Steve Momot - Author

Steve Momot - Author

Steve, a seasoned expert in the automotive industry, formerly held a car dealer license in Florida. With extensive experience spanning across car trading and mechanical work, he founded Autohitch. His mission? To guide both buyers and sellers through the intricate maze of car purchasing, ensuring a seamless and informed experience. Outside of the automotive world, Steve has a passion for fishing and capturing the beauty of nature through photography.


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