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Salvage And Rebuilt Title Cars | Buyer Beware or Great Deal?

The Truth About Branded Titles

Guide To Salvage & Rebuilt Title Cars

There is a lot of confusion about Cars with Branded Titles, cars you may know as being Salvage and/or Rebuilt Title vehicles.  I know this confusion first hand from the massive response we have gotten from our article, “How Do I Get A Carfax For Free”.  

There I have been shocked by the sheer amount of people that are in the middle of being sold a vehicle by someone who is not revealing that the car has a Rebuilt Title.  So I thought it was about time we answer some of your most common questions about these types of vehicles and if it is wise to buy one.

In This Article:

  • Get A Salvage Title Check
  • Carfax Vs Autocheck
  • What Is A Rebuilt title
  • What Is A Salvage Title
  • What Is A Branded Title
  • What Does A Salvage Title Look Like
  • How Much Does A Rebuilt Title Change The Value Of A Car
  • Is A Rebuilt Title A Bad Thing
  • Rebuilt/Salvage Title FAQ’s
Salvage And Rebuilt Title Cars Buyer Beware or Great Deal

Get A Salvage Title Check

If you suspect that a vehicle you are looking to buy, or may have already purchased, has been branded as a Salvage or Rebuilt Title car, do not hesitate for a second to check out the vehicle’s history.   You can use one of a number of sources to check on a salvage title, but I recommend these:

  • Carfax
  • Autocheck
  • NICB

The NICB (National Insurance Crime Bureau) is very unknown to regular every day car buyers, but it’s a hell of a resource if you need to verify whether a car was ever reported as stolen and not recovered or reported as a Salvage Vehicle. 

Now it is important to note that the NICB can only account for the insurance companies that are NICB Members, which are still a great majority, so it’s not 100%.  That being said, Carfax or Autocheck can’t account for every insurance carrier reporting either, but at least this tool is Completely Free.  

Carfax vs Autocheck

A lot of people ask me if Autohcheck is equal to or even better than Carfax, and the simple truth is that it isn’t.  Don’t get me wrong, the service is great and all the information they provide is very well laid out for a vehicle history report.  However, Carfax has been around far longer and just has more relationships with more companies which means they have access to more data on the cars on the road.  

If you are going to spend thousands on a car, spend the extra $20-$30 to get a Carfax.  If that is still too much, and you think you need a free salvage title check, head over to my article on how to get a carfax for free.

What Is A Rebuilt Title?

A Rebuilt title is a title that has been issued to a vehicle that was previously assigned a Salvage Title, but only after that vehicle has been repaired and inspected, typically by the State.

A Salvage Title Is Not The Same As A Rebuilt Title!

It is important to note that the inspections performed by the state before the issuing of a Rebuilt title are not pre purchase inspections, or the type of vehicle inspection  you might order before buying a used car.  These inspections are simply to verify that work was done and that all of the paperwork is in order.  

What Is A Salvage title?

A Salvage Title is a title assigned to a vehicle that was written off by an insurance company because it experienced damage that would cost more to repair than the vehicle is worth.  Most people commonly refer to this type of vehicle as being:

  • Totaled
  • Totaled Out
  • Total Loss

The big thing that is important to note about a salvage vehicle is that you can’t simply get in it and drive it, legally anyway.  A car with a salvage title is considered to be unsafe for the roadways and only when a salvaged vehicle has been repaired, checked by the State or DMV authority, and given a “Rebuilt Title”, can you then register and drive the vehicle.

What Is A Branded Title?

A Branded Title is essentially the overall permanent designation placed on a car title that indicates the vehicle was written off because of serious damage or other mitigating circumstances such as:

  • Fire
  • Flood
  • Collision
  • Being Sold For Scrap

A car receiving the designation of branding is almost always mandatory in most states once an insurance company (Or the owner) has written off a vehicle or declared it an official “Total Loss”.   As we mentioned earlier, Total Loss occurs when the damage to a car is estimated to exceed its cost of repair, however, this definition isn’t merely subjective, it’s going to be based on state law, and that is obviously going to vary depending on where you are.

What does a salvage title look like

A Salvage title is going to look different from state to state, but generally, you are going to see Red Text or something that looks like a Red Stamp somewhere on the front of the title located above the signature area.  

If you are like most people however, you are probably going to see the vehicle long before the title and would rather not waste your time.

To the right in this section you will see a picture of a sticker that is inside of a door jam.  This decal is probably the easiest way to tell if a car has a salvage and/or rebuilt title.  This sticker actually indicates a “Rebuilt Title” and is required to be placed here by law when the rebuilt title has been granted on a salvaged car.  

  • Remember: A Car can be Salvaged but not yet Rebuilt, in which case the car would not be street legal.  So, you might not see this decal on a salvage car that someone is trying to pass off as legit and would have to revert to your vehicle history report or the title.

How Much Does A Rebuilt Title Change The Value Of A Car?

A good gauge in the amount of value that a car can lose after getting a rebuilt title will be between the 20%-50% range.  I know, that can be a lot of money one way or the other, but you have to remember the age and type of vehicle are going to play a role.  If a one year old SUV it totalled then receives a rebuilt title, it’s going to retain more value than a 5 year old Honda Civic.

Is A Rebuilt Title A Bad Thing?

The question of whether a rebuilt title is bad comes down to answering the same question you must ask yourself on any car purchase:  What’s this worth “To Me”.

Is A Rebuilt title Bad

When I sold cars myself there were several occasions in which I actually had obtained cars that were Salvaged and then rebuilt.  The only time I would ever buy these vehicles is if they were late model cars (Not that old) and if they had been repaired correctly, something I could assess with a pre purchase inspection.

The reason I bought these cars was simple:  They are in very high demand!  Think about it-  You can get a car or truck that’s only a few years old and at a price that would be around 30%-40% cheaper (On AVG).  Yeah, there is definitely a market for that.

The Bottom Line:

There are two times in my opinion that a rebuilt title is bad:

  • If you owned the vehicle before the damage
  • If the repairs were made incorrectly

Frequently Asked Questions: Salvage & Rebuilt Titles

Most frequent questions and answers on Branded Titles

Can You Get Rid Of A Rebuilt title?

No, once the title of a vehicle has been Branded it will remain so for the remainder of its life, only ever changing to become:  Rebuilt, Reconditioned, or Assembled (Based on your states language in the law.   

Can A Rebuilt title Be Financed?

Yes, there are lenders out there that will finance cars with rebuilt titles, Lightstream being one such lender.  Don’t forget, you can also always get a personal loan.

Can You Trade In A Car with A Rebuilt Title?

Yes, a car dealer will take anything on trade that they can resell and profit from, however, you will probably get a better deal at a smaller independent dealership than a franchise.  Most franchise stores have rules about selling cars that could give them added liability, so they would only be able to auction a rebuilt title car, thus eliminating any potential profit from re-sale.  

Can You Get Insurance On A Car With A Rebuilt title?

Yes, you absolutely can get a Rebuilt title car insured, however, not all insurance companies offer this type of auto insurance.  Some carriers won’t touch rebuilt title cars, others will only offer basic liability excluding comprehensive or collision.  On a side note, these policies can be cheaper because the vehicles are that much cheaper to insure.

Are Rebuilt titles Safe?

As long as the repairs to the vehicle were done correctly, yes, a rebuilt title car is safe.  That being said, you should at all cost pay for a pre-purchase car inspection before ever buying a car that has a rebuilt title.

Does A Rebuilt Title Void Factory Warranty

Once a vehicle has been deemed a total loss and salvaged, all factory warranties are terminated.  You may still be able to purchase some sort of aftermarket warranty from a third party, although it may be very hard to find and somewhat expensive.

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