If you come across a used car with a rebuilt title while shopping around, you may be wondering – what exactly does that mean?
As someone who has bought and sold many used cars over the years, I’ve learned a lot about rebuilt titles, including the pros and cons of buying a rebuilt title car.
The short answer is that a rebuilt title means the car was totaled in the past, then repaired and inspected to be roadworthy again.
While rebuilt title vehicles can save you money upfront, they do come with some drawbacks to consider.
In this comprehensive guide, I’ll explain everything you need to know about rebuilt titles, from how cars get them to whether they make for smart purchases. Let’s start with the basics.
Table of Contents
What is a Rebuilt Title?
A rebuilt title is issued to a vehicle that was previously totaled by an insurance company and issued a salvage title. After extensive repairs were made to get the car into drivable condition again, it underwent rigorous state inspections before being issued a new title – the rebuilt title.
So rebuilt title cars were severely damaged at some point, then rebuilt to working order, unlike clean title cars that have never sustained major damage.
Key Differences Between Salvage and Rebuilt
|Title Type||Description||Legal to Drive||Can Be Registered||Indicates|
|Salvage||Inoperable and damaged, labeled by insurance as a total loss.||No||No||Current Damage|
|Rebuilt||Repaired to a drivable, roadworthy condition, passed state inspections.||Yes||Yes||Past Damage; Repaired|
So, in summary – a salvage title indicates current damage, while a rebuilt title signals past damage that’s been repaired.
How Does a Car Get a Rebuilt Title?
For a car to go from a salvage title to a rebuilt title, it undergoes this general process:
- The car gets into a major accident, flood, fire etc that causes extensive damage.
- The insurance company deems it a total loss and brands the title as “salvage”.
- The salvaged vehicle is sold and rebuilt by a professional mechanic shop. Parts are repaired or replaced until the car is roadworthy.
- The rebuilt car must pass vehicle inspections by the state DMV. Some states have stringent tests it must pass before issuing a new title.
- Once inspections are passed, the DMV issues a rebuilt title. This replaces the salvage branding but is still notated on the vehicle history.
Pros of Buying a Rebuilt Title Car
Pros and Cons of Buying a Rebuilt Title Car
|Cost savings (20-40% cheaper than similar cars)||Safety risks due to possibly improper repairs|
|More selection, especially for older models||Limited insurance options, usually only liability coverage|
|Potential for only minor damage despite total loss branding||Lower resale value due to rebuilt title branding|
|Original manufacturer warranty is voided|
|Future problems may develop related to past damage|
Cost savings – The #1 advantage of buying a rebuilt title car is lower cost, usually 20-40% cheaper than similar clean title cars.
Availability – Especially if you want an older or rarer model, rebuilt titles may give you more selection.
Damage could be minor – Sometimes just 1 expensive repair leads to a total loss designation. The car itself may actually be in great shape overall.
Cons of Buying a Rebuilt Title Car
Safety risks – Severe damage repairs require expertise. If not done properly, serious issues could lurk beneath the surface.
Insurance limitations – Most insurers only offer liability coverage for rebuilt cars, not more expensive comprehensive coverage.
Low resale value – All that savings upfront is lost when reselling, due to the rebuilt branding.
No manufacturer warranty – Any original warranty is voided after a total loss designation.
Future problems – Even quality rebuilds can develop issues down the road related to the damage.
Key Steps Before Buying a Rebuilt Title Car
Because rebuilt title cars come with increased risks, take these steps to protect yourself as a buyer:
- Run a vehicle history report – Use Carfax or Autocheck to uncover past damage details. Was it severe flood or frame damage?
- Get a thorough inspection – Have a trusted mechanic look over the car to catch any issues. Look for improper repairs.
- Ask for repair documentation – Get proof of the rebuild process like receipts and details on parts used.
- Confirm your insurance coverage – Talk to your provider about coverage limitations for rebuilt title cars before purchase.
- Compare costs – Weigh the upfront savings vs. potential future repair bills and low resale value.
Checklist Before Buying a Rebuilt Title Car
|Vehicle History Report||Use services like Carfax or Autocheck to review the damage history and past repairs.|
|Thorough Inspection||Have the car examined by a trusted mechanic for any underlying issues.|
|Repair Documentation||Request detailed documentation of the repairs conducted, including receipts and parts used.|
|Insurance Coverage||Confirm with your insurance what coverage options are available for a rebuilt title car.|
|Cost Comparison||Consider the upfront savings against potential future repair costs and the car’s lower resale value.|
The Bottom Line on Rebuilt Titles
At the end of the day, buying a car with a rebuilt title is very situation-dependent.
They can be smart, budget-friendly purchases with extra research and diligence. But the additional risks mean they aren’t for everyone.
Avoid them if you want maximum peace of mind and resale value.
For me personally, I’ve had luck buying simpler rebuilt cars like old pickup trucks because their resale value is always high, especially if they can be used for work.
But I passed when I found a rebuilt title on a newer sedan with complex computer components. Those safety systems are expensive to repair post-crash.
Hopefully this guide gave you a thorough overview of what a rebuilt title means and the pros and cons at hand. always make sure to run a vehicle history report and have a mechanic inspect any used car before buying, rebuilt or not.
And consider your own risk tolerance – a high-mileage clean title car may be the smarter buy over a rebuilt title in