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What is a Branded Title

What Is A Branded Title

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

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 that have a brand on their title.

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 Are Branded Title Vehicles?

Branded Title1

In short, 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.

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
Certificate of DestructionSevere structural or mechanical damage that is so severe it cannot be repairedSevere structural or mechanical damage that are so severe it cannot be repaired
Types of Branded Titles

Pros and Cons of Buying Branded Title Vehicles

Branded Title2

Affordability – Vehicles with branded titles often sell for 20% to 50% below comparable cars with clean titles. This allows stretching car budgets further.

Feature-Packed Rides – The Lower Price of Branded Cars makes it easier to purchase newer vehicles that might be out of your budget otherwise.

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

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

Branded Title3

If you’re considering a branded title car, follow these steps to minimize risk:

  1. Get a detailed vehicle history report to understand the specifics of the title brand
  2. Have a trusted mechanic perform a thorough inspection for any unresolved issues
  3. If possible, obtain the original repair estimates and documentation
  4. Check with your insurance provider about coverage and premiums for the specific vehicle
  5. Factor in the potential challenges of future resale when determining your budget
  6. Be prepared for the possibility of unexpected repairs or diminished performance

My Final Thoughts and Recommendations

Branded Title Vehicles can offer significant savings and put you in a newer car that might usually be out of your budget, but they also come with great risk.

If you think it’s worth the risks, please have the car inspected before hand to minimize those risks as much as possible.

Sources and References:

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Picture of 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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