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What Is A Rebuilt Title

What Is A Rebuilt Title

If you’re car shopping and find a relatively new car at a great price, chances are it might be a rebuilt title car- but what is a rebuilt title?

A rebuilt title car is a vehicle that was previously declared a total loss by an insurance company due to extensive damage, given a salvage title, and then later repaired and issued a new “rebuilt” title after passing an inspection to certify it as safe to drive again.

What is a Rebuilt Title vs. A Salvage Title?

Title TypeDescriptionLegal to DriveCan Be RegisteredIndicates
SalvageInoperable and damaged, labeled by insurance as a total loss.NoNoCurrent Damage
RebuiltRepaired to a drivable, roadworthy condition, passed state inspections.YesYesPast Damage; Repaired
What is a Rebuilt Title vs. A Salvage Title

The key difference between a rebuilt title and a salvage title is that a rebuilt title means the severely damaged vehicle has been refurbished and deemed roadworthy, while a salvage title indicates the vehicle was totaled but not yet repaired.

Key Differences Between Salvage and Rebuilt
Rebuilt Title vs. A Salvage Title

Rebuilt title cars usually sell for much less than clean title vehicles, but they may have underlying issues from previous damage. A rebuilt title car will also incur a much higher insurance payment!

Related Article: Rebuilt Title Insurance Cost

Relevant Articles To Read:

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:

  1. The car gets into a major accident, flood, fire etc that causes extensive damage.
  2. The insurance company deems it a total loss and brands the title as “salvage”.
  3. The salvaged vehicle is sold and rebuilt by a professional mechanic shop. Parts are repaired or replaced until the car is roadworthy.
  4. The rebuilt car must pass vehicle inspections by the state DMV. Some states have stringent tests it must pass before issuing a new title.
  5. 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

Cost savings (20-40% cheaper than similar cars)Safety risks due to possibly improper repairs
More selection, especially for older modelsLimited insurance options, usually only liability coverage
Potential for only minor damage despite total loss brandingLower resale value due to rebuilt title branding
Original manufacturer warranty is voided
Future problems may develop related to past damage
Pros of Buying a Rebuilt Title Car

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.

Steps To Take 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.

Rebuilt Title Car Buying Checklist

Vehicle History ReportUse services like Carfax or Autocheck to review the damage history and past repairs.
Thorough InspectionHave the car examined by a trusted mechanic for any underlying issues.
Repair DocumentationRequest detailed documentation of the repairs conducted, including receipts and parts used.
Insurance CoverageConfirm with your insurance what coverage options are available for a rebuilt title car.
Cost ComparisonConsider the upfront savings against potential future repair costs and the car’s lower resale value.
Rebuilt Title Car Buying Checklist

Are Rebuilt Titles Bad?

At the end of the day, buying a rebuilt car isn’t a bad thing; you just need to do proper research.

They can be smart, budget-friendly purchases with a thorough inspection, 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. All that new tech can be extremely expensive to replace and repair.

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 car with previous damage.

Sources and Citations:

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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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