What is a Rebuilt Title?

What does rebuilt title mean? 

A rebuilt title is a title given to any vehicle that has been repaired or restored after receiving a salvage title. Like a clean title, a rebuilt title typically lets buyers know that the car they are considering is safe and in good working condition. However, these titles are only issued to vehicles that have been in a serious accident or have suffered severe damage.

For example, when a car is in an accident or suffers severe damage, the insurance company may consider it a total loss. In this situation, the vehicle's title goes from clean to salvage. From there, a salvage car can be sold for scrap or repaired.

If you or the buyer chooses to fix the damage, you can receive a rebuilt title after the car is thoroughly inspected and approved by the state or jurisdiction issuing the titles.

What is the difference between a rebuilt title and a salvage title?

The big difference between the two terms is the condition of the vehicle. "Salvage" is the term used prior to repairs when the car is not roadworthy, while "rebuilt" is the condition you will find on a car title after the necessary repairs and restorations have made the vehicle roadworthy.

What exactly is a rebuilt title?

The term "rebuilt" and other related terms are broad and can have different connotations and meanings. Let's clarify some of the words you may encounter while shopping for a used vehicle.

The title of 'salvage' refers to a vehicle that has been deemed a total loss by an insurer. It could be due to a multitude of reasons, such as theft, fire, flood or collision.
When a salvage title vehicle has been repaired and certified for road use once again, the title can be changed to a 'rebuilt' status.

The term 'branded title' refers to a car title that is no longer a clean title. It could be considered a salvage, rebuilt, junk or flood vehicle.

What are the pros and cons of buying a car with a salvage title?

Can salvage title be legalized?

Because of how a vehicle is branded with a salvage title, there may be good deals available. In most provinces, a stolen car that is not recovered for 21 days or more is declared a total loss and the insurer pays the owner. If the car is recovered, it may be fully intact, but have a title marked as salvage status. Also, vehicles that have been in accidents that have not been repaired can be a good deal, as they are often still drivable if the damage is mainly cosmetic.

However, buying a car with a salvage title is a risky business. There is a high likelihood that the damage is hidden and you won't find it until you are in the repair process. Some salvage title cars may never be roadworthy again. Salvage vehicle repairs must be inspected by a licensed technician before the car can be licensed and insured, including a structural integrity inspection, and often cars are not certified the first time around.

What are the pros and cons of buying a car with a rebuilt title?

Rebuilt cars for sale can also be a great deal under the right circumstances. Since the repairs have already been completed and the vehicle certified, you can avoid the guessing game associated with salvage cars. Comparatively, a car with a rebuilt title can be purchased for 20% to 50% less than one with a clean title.

However, the flip side is that your car is worth much less than the same model with a clean title, and is less desirable. Also, you don't know how well the repairs were completed: were worn, salvaged or substandard parts used in the repairs? Was it a flood vehicle that is now susceptible to premature corrosion? Were the body and paint done correctly, or will they start to fall apart soon after you shell out your money? It's a gamble.

Financing and insurance can also be questionable. Many lenders avoid financing rebuilt and repossessed vehicles because of the diminished value. And auto insurance can be difficult to obtain and can be expensive for the partial coverage it provides.

How to Find a Reliable Used Car with a Rebuilt Title

While it may indicate severe past damage, cars with rebuilt titles can be quite reliable. However, there are still a few things you should do to make sure you choose a used vehicle that is reliable and right for you.

How to Find a Reliable Used Car with a Rebuilt Title

With a detailed history report, you can get more information about the ownership and title history. More importantly, it can even give you a closer look at your accident history and the type of damage you suffered at the time and throughout your life. This report will help you better understand the repairs you may have needed.

You can even see how it was fixed. The maintenance and repair information reported can highlight the services performed and where it was repaired. With these details, it will be easy to see if the used car you want received all the repairs it needed.

Look at needed repairs

If you come across a used car with a rebuilt title, it usually means it has suffered damage in the past. However, these cars can still deliver reliable performance after they have been repaired by a team of service professionals at a top-tier service center or auto repair shop.

Service centers and auto body shops have high standards when it comes to the safety, performance and overall reliability of the vehicles they maintain and repair. By consulting the vehicle history report or talking to the dealer, you can find out where the used car received the necessary repairs along with its maintenance history.

Buy your used car from a dealer

There are many reliable used cars with rebuilt titles available nationwide. However, it's best to shop at a dealership to make sure you're getting something that's truly reliable.

How to determine if a car with a rebuilt title is right for you!

If you've found a car with a branded title that you're seriously considering, pause for a moment; Take a deep breath. There are a few questions you should ask yourself before committing to a salvage or rebuilt car.

"Can I see the receipts?"
If the current owner is the one who repaired the car, ask for a detailed breakdown of the repairs to determine how thoroughly it was done and whether qualified technicians used quality parts.
"Where were the repairs completed?"
Make sure the repairs were completed at a reputable shop. If a backyard mechanic did it, you're taking a risk.
"Have you insured it as a branded title?"
You can get an idea of whether a rebuilt car is insurable if the current owner was able to insure it. If they haven't, it should send up red flags.
"Was there damage to the chassis or powertrain?"
Two areas where people tend to cut corners on repairs are expensive: the frame, engine and transmission. If these were affected in the accident, be very careful how you proceed.
"Have repairs been estimated?" 
If you are thinking of buying a salvage car, determine if the seller has already estimated repairs. If so, be aware of the possibility of additional hidden damage costs as well.

If you received all the right answers to these questions, we recommend asking a trusted mechanic to perform an inspection to determine how well the car was repaired or restored. The last thing you want is to end up with a lemon car. And don't forget to take the car for several test drives to make sure it handles well, runs smoothly and doesn't make strange noises!

Don't be fooled by title washing.

Unfortunately, there are shady dealers in the marketplace who use a technique called "title washing." This illegal process involves removing a branded title by moving and securing it out of the counties. Since most counties have their own systems for transferring titles, there is an opportunity to transfer a car without reporting a repossession or rebuild status. These evil people then sell it as a used car with a clean title, scamming people out of thousands of dollars.

However, you can avoid being scammed by title washing when you are buying a used car. A total loss car is recorded on a vehicle history report, such as Carfax.

Be sure to obtain a vehicle history report on any vehicle before completing the purchase.

To verify a car's title, record the 17-digit VIN number located on the driver's side of the dashboard, visible through the windshield. Log in to Carfax to receive a detailed vehicle history report, including repairs, title status and any other red flags.