How to Get a Rebuilt Title in California

Getting a rebuilt title in California can take up to six weeks and requires filling out an application, arranging for repairs, and booking a car inspection.
Written by Brittni Brinn
Reviewed by Kathleen Flear
Getting a rebuilt title in
involves an application, car inspections, and extensive repairs. You’ll have to pay $23 for a title and additional fees depending on the vehicle and your location.
  • Getting a rebuilt title in California requires filling out an application, arranging for extensive
    car repairs
    , and booking a car inspection.
  • Once you send in an application, it will take four to six weeks to receive your California rebuilt title certification.

Rebuilt titles: What you need to know

Rebuilt title vehicles, also called rebuilt salvage vehicles, are cars that were in an accident that caused enough damage for the insurance company to consider them a total loss. Then, they were restored to operational condition and received rebuilt title status.
In California, a totaled car will first be given a salvage title, also called a salvage certificate or nonrepairable vehicle certificate. It’s up to the owner to decide if they want to fix up the salvage title car and try to get a rebuilt title.
Since repair costs for a salvage vehicle are often more than the market value of the vehicle, it may not be worth fixing—but that’s for the owner to decide.
Some buyers may wish to
purchase a salvage title vehicle
to use for parts or to repair themselves. As long as there is full disclosure about the designation of the totaled vehicle and the vehicle history, it’s okay to sell a salvage car without getting a rebuilt title.
The bottom line: If you intend to drive your totaled vehicle, you must apply for a rebuilt title to replace the salvage title designation. 

How to get a rebuilt title in California

To get a rebuilt title in California
  • Fill out an application with the local DMV
  • Make all of the necessary repairs
  • Book and pass all the required inspections
  • Pay all required fees

Apply for the salvage title

If your car is severely damaged in an accident or a weather event, your car insurance company will assess the car to determine if it’s a total write-off. If the damage exceeds the total value of the vehicle, the insurer will consider it totaled and will give it a salvage title.
If you bought a car with a salvage title, there should already be documentation that confirms it’s in your possession. 
If for some reason your insurance company or a seller does not provide you with proof of the salvage title, you can obtain one by completing an
Application for Salvage Certificate or Nonrepairable Vehicle Certificate (REG 488C)
at your local California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV).
Note: If repairs on a salvage vehicle are completed before the salvage certificate is issued, both a completed REG 488C and the salvage certificate fee must still be paid.

Make the necessary repairs to your vehicle

Once the salvage title has been confirmed, you can go ahead with making repairs. You can take the vehicle to a repair shop or perform the repairs yourself if you have the know-how.
Keep track of all your receipts, purchases, and the origin of the parts you buy second-hand. These will be key evidence to help you get a rebuilt title.
Once your repairs are complete, you’ll also have to arrange for a vehicle inspection and pay a $50 junk and salvage vehicle inspection fee. 
In California, a state-approved inspector for the California Highway Patrol (CHP) will confirm that your car is safe to get back on the road and meets all state and federal requirements, including smog certification. You’ll need this confirmation in writing to submit with your application for rebuilt title status.
Key Takeaway: You must complete repairs and have your vehicle assessed by a state-approved inspector before you can apply for a rebuilt title in California.

Essential documents for a rebuilt title in California

Repairs complete and inspection passed, your vehicle is now ready to be considered for a rebuilt title.
Make sure you have the following when you head to the California DMV to apply for a rebuilt title:
Once your
salvage title is cleared
and you receive your rebuilt title, it’s time to head back to the DMV to register the vehicle and pick up your new license plates. 
Before you can
register your vehicle
, you’ll need to think about insurance for your rebuilt vehicle.  You’ll need to obtain at least
minimum liability coverage
. You may not even have the option of purchasing
a full coverage policy
for your revived junk vehicle, as many providers don’t offer them.

How long does a rebuilt title take in California?

It can take 4-6 weeks to get a rebuilt certificate of title in California after you’ve completed the repairs, processed your application, and booked your inspection(s).
If you’re waiting on your new title to arrive, you can always check in with your DMV to get a better idea of when your rebuilt title will be sent out.
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