Rebuilt Title Cars, Explained: Insurance, Buying, and More

Finding cheap car insurance for a car with a rebuilt title is hard, but not impossible. Be ready to shop around for the best car insurance rates.
Written by Jessica Barrett
Edited by R.E. Fulton
Not all insurance companies will insure a car with a rebuilt title—and with those that do, your coverage options may be limited and your premiums may be high.
  • Your vehicle’s title status—clean, salvage, or rebuilt—will impact its insurance needs.
  • It’s not impossible to get an insurance policy for a rebuilt title vehicle, but it can be expensive. 
  • Not all car insurance companies offer coverage for vehicles with rebuilt titles.

Does a rebuilt title affect auto insurance?

Yes. Here’s how: 
  • Extra steps: In addition to securing the actual rebuilt title, you may need to provide a certified mechanic’s statement to prove to your insurance company that the car is roadworthy. 
  • Higher insurance rates: It’s typically more expensive to insure a car with a rebuilt title—especially if you’re looking for full coverage plans with
    collision coverage
    comprehensive coverage
  • Limited coverage options: Some insurance providers will only offer
    liability insurance
    if your vehicle has a rebuilt title. 
  • Not all companies will cover rebuilt cars: Be prepared to get turned down for coverage by some car insurance companies.
    are good options for rebuilt title vehicles. 
If you’re looking for car insurance quotes for a salvage title, on the other hand, you’re out of luck: it’s illegal to insure a salvage vehicle, since it’s not possible to operate it legally on public roads. 

What is a rebuilt title?

Salvage titles: A car is given a salvage title if it has been deemed totaled or a write-off by an insurance company. This means that the cost of repairs outweighs
the car's value
. Cars that have salvage titles cannot be driven or registered until the necessary repairs are completed.
Rebuilt titles: After a salvage title car has been repaired, it gets
a rebuilt title
. To receive this title, the rebuilt salvage vehicle must undergo a series of tests to confirm that it’s safe to drive—only then will the DMV approve the vehicle for road use and
remove the salvage title

Should I buy a car with a rebuilt title?

Buying a rebuilt title vehicle
can net you a really good deal—sometimes for 20%–50% less than the market value of the same car with a clean title.
However, there are some risks. Cars that have been badly damaged in the past are more likely to have undisclosed issues than cars with clean titles. And since you don’t know who completed the repairs, there may be questions about the quality of the repair job. A rebuilt title will also affect
the resale value
of your new car. 
Rebuilt title cars can also be more difficult to insure than cars without branded titles because of these unknowns. Insurance agents see branded title cars as riskier and assign higher premiums as a result.
Pro Tip Always request a vehicle history report (e.g. a CARFAX report) before purchasing a used vehicle. 

Questions to ask the seller of a rebuilt car

If you’re thinking of buying a car with a rebuilt title, here are some questions to ask the seller:
  • Where were the repairs done? Make sure any repair work was done at a reputable shop by a qualified rebuilder.
  • Was there damage to the frame or powertrain? The frame, engine, and transmission are expensive repairs—and these are the areas where people tend to cut corners. If these areas were damaged, move forward with caution.
  • Can I see the repair receipts? A detailed breakdown of the repairs can help you get a sense of whether the work was thorough and completed with quality parts.
  • Have you insured the car as a branded title? If the current owner wasn’t able to get insurance coverage, chances are that you won’t be able to, either. A car with a rebuilt title that hasn’t been insured is a red flag. 
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The guidelines for getting a rebuilt title vary by state. Check with your state’s Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to find out the correct procedure in your state. 
In most cases, you’ll need to obtain a salvage car title, complete all necessary repairs, and pass at least one safety inspection before applying for a rebuilt title.
The best way to ensure the car has been rebuilt properly is to have a reputable mechanic conduct a pre-purchase inspection. They can assess the damage and the standard to which it was repaired. It should cost you about $100 to $200 to get an inspection on the vehicle.
A salvage title means the vehicle was deemed a total loss by an auto insurance company–the cost to repair the vehicle was more than it was worth.
A rebuilt title on a car means the vehicle used to be a salvage title vehicle, but it has since been repaired and tested for safety.
Yes, you can get insurance with a rebuilt title, but you'll have to look around. Not every carrier will be willing to give you full coverage insurance, and some may even deny your application for liability coverage. 
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