What Is a Rebuilt Title and Should You Buy a Car With One?

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If you’re shopping for a used car, you might come across a rebuilt title. A rebuilt title means that the car was once deemed totaled by the insurance company and has been rebuilt so that it’s safe to drive.
Cars with rebuilt titles can be good deals, but it’s buyer beware. When it comes to car insurance, rebuilt titles can be a little trickier to insure than your average vehicle.
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What is a rebuilt title?

After a salvage title car has been repaired, it gets a rebuilt title. To receive this title, the 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.
To some extent, this lets you avoid the unknowns associated with salvage titles. The repairs are complete and the car is certified as roadworthy.
You can often find good deals on rebuilt titles since they’re no longer ‘clean’—they’ve been damaged and fixed.

What is a salvage title?

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 to repair the damage outweighs the value of the car. Cars that have salvage titles cannot be driven or registered until the necessary repairs are completed.
Cars can be given salvage titles for a number of reasons, though it’s most commonly due to an accident or weather damage.
If you come across a car with a salvage title, it’s usually best to move on. These vehicles haven’t been rebuilt and confirmed safe to drive, so you’re purchasing a car that is likely unsafe. It will be difficult to insure and resell in the future.

Should I buy a car with a rebuilt title?

Whether or not you should buy a car with a rebuilt title depends on the situation.
Rebuilt titles can net you a really good deal—sometimes for 20%–50% less than 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.
Rebuilt title cars can also be more difficult to insure than cars without branded titles because of these unknowns. For insurance companies, branded title cars are riskier and premiums are therefore higher.

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 mechanic or repair technician.
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 insure the vehicle, 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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Can you insure a car with a rebuilt title?

If you’re looking for insurance for a salvage title, you’re in for an uphill battle. In many cases, salvage titles are not safe to drive—so you’ll be hard-pressed to get insurers to take a second look.
Rebuilt titles, on the other hand, have been certified as safe to drive. It is possible to get insurance for them, though there may be certain restrictions.
Some insurance companies only offer liability insurance for rebuilt titles.
Since it can be hard to assess pre-existing damage on these cars, you might not be able to get collision insurance or comprehensive coverage.
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How much does a rebuilt title affect car value?

A branded title of any kind—salvage, rebuilt, or otherwise—affects the value of the car, sometimes in a big way.
You should expect to pay less for a car with a rebuilt title because it is no longer in a pristine, undamaged state. In many cases, you can find prices that are 20% up to 50% lower than you might pay for the same car with a clean title.
While that can sound like good news while you’re looking to purchase a car, you’ll also want to consider resale. If you plan to sell the car at any point in the future, the rebuilt title will affect the amount you can get for it.
It also has an impact on insurance. If your insurer does offer comprehensive and collision coverage for a car with a rebuilt title, you can expect a lower payout in the event of an accident since the value of the car is lower.

Frequently asked questions

How does a car get a rebuilt title?

Generally speaking, vehicles must be inspected and pass a series of tests to prove that they’re safe and roadworthy before they get a rebuilt title. The guidelines for getting a rebuilt title vary by state.
In some states, like Florida, a vehicle gets a salvage title when the insurance company declares it a total loss, and that title indicates whether the vehicle is rebuildable or not. Other states only ‘brand’ the vehicle title when the damage estimate reaches a certain percentage of the vehicle value (in New York, for example, it’s 75%).
In Nevada, a vehicle will receive a rebuilt title if it has undergone certain major repairs, regardless of whether it had a salvage title or not.
If you have questions about what is necessary for a car to get a rebuilt title, it’s best to check with your state DMV.

How can you tell if a car has been rebuilt properly?

One of the key problems with buying a car with a rebuilt title is that you never know how well the repairs were done.
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 around $100–$200 to get an inspection on the vehicle—and it’s money well spent for your safety and peace of mind.

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

Essentially, a salvage title means the vehicle was deemed a write-off by an 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 fixed and tested for safety.

Can you get insurance with a rebuilt title?

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 the coverage you need.

How to find insurance for a rebuilt title

Not all insurance companies will insure a car with a rebuilt title.
If you’re looking for insurance for a car with a rebuilt title, it’s important to shop around and compare quotes and coverages from different providers. An insurance comparison app like Jerry is the perfect place to start.
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