What Does It Mean to Have a Clean Car Title?

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When a car has a clean certificate of title, it means that the title hasn’t been branded. Brands are usually assigned by insurance companies or the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). Different types of brands exist to designate any significant damage that the car has undergone over its lifetime.
If you’re thinking of purchasing a used vehicle, it’s important to check the status of its title. A title is a legal document that confirms the status and ownership of a vehicle. A clean title means the vehicle has never been totaled or suffered major damage, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the best car. Even if a car has a clean title, it’s a good idea to have a trusted mechanic inspect it for you.
It’s no secret that navigating the used car market these days is a dicey task. Luckily,
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Common title brands to look for

There are various types of title brands that you might run into—different ones are recognized in different states, but here are the main ones.


A salvage title vehicle brand indicates that the car is currently not roadworthy. It usually means that the car has been deemed to be a total loss and is being sold to be salvaged for its individual parts that might still be working.
It is illegal to operate a salvage vehicle on public roads.
Salvage cars will need to be repaired
and inspected in order to earn a new title with a rebuilt title brand.


rebuilt title
means that a vehicle was previously a salvage car that is now repaired and can be driven legally. Other terms like repaired, reconditioned, or reconstructed might be used to refer to a rebuilt title.
Cars with rebuilt titles will often be more affordable to purchase, but they may be more expensive to insure.


There is a federal
lemon law
in place, and most states have their own complimentary lemon laws in place to protect you if you buy a defective new car or used car with warranty from a dealership. The specifics of these laws vary from state to state, so it’s a good idea to understand your state’s lemon law, if it has one in place.
Basically, a lemon law allows you to return a vehicle for a refund or a replacement if the automaker cannot adequately address the defects. The returned vehicle will then receive a lemon brand. You’ll most likely want to avoid purchasing a used vehicle with a lemon title.

Water damage

A car will be given a water damage title if it has been significantly damaged by a flood or other form of water damage. These vehicles are especially prove to interior mold and engine problems.

Odometer rollback

An odometer rollback title brand will be given to a car if it’s ever found that the vehicle’s odometer has been tampered with to make it appear that it has lower mileage than it actually does. Odometer rollback is a form of fraud, although it’s fairly difficult to detect.

What is title washing?

Title washing is another form of fraud where a seller attempts to hide or misrepresent a branded title. Here are some common ways that a seller might get away with title washing:
  • Moving states: A seller might try to move the vehicle to another state where the brand on its title isn’t recognized, since
    titles are transferred
    when a car is sold and registered in a new state.
  • Altered title: Some fraudsters might try to cover or illegally alter a brand on the car’s certificate of title.
  • Falsified car title: If the vehicle’s title was transferred or replaced, the seller may have intentionally failed to disclose existing brands.

How to find out if a used car has a clean title

If you’re thinking of purchasing a used vehicle, you could always ask the seller to show you the physical title to prove that there is no brand on it.
If they don’t want to show you the title right away, you can simply check the vehicle identification number (VIN) and get a used car vehicle history report. You can do this by contacting your local DMV or using a VIN check website like

How to find cheap car insurance for your ride

If you’ve just become the new owner of a used car, you’re going to need to get yourself equipped with a solid
car insurance
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