Should I Buy a Car with a Rebuilt Title?

Vehicles with a rebuilt title can be affordable, but there are some associated risks that damage the long-term value of the vehicle.
Written by Drew Waterstreet
Reviewed by Jessica Barrett
A vehicle with a rebuilt title was once deemed a total loss by an insurance company but has been repaired to be street legal again. While the price of a rebuilt vehicle may be appealing, it’s important to do your research—rebuilt vehicles can have lingering issues and may be difficult to insure.
If you see a price for a used vehicle that is too good to be true, it probably is. There is a curious balance between getting a good deal and the amount of risk you assume when purchasing a vehicle with a rebuilt title.
Luckily, the
car insurance
experts at
are here to give you the lay of the land. We will cover an extensive definition of a rebuilt title, how to perform proper research, and the risk/reward balance of purchasing a rebuilt title vehicle. Let’s dive in.
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What is a rebuilt title?

After a collision, a vehicle will be given a salvage title if the repairs cost more than the value of the vehicle. In that case, the insurance company will deem it a total loss. A rebuilt title is given to a vehicle that has been repaired to street-legal condition after receiving the total-loss designation.
The rebuilt title is designed to create transparency and make future buyers aware of the vehicle’s history.

Should you buy a car with a rebuilt title?

Buying a car with a rebuilt title can be a roll of the dice. There is great appeal in the short term, but the potential long-termm problems should make you think twice. Let’s take a look at the pros and cons.

Pros to buying a car with a rebuilt title

The price of a vehicle with a rebuilt title is usually what catches a potential buyer’s eye—expect to find some attractive prices considering the vehicle’s history.
Rebuilt titles can present a rare value opportunity, as well. Insurance companies will sometimes deem a vehicle a total loss even when the damages are just cosmetic. If the structure and mechanical systems are intact and didn’t need repair, the vehicle could still have many more miles under its belt. Take a long look at the vehicle’s maintenance records to evaluate the deal.

Cons to buying a car with a rebuilt title

While the price point may be tempting, buying a car with a rebuilt title has its drawbacks. 
Many mechanical and operational problems can linger or not surface for years after the vehicle is repaired and deemed street legal. The risk of frequent trips to the mechanic can be painful on your wallet.
You will also have limited insurance options for your vehicle with a rebuilt title. Due to the reliability risks and the limited value of the car, providers are hesitant to give
full-coverage insurance
. They will usually still offer the state-required minimum
liability car insurance
you need to operate a vehicle legally.
Rebuilt vehicles can be challenging to resell if you no longer want them, mainly due to the same pros and cons we’ve mentioned already.
MORE: How to sell a junk car for cash

Things to consider before buying a rebuilt title vehicle

Now that you’ve done a proper risk and reward assessment, you can begin the buying process. Here is some advice on purchasing a vehicle with a rebuilt title.

Speak with a trusted insurance agent

As mentioned previously, some insurance companies won’t provide full coverage to rebuilt title vehicles. Speak with a trusted insurance agent before you ever begin shopping. You don’t want to end up owning a vehicle that you can’t even properly insure.

Do your due diligence

To perform proper due diligence, you will need to obtain the full maintenance record of the vehicle. This will help you evaluate the true condition of the vehicle and make you aware of any assumed risks. Any hesitancy from the seller to provide reliable documentation should be considered a major red flag.
Be very aware of deception. Some car dealers will do anything to get the rebuilt car off of their lot. Keep an eye out for washed titles. This occurs when the seller fabricates the title and withholds the
car repair
You can cross-reference some third party websites to help you validate the title and the vehicle’s maintenance history. Popular resources include
Kelly Blue Book
, and
It’s also important to understand your local
lemon laws
. This regulation protects the consumer when they purchase a defective product or vehicle. While these laws are generally applied to new cars, some states extend the rules to used cars.

Common questions to ask

To continue your due diligence checklist, here are some questions you should ask before signing the purchase agreement:
  • Why was the vehicle deemed a total loss? Avoid rebuilt vehicles that had major mechanical problems or suffered flood damage—these can lead to lingering issues.
  • Why was the vehicle rebuilt? Look for rebuilt vehicles that mainly required cosmetic fixes, as opposed to mechanical ones.
  • Was the vehicle repaired by a reputable source? You want to feel confident that your vehicle was repaired properly.
  • Has the vehicle been inspected in its current condition? Always get a rebuilt vehicle inspected by a third party—it should only cost you about $100.
Key Takeaway Always do your due diligence on the vehicle's history before buying a rebuilt title.

How to insure a vehicle with a rebuilt title

Even with a rebuilt title, the
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A vehicle with a rebuilt title has been repaired after being deemed a total loss by an insurance company.
It should cost around $100 to get a vehicle inspection by a third-party—this is highly recommended before buying a rebuilt title vehicle.
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