What is a rebuilt title car? Should I buy a rebuilt title car?
Updated: Jul 21
What is a rebuilt title?
If you are on the look to buy a second-hand car, it would be wise to know the types of titles and their differences and answer these questions: what is a rebuilt title? Why would a car have a rebuilt title? What's the difference between a salvage title and a rebuilt title? What things to consider before buying a car with a rebuilt title? And should I buy a car with a rebuilt title?
Why would a car have a rebuilt title?
A rebuilt title is used to describe a vehicle with a salvage title before, meaning that the car has been repaired and restored to a drivable condition. At this point, the car is inspected by the state, and if all the safety tests are passed, the salvage title will be changed to the rebuilt title. A rebuilt title is additionally known as a reconstructed title. Thus there's no distinction between the two.
Definition of salvage title car
Salvage titles are issued for cars that are broken in an accident, crash or collision, fire, and natural events like floods, hurricanes, etc. Car insurance companies will generally deem natural weather events as circumstances for a salvage car title. Put another way; a salvage title tells you that the repairs needed to fix the car cost more than the insurance company wants to pay. In a lot of states, a vehicle can receive a salvage title if the vehicle is stolen. An insurance company inspects these cars, and in most cases, if the repair costs are estimated to be around 70 to 80 percent of the car's value, they have deemed a salvage title. Regardless of what is done with the vehicle, a salvage title car cannot be driven or registered. The cars are sometimes repairable, but the insurance company chooses not to repair them as it will cost them too much. But sometimes, the car has been damaged beyond repair, which usually happens when the vehicle's frame has been heavily damaged or bent during a crash, which makes fixing it impossible. After the salvage title is issued, the car is usually sold to someone else, who may choose to repair it or trade its parts, depending on the extent of the damage. And to clarify, junk and salvage titles are not the same. Another designation for the junk title is "non-repairable title." States reserve non-repairable titles for cars that have so much damage, that there is no amount of repair that can render them as drivable or roadworthy. When you have a junk title vehicle, that vehicle can only be sold for parts or sold to a junkyard. There is also a term called "branded title" used for a car whose title is no longer clean. It could be deemed a salvage, rebuilt, junk, or flood vehicle.
It is important to note that a car with a rebuilt title can have different definitions in each state. It is suggested that you check with your insurance company or contact the state officials to see how a rebuilt title is defined. According to Texas and California states, a rebuilt title is a title that was previously a salvage title (deeming it too expensive to repair). In New York, there are a bit more specifications; for example, it should be transferred by an insurance company with a salvage certificate, and the costs of the repair should be more than 75% of the car's retail value. In Florida, a car is deemed salvaged if the repair will cost 80% or more of its retail value.
Is a rebuilt title a salvage title?
A rebuilt title is issued after a car that previously had a salvage title has been successfully repaired and restored to safe and working conditions. There is a difference between a "clean title" and a rebuilt title; the clean title is only issued to cars that have no history of getting heavily damaged, meaning there are no reported accidents on that particular car (although the vehicle can still hide some damages). A previously salvaged car must be inspected by an entity approved by the state (usually the Department of Motor Vehicles) before a title is changed from salvage to rebuilt.
When on the look for buying a car, it is essential to know whether you're dealing with a salvaged or junk car because there might be damaged beyond repair (from flood, etc.) or other hidden issues affect its reliability and safety. Sometimes the damage is so severe that a vehicle cannot be considered to run correctly and safely again, and it is illegal to fix and sell such cars.
What to consider before buying a car with a rebuilt title?
There are things to consider and questions to ask when deciding about buying a car with a rebuilt title now that you know what is a rebuilt title:
The kind of damage that was done to the vehicle
This can be checked through free services, such as NICB's VINCheck, or for-a-fee services such as Autocheck, Carfax, and the National Motor Vehicle Title Information System. Doing your due diligence to know what has happened to the vehicle is very important. It is even recommended to use both the free and paid services to know about the vehicle's history.
If there was damage to the frame (which could be considered severe injury), is it realigned and repaired properly
If the frame has not been appropriately realigned, it could cause excessive wear and strain on many parts of the vehicle, such as drivetrain, brakes, wheels, and tires. More importantly, it can also have a terrible effect on the safety of the car and fail to protect the passengers adequately in the event of a crash and severe accident.
The extent of the damage and the place where the repairs were performed
A quality repair job is essential, and more importantly, knowing that nothing was left unrepaired intentionally to reduce costs. On top of that, make sure that the parts used in the repair were good ones, and if any was wielding done, it was done properly. Extra care and attention should be given to this, as there are cases where unethical shops use substandard and inadequate quality parts or use the right parts until they receive the new title and then switch them back with weak quality parts or damaged ones.
How to make sure if a car has been rebuilt properly
There isn't a foolproof way to know 100 percent if a car has been rebuilt appropriately. A trusted and certified mechanic should thoroughly examine any vehicle that you want to buy. Skipping this step, even if the car looks okay and safe to run, might result in breakdowns and problems that cost you more to repair than what you paid for the vehicle. Get as much information as possible. The more you can figure out what led the car to be given the salvage title, and the repairs it received, the better off you are to decide if a rebuilt title is worth the risk. Start by asking the seller. The less they know about what happened to the car, regardless of the reason, the higher the risk to you. Another important thing that you should remember to ask for is as much paperwork and receipts as possible. It would help if you asked for paperwork covering the repair and detailed receipts for the labor and the parts to make sure that everything is fine and there are no discrepancies.
Time since the issuance of the rebuilt title
It's beneficial to find out how long ago the rebuilt title (or even the salvage title) was issued. And since then, if someone has been driving the car. If the vehicle has been on the road for some time without any issues and incidents, it is quite safe to purchase it.
Making sure the vehicle is insurable.
As it is difficult for insurance companies to estimate the value of a car with a rebuilt title, they are hesitant to offer full coverage for such vehicles most of the time, so some insurance companies refuse to cover a car has a rebuilt title. Before making the final decision on buying a car with a rebuilt title, call your insurance company and give them the car's specific details and see if they would insure it and how much they would charge. If no insurance company covers the vehicle, you should consider another one. In most states, uninsured cars can't be registered and driven legally. Another thing you can do is check if the current owner was able to ensure the car; if yes, then you will be quite assured that you won't encounter a problem for its insurance.
To buy or not to buy a car with a rebuilt title, that is the question!
Some vehicles have been damaged severely. Severe damage can compromise a car's structural integrity, so even if extensive repairs are done on the car (so much so that it gains a rebuilt title), it might not be a wise and safe choice to buy such a vehicle. On the other hand, there are many cars with a salvage title that have never had structural damages; if this is the case and the car has been repaired by a professional and reputable shop using quality parts, it can be a good choice and as safe as an original vehicle with a clean title. As cars with rebuilt titles are sold considerably less than those with clean titles, you can get a great deal on the most of the time. However, you should know that there is a catch! It can be challenging to sell a car with a rebuilt title later on, and if you can do sell, it will be for considerably less than the same vehicle with a clean title. So, if you are considering keeping and using the car for the long run, it's still the right choice, and you shouldn't mind the price drop later on.
Is a rebuilt title car, a bad car?
Some might ask, is a rebuilt title car, a bad car? The short answer could be, not really! It is safe to say that it's alright to buy such a vehicle as long as you did your homework and due diligence. There are a lot of cars with a rebuilt title that is good for many reasons. Now there are some advantages to buying a car with a rebuilt title too. These vehicles usually come with carefully documented repair work, and the legitimate sellers provide you with the paperwork that was used to gain the new title. Your trusted and certified mechanic can handle this paperwork while inspecting the car as a guide, and verify if the jobs have done were all performed as described. If you are presented with a properly documented list of repairs, even if the car is salvaged, you could get more information than you would have when buying another vehicle. Although an insurance company may not deem a car as worth repairing, a salvage car that has been well repaired and rebuilt can be purchased for considerably less money (even with all the cost of repairs) than it would have otherwise. Even in the best conditions, a car with a rebuilt title is considered to be worth lesser than a normal one, and you should know and insist on it when negotiating to purchase such a car.
While buying a rebuilt title car (and used cars in general) can be a time-consuming process, if you do your due diligence, you can make an informed decision and, at the same time, get a great deal out of it.
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