Thinking of buying a rebuilt title car? Here’s what you should know first.

There’s a lot of confusion when it comes to cars with rebuilt titles. Essentially, this title is given to a damaged car that’s been initially deemed salvaged by an insurance company but through repairs, it was brought to its initial functioning state.

A rebuilt title is also called a reconstructed title, so there’s no difference between the two. But to better understand the concepts, we’ve come up with a short guide we thought would be useful for those who are interested in rebuilt cars.

What is a Rebuilt Title

What is a Rebuilt Title?
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Rebuilt Title

A rebuilt title is given to a car that was initially deemed as a salvage, but has been repaired and has PASSED the state inspection. People also refer to a rebuilt title as reconstructed title, but they essentially mean the same thing. These cars are safe to operate and have, in theory, been repaired to factory condition - kind of like a manufacturer refurbished computer, for example. This isn’t always the case, though, so you still need to do your homework before purchasing a car with a rebuilt title.

Clean Titles

Cars with a clean title means that there were no REPORTED accidents on that particular car, but mind you, the vehicle can still hide some damage; for example, a flooded car can still carry a clean title, have its miles rolled back, or hide other hidden flaws.

Totalled or Scrap Title

Next up is the totalled title, which basically means the car is good for scrap or recycling. This is a vehicle that’s deemed beyond repair, usually those with major structural damage.

Salvage Title

Now, a salvage title basically tells you that the repairs needed to fix the car cost more than the insurance company wants to pay. In this case, the car is considered a total loss, but is not beyond repair if you’re willing to spend the money and put in the effort. Now, the ratio of repair cost to vehicle value depends on the insurance company, but as a rule of the thumb, it is usually set to at least 70 percent. This ratio, however, might also vary from state to state.

Should You Avoid a Rebuilt Title Car?

What is a Rebuilt Title?
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In all fairness, salvage title cars and rebuilt title cars can be a little bit of a gamble, unless the rebuilding process was done right by a responsible and skilled mechanic. That said, there are, of course, a lot of people trying to take advantage of those looking to buy a rebuilt title car, since their limited budget doesn’t allow the acquisition of a brand new car or even a normal second-hand vehicle.

For that matter, the opinions are quite polarizing. Some say you should avoid a rebuilt title car at all cost, while some argue that it’s alright to buy such a vehicle provided you did your homework. And that’s the best advice we can give you, too. A rebuilt title car, although cheaper, might come with a lot of problems that didn’t catch the eye of whoever performed the state-sanctioned inspection. So it’s your responsibility to thoroughly check the car - we also advise you to ask a professional for help - and make sure your money won’t go to waste.

How Can You Tell if a Car Has Been Rebuilt Properly?

What is a Rebuilt Title?
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There are a few steps you can take to make sure you’re not getting scammed. This also goes for buying a salvage car that you plan to reconstruct later one.

  • Rule number one: ask for every piece of documentation you can think of, including repair records, receipts, and the like. You can also use a specialized app such as CarFax or AutoCheck.
  • Rule number two: inspect the car. If you lack the skill and knowledge of a mechanic, find a trustworthy one and have him check out the car through a full inspection; this way, he’ll be able to pinpoint potential flaws and damage.
  • Rule number three: it’s also useful to find out how long it’s been since the salvage title/rebuilt title was issued, and if someone has been actually driving the car. If it has been on the road for a while without incident, then it might be safe to purchase it.

So, to sum up, making sure that a rebuilt title car has been repaired properly involves a lot of research and inspection. Better safe than sorry, right?

Difference Between Salvaged and Reconstructed Car Titles

What is a Rebuilt Title?
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A salvage title means that the car is not roadworthy anymore and thus it cannot be registered. Which means driving it is prohibited and illegal. A reconstructed/rebuilt title is given to a former salvage title car that has been repaired and brought to the original factory specs. For a rebuilt title to be granted, a car must pass the state inspection. Once it passes the inspection, it gets the rebuilt title sticker, which means it can now be registered and driven on public roads.

Tudor Rus
Assistant Content Manager - Automotive Expert - tudor@topspeed.com
Tudor’s first encounter with cars took place when he was only a child. Back then, his father brought home a Trabant 601 Kombi and a few years later, a Wartburg 353. At that time, he was too young to know how they worked and way too young to drive them, but he could see one thing – each of them had a different ethos and their own unique personality. As time went on, he started seeing that in other cars as well, and his love for the automobile was born.  Read More
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