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What is a Rebuilt Title? 4 Things You Should Know

signing a contract

Insurance companies will only pay out so much money to repair a vehicle if it is damaged in an accident. If a vehicle is damaged beyond what they deem reasonable to repair, it is ‘written off.’ This gives the vehicle what is called a salvage title. With this title, it can no longer be registered or insured for the road as a salvage. However, if it is purchased and re-certified, it then has a rebuilt title and can be sold, registered, and insured as such.

As a general rule, if a vehicle is written off and given a salvage title, there are serious safety concerns at a structural level on the vehicle. So, when a salvage title is repaired, a qualified engineer signs off to say it is once again safe to be on the road. So, this leads us to the question: is purchasing a rebuilt title worth the savings?

Being smart with your money is important, and there is nothing wrong with wanting to get the absolute BEST deal you can get on a vehicle. You usually won’t find a road-legal vehicle cheaper than a rebuilt title. Below we will discuss four things you should keep in mind when considering one.

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The 4 Things You Should Know About Rebuilt Titles

1. Insurance is More Complicated

couple at the car dealer showroom
Image By: Nejron Photo, Shutterstck

Most times, getting a vehicle insured is a straightforward process. You provide the insurance agent with the required information, they input that into their computer, and you get your monthly payment. The amount of insurance premiums you pay relies on various factors such as vehicle type, its use, its value, or even color in some places. But even with these variances, it’s a simple process, and pretty much anything can be insured.

With a rebuilt title, there are more grey areas. The vehicle’s value is not so easily calculated because being rebuilt significantly reduces a vehicle’s value. The other major thing to consider is you likely will not be able to get some things insured. For example, most companies will not offer comprehensive or replacement coverage on rebuilt titles.

2. Know the Vehicle’s Worth

BMW hybrid car
Image Credit: Capritography, Pixabay

The only reason you would be considering a rebuilt title is that you’re looking to keep some of those hard-earned dollars in your pocket. So, that’s why it’s important to know what the vehicle is worth before showing up to see one and discuss the deal with the salesman.

Salespeople are trained and motivated to get the most money possible for the product. It’s just the nature of the business. This doesn’t mean they are all slimy—because they certainly aren’t all crooked. However, if you don’t know beforehand what to expect for a price, then you will not be able to negotiate.

Many online sources can give you reliable information on what vehicles are worth. Even if you don’t know all the details about the rebuilt title you’re going to look at, if you have a general idea of what similar vehicles are going for used, you know to expect less for a price tag.

3. Hard to Gauge the Quality of Repairs

Repairing ferrari racing car

It’s true, a salvage title must be re-certified before it can be sold as rebuilt. This is all pretty heavily regulated, so it’s hard to fake. However, some dishonest folks out there will have shoddy repairs done and mask the quality, so the vehicle passes the certification.

Suppose you’re looking to purchase a rebuilt title. In that case, it’s not out of the question to ask for some receipts or records of the repairs that were done to help you gauge whether you’re satisfied with the quality of the work that was done.

At this point, if you meet a lot of resistance, then it might be best to pass. There is a fine line between the seller honestly not having all the information you want and trying to skirt the questions or avoiding giving it to you.

4. Watch Out for Title Washing

man holding paper
Image Credit: Piqsels

One dishonest practice to watch out for is called title washing. Most provinces and states have individually regulated systems for registration and insurance. So, it’s possible to transfer a vehicle out of province or state without declaring that it was salvaged or rebuilt. Then it is sold as a clean, used car.

This doesn’t happen as much anymore because regulatory bodies have clamped down on it. However, if something feels off or the seller isn’t forthcoming with information, those may be warning signs.

One surefire way to find out is to get the vehicle’s 16-digit VIN. With that information, you can get a report online, such as Carfax or Autocheck. These are not restricted to province or state regulations and will give you a comprehensive report of the entire life of the vehicle in question. Any reputable dealer would offer you this report at no charge—usually without being asked.

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As you can see, there is no right or wrong as to whether you should purchase a rebuilt title vehicle. If you’re patient and you get all the information, you can sometimes score a great deal. Just don’t get pressured into making a sale to save a couple of bucks. Also, when dealing with these kinds of purchases, it’s almost always a good idea to move on to the next seller if something feels off. There will always be another good deal to be had!

Featured Image Credit: Cytonn Photography, Unsplash


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