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The following is for informational purposes only

What is a Rebuilt Title? 

Rebuilt Title

You may or may not have heard the term “rebuilt title”; however, if you are in the market for a used car, you will want to know exactly what it means and how it could affect you.

What is a Rebuilt Title?

After hearing the term, you may wonder what does rebuilt title mean? When an automobile has a title status of rebuilt, it means that the car or truck has suffered major damage either through natural conditions (weather, flood, fire) or a collision. The insurance company or state Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) declared it “totaled” and gave it a salvage title. If the car can be restored to working condition that is road-safe, the DMV will issue a rebuilt title. Although the insurance company deems the vehicle salvage and not worth repairing, that doesn’t mean that someone with the money and means could not restore it back to perfect condition.

A rebuilt title simply means that a car or truck that previously had a salvage title has been repaired to be roadworthy and thus now has a rebuilt title.

Rebuilt Title vs. Salvage Title - What is the Difference?

Rebuilt Title vs. Salvage Title - What is the Difference?

The difference between a salvage title and a rebuilt title is that it cannot be legally driven on the road when the car has a salvage title. The insurance company has “totaled” it, and the DMV has issued a salvage title, meaning it is not safe to operate on the highways and roads. You cannot register a salvage title vehicle, either.

A rebuilt title is only issued after repairs are made, and the DMV feels confident enough that the car or truck is safe to be on the road. In some cases, vehicles that have been stolen and lost for a specific number of days are declared a total loss.

Each state has specific laws regarding qualifications of rebuilt titles, so you should consult your insurance agent or local DMV office for more information on what qualifies in your area. If the car or truck has a junk title, it cannot be restored or driven ever again; it can only be used for scrap metal or parts.

Can a Rebuilt Title Be Cleared?

Unfortunately, once a car has been issued a rebuilt title, it will never again have a clean title. There is no process to clean it, at least not legally. However, some criminals try to sell vehicles in other states where the title is not accepted and “wash” it to clean again. However, be warned those vehicles are probably not safe to drive on the road.

Some salvage titles may be cleaned but not rebuilt titles.

Is a Rebuilt Title More Expensive to Insure?

Is a Rebuilt Title More Expensive to Insure?

The question of insurance with a rebuilt title car is a tricky one. In some states, insurance companies do not want to take a chance with a rebuilt title vehicle. You may have a hard time insuring it, and if you do, they may charge a lot more.

Often, the insurance company may agree to insure a rebuilt title vehicle, but first, they need to put the car through a bunch of tests for safety and quality purposes. Even then, it may still be difficult for the vehicle to qualify for collision or comprehensive insurance.

If you can get your rebuilt title car insured, then it might make good sense to purchase one.

The Pros and Cons of Buying a Car with a Rebuilt Title

You may be asking yourself, is it ok to buy a car with a rebuilt title? When buying a car with a rebuilt title, there are a few things you need to consider.

The Pros and Cons of Buying a Car with a Rebuilt Title


  • First, because the car once had a salvage title and was deemed too expensive to repair and not worth the effort, it means the car’s value has dropped. Therefore, you could purchase one for a lot less money than a vehicle without a rebuilt title (even 50% less).
  • If you are looking for a good car for parts, a rebuilt title makes perfect sense.
  • Salvage and junkyards may also find rebuilt title cars of interest for selling parts to their customers.


  • You may have trouble getting the car insured.
  • Even though it may look and run fine at first, you may experience problems down the road.
  • You might have trouble selling it; a lot of dealers won’t take a rebuilt title in trade and private buyers may shy away from a rebuilt title car.
  • If you can sell it, the value will be far less than a car with a clean title.

Tips for Buying a Rebuilt Title Car

If you decide that you are ok with buying a rebuilt title car, you should follow the tips below to ensure you don’t get a lemon.

Tips for Buying a Rebuilt Title Car
  • Have a good mechanic perform a full workup on it. Inspect mechanical and electrical systems for remaining damage or potential issues.
  • Check with your insurance company to make sure they will insure it.
  • Perform a VIN number check and get the car’s full history report.
  • Ask a lot of questions about the damage and ask to see the documentation.
  • Talk to the person who restored the vehicle and assess their qualifications.
  • Do some online research to see what the value of a rebuilt vehicle of that make/model would be to make a fair offer.
  • Weigh the options of whether or not it makes sense to buy a clean title car or a rebuilt title vehicle.

Ask the following questions about the car and why it was rebuilt:

  • What type of damage did it incur?
  • How extensive was the damage to the car?
  • Who repaired the car and what are his or her qualifications?
  • Has the frame been appropriately aligned?
  • Can I see documentation on the damage and the repairs?

The option of buying a rebuilt title car is a personal decision you have to make for yourself. However, if you do all your homework, are comfortable with the results, and can get the car registered and insured satisfactorily, it might save you a lot of money.

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