Car Buying

Buying a Used Car: What's a Rebuilt Title?

RELATED READING
RESEARCH BY MAKE
Toyota cars, trucks and SUVs Ford cars, trucks and SUVs Honda cars, trucks and SUVs Chevrolet cars, trucks and SUVs Jeep cars, trucks and SUVs Nissan cars, trucks and SUVs Lexus cars, trucks and SUVs Volkswagen cars, trucks and SUVs BMW cars, trucks and SUVs
Acura cars, trucks and SUVs Alfa Romeo cars, trucks and SUVs AMC cars, trucks and SUVs Aston Martin cars, trucks and SUVs Audi cars, trucks and SUVs Bentley cars, trucks and SUVs BMW cars, trucks and SUVs Bugatti cars, trucks and SUVs Buick cars, trucks and SUVs Cadillac cars, trucks and SUVs Chevrolet cars, trucks and SUVs Chrysler cars, trucks and SUVs Daewoo cars, trucks and SUVs Datsun cars, trucks and SUVs DeLorean cars, trucks and SUVs Dodge cars, trucks and SUVs Eagle cars, trucks and SUVs Ferrari cars, trucks and SUVs FIAT cars, trucks and SUVs Fisker cars, trucks and SUVs Ford cars, trucks and SUVs Freightliner cars, trucks and SUVs Genesis cars, trucks and SUVs Geo cars, trucks and SUVs GMC cars, trucks and SUVs Honda cars, trucks and SUVs HUMMER cars, trucks and SUVs Hyundai cars, trucks and SUVs INFINITI cars, trucks and SUVs Isuzu cars, trucks and SUVs Jaguar cars, trucks and SUVs Jeep cars, trucks and SUVs Kia cars, trucks and SUVs Lamborghini cars, trucks and SUVs Land Rover cars, trucks and SUVs Lexus cars, trucks and SUVs Lincoln cars, trucks and SUVs Lotus cars, trucks and SUVs Maserati cars, trucks and SUVs Maybach cars, trucks and SUVs Mazda cars, trucks and SUVs McLaren cars, trucks and SUVs Mercedes-Benz cars, trucks and SUVs Mercury cars, trucks and SUVs MINI cars, trucks and SUVs Mitsubishi cars, trucks and SUVs Nissan cars, trucks and SUVs Oldsmobile cars, trucks and SUVs Plymouth cars, trucks and SUVs Pontiac cars, trucks and SUVs Porsche cars, trucks and SUVs RAM cars, trucks and SUVs Rolls-Royce cars, trucks and SUVs Saab cars, trucks and SUVs Saturn cars, trucks and SUVs Scion cars, trucks and SUVs smart cars, trucks and SUVs SRT cars, trucks and SUVs Subaru cars, trucks and SUVs Suzuki cars, trucks and SUVs Tesla cars, trucks and SUVs Toyota cars, trucks and SUVs Volkswagen cars, trucks and SUVs Volvo cars, trucks and SUVs Yugo cars, trucks and SUVs
RESEARCH BY STYLE
AWD/4WD
Commercial
Convertible
Coupe
Hatchback
Hybrid/Electric
Luxury
Sedan
SUV/Crossover
Truck
Van/Minivan
Wagon

author photo by Doug DeMuro March 2015

If you're buying a used car, you might see the phrase "rebuilt title" in the listing. What exactly does this mean? Has the title been rebuilt, or does this refer to the car? Regardless of the definition, how might this kind of issue affect the vehicle? Here's an explanation of what a rebuilt title is and whether you should consider a car listed as having one.

What's a Rebuilt Title?

If a car has had a normal life, meaning that it's never been in a serious accident, never had the odometer rolled back and was never bought back by the manufacturer because of a defect, it's said to have a clean title. That title is free of any title brands that denote special status and warn potential buyers of a possible problem or issue with the car.

If a car has been in an accident and is declared totaled (a total loss due to accident damage) by an insurance company, it's clean title is replaced with a salvage one. The salvage title lets potential buyers know that there has been an accident and that the car may not be safe to drive.

Once a vehicle is fixed after earning a salvage title, it's given a rebuilt title. In most cases, a rebuilt title is only provided after the car has been fixed and inspected by the state or jurisdiction that issues titles. If the repairs were satisfactory, the title is changed from "salvage" to "rebuilt" in order to reflect the repairs that were performed and note that the car is now fixed.

Should You Avoid a Rebuilt Title Car?

Since a car with a rebuilt title has been in an accident severe enough to earn it a salvage title, you might think you should avoid it altogether. And you may be right. After all, such damage can be destructive to a car's structural integrity, even if repairs were comprehensive enough to earn it a rebuilt title.

But you shouldn't always avoid a car with a rebuilt title. In some cases, these cars have been professionally rebuilt to a standard almost as high as the factory's, and that means they should suffer no serious consequences compared to a car with a clean title. Resale value is affected, however: Cars with rebuilt titles sell for much less money than their clean-title counterparts, and they're often good deals if they've been rebuilt properly.

How Can You Tell If It's Been Rebuilt Properly?

The main problem with buying a rebuilt title car is that there's no real way to know how well its repairs have been carried out. As a result, we strongly suggest having any rebuilt title car closely checked over by a competent mechanic to assess the damage and how well it's been repaired.

We also suggest calling your insurance company to make sure they'll offer a policy for a car with a rebuilt title. In many cases, insurance companies have trouble valuing a car with a rebuilt title, and they might not want to offer full coverage on a vehicle whose integrity could be compromised.

In general, we'd stay away from cars with rebuilt titles, since they've been in major accidents. While it's true these cars were repaired, it's hard to know exactly how good the repairs were. However, if the car is approved by a trusted mechanic and if the repair quality is excellent, buying a used car with a rebuilt title can be a great way to get a good deal on a used vehicle.

This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
Buying a Used Car: What's a Rebuilt Title? - Autotrader