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

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. Find a used car for sale near you

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.

Recommendations for Affordable Used Cars:

Editor’s Note: This article has been updated for accuracy since it was originally published.

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