Should I avoid buying a car with a rebuilt title? If a vehicle has been previously damaged badly enough to warrant a salvage title, it is foolish to take a chance on it. Severe damage can compromise a car’s structural integrity, so even if repairs were comprehensive enough to earn it a rebuilt title, it may not be entirely sound. A seller of a rebuilt vehicle will often say a small branch fell on it or it was a lite hit. Do not believe the stories.
Is the car insurable? Insurance companies have a difficult time placing a value on a car with a rebuilt title, so they might be hesitant to offer full coverage on a vehicle whose integrity they believe might be compromised. Some insurance companies may actually even refuse to cover a car that has a rebuilt or reconstructed title at all.
A rebuilt title refers to a vehicle that had a salvage title and has then been restored to roadworthy condition. Salvage titles are issued for cars that have been damaged in a crash, accident or weather event (like a flood) and are deemed by an insurance company to be totaled and too badly damaged to justify the repair costs.
When the cost of repairing a vehicle damaged in a crash approaches the value of the vehicle itself, an insurance company will “total it out” instead of paying to have it fixed. Sometimes the vehicle is technically repairable, but the insurance company is choosing not to have it fixed because it will cost too much. Other times the vehicle will have such significant damage that it can’t be repaired (this is common when the frame of the vehicle has been bent or damaged in a crash; repairing this is impossible).
When the salvage title is issued, the car is usually sold to someone else, who may choose to scrap the vehicle or rebuild it depending upon the extent of the damage.
It’s crucial to know whether or not you’re dealing with a salvaged vehicle or junk car because there might be flood damage or other hidden problems which could affect its safety or reliability. Sometimes the damage is so severe that a vehicle can’t be expected to operate safely or properly again, and it is unethical and/or illegal to fix and sell these cars. Yet unscrupulous dealers or sellers try to do so anyway.
How extensive was the damage and where were the repairs performed? It is important to know that a quality repair job was done and that no corners were cut. You want to make sure that the parts used in the repair are good ones and built to factory specifications and that any welding will hold. Unethical shops may use substandard parts or put parts into the car only until they receive the new title then switch them back out for the damaged ones. Even worse, they may patch a car back together when it really just should have been retired from the road.
How can I tell if a car has been rebuilt appropriately? Because there is no foolproof way to know for certain how well repairs have been done, you should always have any car with a rebuilt title thoroughly examined by a certified independent mechanic.
Even if the car is not actually unsafe to operate, skipping this step can result in expensive breakdowns and problems that end up costing you more to repair than what you originally paid for the vehicle. Just remember: it can be difficult to sell such a car later on down the line (and if you do, it will be for far less than the same vehicle with a clean title), so unless you’re planning to keep it for a long time, you may not want a car with a rebuilt title.