Rebuilt car titles

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When dealing with rebuilt car titles, it pays to be extra cautious. (Photo: flickr.com)

When dealing with rebuilt car titles, it pays to be extra cautious. (Photo: flickr.com)

If you’re in the market for a used vehicle, you may run across rebuilt car titles. While the definition varies from state to state, authorities like CarFax define rebuilt car titles as titles attached to salvaged vehicles that have been repaired and restored to working condition and passed inspection. In most cases, such vehicles had previously suffered severe damage due to an accident, vandalism, fire or natural disaster such as flooding.

It’s generally been declared a “total loss”

Once an auto insurance company deems a car a total loss, it becomes a salvage vehicle. At that point, it cannot be driven on a highway or bear a valid license plate. If an auto rebuilder wants to buy it as a project or for parts, the salvage car is sold “AS IS.” If the vehicle is restored, inspection must occur and a rebuilt car title must be obtained. Once inspection is passed and a rebuilt car title has been issued, the car can be driven on a highway. Please consult your state’s motor vehicle authority regarding requirements for obtaining rebuilt car titles.

Requirements vary by state

Florida is one example. If a wreck is considered a total loss, a salvage title must be obtained. The salvage title will indicate whether the car can be rebuilt or not. If the latter is the case, the vehicle must be sold for parts. Some states make notations on a vehicle’s title if the damages exceed a certain percentage of the vehicle’s retail value. In Nevada, certain repairs warrant that a vehicle be marked as “rebuilt,” even if they don’t meet the definition of a salvage vehicle. For the record, one or more of the following parts apply:

  • Front inner structure from a uni-body
  • Roof
  • Cowl
  • Rear clip
  • Floor pan
  • Frame and one other major part

Who can perform the inspection for rebuilt car titles?

Again, the requirements vary by state. Generally, both a licensed garage or body shop and your local auto licensing authority are required to inspect the car. The authority must use the Certificate of Inspection for Rebuilt Vehicles (Not Salvage). If the original title is still in existence, it must be given to your auto licensing authority. They will issue you a rebuilt car title that clearly reads “rebuilt.”

Car Deal Expert advises you to exercise healthy caution

Just because a vehicle has a rebuilt car title doesn’t mean you should run the other way. On the contrary, if you have a mechanic you trust inspect the car thoroughly before buying and obtain a full vehicle history, you’ll know exactly what you’re getting into. Before you buy, contact your insurance company as well, because not all companies will ensure cars with salvage or rebuilt car titles.

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