Rebuilt Car Title Explained

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Here's what you need to know...
  • A salvaged titled car cannot be legally allowed on the road until it is repaired and inspected
  • After paying a small fee for the “Substitute Title”, and providing them with the inspection records, you should be able to have your title changed back to clean
  • Many traditional banks won’t give you a loan when buying a car with a rebuilt title


A rebuilt car title is when a car is fixed up after being under the salvaged title moniker.

A salvaged title is when a car has been in an accident, theft or natural disaster, and the insurance company has deemed the car totaled, unsafe to drive and “writes it off” as a complete loss.

A salvaged titled car cannot be legally allowed on the road until it is repaired and inspected. Once the car is road ready again, then the title changes from salvaged to a rebuilt title.

Read further for more information and answers about rebuilt car titles.

Just enter your zip code to use the free online comparison tool on this page now to see how rebuilt titles can affect your car insurance quotes from company to company!

Can a rebuilt title ever be changed to a clean title again?

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No, it cannot. This is to protect the consumer.

To make sure an individual who is not familiar with the inner workings of a car (which is most of us), laws have been put into place where once a car has been in a wreck and labeled by the insurance company as unsafe to drive, that no matter how well the car is fixed up it can never lose the rebuilt title.

Are all rebuilt title cars equal?

No, absolutely not. If you can find out why the car has a rebuilt title, it will make your decision to purchase the vehicle a more educated one.

Cars can have a rebuilt title because they were stolen, had water damage, in a fire, or in a rollover accident on a freeway.

Depending on what was stolen from the car, it may be worth it to buy the vehicle. Were the wheels and fixtures taken from the car, or did the thief gutted the electrical components of the automobile?

If the car was in an accident, was the outside body severely dented, and thus needed simple body work? Or did the car land in a lake and had extreme water damage that still may cause electrical issues even after it is allowed to be on the road?

What do you do if you know your title is clean but comes up rebuilt?

If you are the original owner of the vehicle, how do you convince the car dealer that when running your VIN and a rebuilt title appears, that this information is wrong?

You want that sleek jet-black convertible, but it will never be yours if you cannot prove that your 8-year-old American made sedan has a clean title. Here are the steps you need to take:

  • Get your vehicle inspected and let the technician know you are trying to prove that your car should not have a rebuilt title.
  • Go to the DMV and fill out the “Application for Change of Title.”
  • Also at the DMV you will need to fill out “Application for Supplemental Lien, Replacement Title, Transfer of Lien Substitute Title.”

After giving the DMV roughly a $10 fee for the “Substitute Title,” and providing them with the inspection records, you should be able to have your title changed back to clean.

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Are there benefits of buying a car with a rebuilt title?

Yes, absolutely. For one, any car with a rebuilt title should cost you 40-50 percent less than the price of the car if it had a clean title.

So if you could never afford a luxury car like a BMW, Mercedes, Lexus, etc. this could be a way to get into a car for an inexpensive price.

Also, if you are mechanically inclined and know your way around an automobile, then you won’t have apprehensions about buying a rebuilt titled car once you inspect it yourself.

What concerns should you have about a rebuilt title?

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Don’t buy a car with a rebuilt title if you want to sell it in a few years. It’s pretty hard to make a profit on a second generation rebuilt titled car.

Also, many traditional banks won’t give you a loan when buying a car with a rebuilt title; or if they do, they may ask for a larger down payment due to the risk.

You will need to find a specialty auto loan provider for purchasing cars with rebuilt titles.

Moreover, it will be a bit more difficult to find car insurance companies that cover rebuilt title cars.

Before purchasing a rebuilt title vehicle, you should investigate both the insurance rates and loan options to make sure these costs fit into your overall auto budget.

To find out what kind of benefits you can get with a clean or rebuilt title, type your zip code into the free comparison tool and get several car insurance quotes now!

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