Rachael Brennan has been working in the insurance industry since 2006 when she began working as a licensed insurance representative for 21st Century Insurance, during which time she earned her Property and Casualty license in all 50 states. After several years she expanded her insurance expertise, earning her license in Health and AD&D insurance as well. She has worked for small health insuran...

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Chris Harrigan has an economic degree from Limestone College and an MBA from Clemson University. He previously managed auto insurance claims for Enterprise Rent-A-Car. Currently, he is using his business and insurance expertise to provide insurance data analysis and visualizations to enhance the user experience.

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Reviewed by Chris Harrigan
Former Auto Insurance Claims Manager Chris Harrigan

UPDATED: Aug 18, 2021

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Key takeaways...

  • Almost all vehicles with a rebuilt title had serious damage done before being “rebuilt” and new parts are not commonly used
  • Most salvage title or rebuilt title cars come from accidents where the car insurance company declares a vehicle as a “write-off” or total loss
  • Whenever you are purchasing a car you really need to check the title of the car to make sure it is of the same condition the seller has advertised
  • If you do happen to purchase a rebuilt car without knowledge there may be laws to protect you but this also depends on where you live

What defines a rebuilt title can vary according to where you live and specific state laws; however, there is a general definition that most vehicle background check services use.

What is a rebuilt title?

A “rebuilt title” is title placed on a vehicle previously destroyed but salvaged, restored and repaired for operation.

Almost all vehicles with a rebuilt title had serious damage done before being “rebuilt” and new parts are not commonly used.

Most people who rebuild vehicles use refurbished parts as they are much cheaper and in-line with an affordable rebuild process.

If a vehicle applies for a rebuilt title most states will require a vehicle inspection before any tags are issued allowing for the operating of the vehicle on roads.

Not all car insurance companies offer auto insurance policies for cars with a “rebuilt title” but some do (such as Progressive) offer competitive rates and coverage.

If you have or are considering purchasing a vehicle with a rebuilt title you need to compare car insurance companies. Use our FREE quote tool to compare auto insurance rates today!

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Where do salvage title cars come from?

Most salvage title or rebuilt title cars come from accidents where the car insurance company declares a vehicle as a “write-off” or total loss.

When a vehicle is tagged with the “salvage vehicle” title it can no longer be operated or issued a valid registration or license plates.

The car is then sold “AS IS” to a person or company who either (a) rebuilds vehicles or (b) buys salvaged vehicles for parts.

A salvaged vehicle can be rebuilt for sale again but must undergo a thorough inspection in order to get a “rebuilt title” and be allowed by the Department of Motor Vehicles to have new license plates/registration tags issued again.

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Can all salvage cars be rebuilt?

No. When a vehicle is given a salvage title these titles will normally indicate whether or not the vehicle is “rebuildable” or not. Cars with minor or cosmetic damage are ideal for being rebuilt.

If a vehicle has serious structural damage, it is unlikely that it can be rebuilt, and it is best to avoid rebuilding vehicles with electrical damage. A flood-damaged car is also not ideal. The car must conform to the laws in your state regarding street-legal vehicles.

For instance, you cannot drive a car with a cracked windshield or no seatbelts, rebuilt or otherwise.

In cases where the vehicle is marked as not rebuildable the vehicle’s only option is to be sold for parts.

What are the inspection requirements for a rebuilt vehicle?

Your rebuilt car must pass inspection, and the requirements and guidelines for rebuilt vehicles vary by state. You’ll almost certainly pay an inspection fee and you can usually schedule a salvage inspection at your local DMV. Many states require you to show receipts for the parts purchased and added to the car.

You’ll be given more information about the inspection process when you make your appointment. It is possible you will have to leave your vehicle at the inspection site overnight.

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Who can buy a salvage vehicle?

This depends on the state. In some states, anyone can show up at an auction or buy a salvage title car through a car insurance company but some states like Georgia require any individual or company purchasing a salvage vehicle for restoration to be licensed.

Whenever you are purchasing a car you really need to check the title of the car to make sure it is of the same condition the seller has advertised.

Many rebuilt cars often look like typical used cars however many consumers can agree the thought of buying a used car vs. a rebuilt car is not the same.

If you do happen to purchase a rebuilt car without knowledge there may be laws to protect you but this also depends on where you live.

Can you get car insurance for cars with salvage titles?

It’s highly recommended you always contact auto insurance carriers with a vehicle VIN number well ahead of signing any purchase documents as rebuilt title cars can pose a lot of headaches when it comes time to get car insurance coverage.

Some insurance providers will sell you liability insurance for a salvage car but will not offer collision comprehensive coverage.

Want to check car insurance rates? Get FREE car insurance quotes online for salvage title and rebuilt cars.

References:

  1. https://www.autotrader.com/car-shopping/buying-used-car-whats-rebuilt-title-236599
  2. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Salvage_title
  3. https://www.thebalance.com/pros-and-cons-of-a-salvage-title-car-527266
  4. https://www.autos.com/car-buying/a-rebuilt-car-title-pros-vs-cons
  5. https://cars.usnews.com/cars-trucks/best-cars-blog/2016/12/should-i-buy-a-car-with-a-salvage-title