Should I Buy a Car With a Rebuilt Title?

Whether you’re searching for a bargain on Marketplace, or been offered one by a dealer, it’s really tempting to buy a car that’s been rebuilt. This usually happens when the car has been scrapped after an accident or possibly after a flood or fire. Is it high risk or high return? Should one buy a car with a rebuilt title?


You should consider buying a car with a rebuilt title. However, be aware that it is a gamble. It could pay off handsomely or cost much more in the long run than buying the same car with a clean title.


The Definition of Rebuilt Title

A clean title car, as the name implies, has never been in a collision severe enough for the insurer to scrap the car or register it as a salvage vehicle.


Many cars with a salvage title are repaired to the extent that they look as good as new. But beware – they are not allowed on the road and may hide some serious defects.


A rebuilt title is issued by the state DMV (Department of Motor Vehicles) when it has proof, through invoices, before- and after-photographs, and a thorough inspection that the car has been repaired to pre-accident condition. It is then considered safe to return to the road.

Pros and Cons of Buying a Car with a Rebuilt Title

“Rebuilt” is not a guarantee that the car is as good as a clean title one. It depends very much on the circumstances in which the car was given a salvage title.


However, not all vehicles with a rebuilt title have been accident damaged and may still be totally reliable – for example, those written off by the insurer due to hail damage. So, you can pick up an excellent car for up to 50% less than the price of a clean title example.


On the con side of the scale, the car you buy may have hidden defects that only emerge later, and it carries the rebuilt title for life, so it is difficult to re-sell. We’ll look at the advantages and disadvantages of buying a car with a rebuilt title in detail a little later, but you need to be very careful before going ahead with the deal.  


Buying a Car With A Rebuilt Title


Considerations Before Buying a Car With A Rebuilt Title

As we’ve mentioned, there’s a reason why a car was given a salvage title and then later a rebuilt title, and you need to get the complete picture of exactly why this happened.


There have been horror stories about cars bought with a rebuilt title that proved undrivable, with hidden defects that could not be repaired. Conversely, many buyers of salvage title cars have been given a rebuilt title and provided reliable, safe, and comfortable transport for years, at a fraction of the cost of a clean title example. 


Research The Vehicle’s History

Suppose you’re buying from a reputable dealer (which we strongly recommend). In that case, you should be provided with a full-service history of the car, including all maintenance and service history, ownership details, and damage that has been repaired. You may get this information from a private seller, but there’s no guarantee that it will be accurate.


Check with Your State’s DMV

The DMV that issued the rebuilt title will have full details, including invoices and before- and after- photographs of precisely what has been done to repair the car. You are entitled to request this information from them before you buy the vehicle.


Get a Professional Inspection

Unfortunately, not all DMVs are equally efficient, and some issue rebuilt titles without doing a thorough inspection of the car. Repairs are sometimes done out of state to avoid inspections. Some dealers may even remove newly fitted parts after the rebuilt title has been issued.


For these reasons, it’s essential to have an independent expert inspect the car to ensure the repair work has been done correctly and the car is roadworthy.


Advantages of Buying a Rebuilt Title Car


Advantages of Buying a Rebuilt Title Car

  • Cost saving is the most obvious advantage of buying a rebuilt car. Because it was damaged, most buyers will avoid the risks involved in buying what a salvaged vehicle was. If you’re prepared to take the chance, you can pick up an outright bargain.
  • Quality – a car with a rebuilt title has been inspected so you can get a full report on its condition. You should be able to check on what damage was done and what has been done to repair it. A car with a clean title might have been damaged and repaired, but without proof, you’ve no way of knowing what condition the car is in.
  • Not all rebuilt title cars are accident damaged. You could pick up an excellent car that’s been scrapped because of, say, hail damage to the body which costs too much to repair. If you’re willing to drive it “as is” or repair it yourself, you’ve got a reliable car at a discounted price.  
  • The parts may be worth more than you paid. Especially if there are many new replacement parts in the rebuilt car, breaking it up and selling the individual parts could bring in much more than you paid for the complete car.

Disadvantages of Buying a Car with a Rebuilt Title

  • Difficulty Insuring the Vehicle – many insurers won’t provide cover for a car with a rebuilt title, while others will increase the premium because the car has been rebuilt. So, the cost savings may be reduced by the increased cost of insuring your rebuilt title vehicle.
  • Difficulty Selling the Vehicle – just as you were able to purchase the car for a drastically reduced price, you will find that buyers are reluctant to make an offer unless your price is way under market value.
  • Financing may be challenging, and the finance house may value the car less than you need and charge a higher-than-normal interest rate.


The pros of buying a car with a rebuilt title are based on the potentially substantial cost savings. In contrast, the cons revolve around the quality of repairs and the reliability of the rebuilt car, and whether it will cost more than it’s worth to keep it on the road.

 There’s always the chance of buying a “lemon” with any car purchase, but that chance is much higher when buying one with a rebuilt title. However, if you’re careful and do all the homework necessary to learn about the car, you’ll reduce the risk considerably. Many very satisfied buyers will confirm that you should, with all these precautions, feel safe about buying a car with a rebuilt title.

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