Is Rebuilt Title Better Than Salvage?
Rebuilt title is not the same as Salvage title and which of the two is better for you depends on a number of factors. To start with, just a few facts about rebuilt and salvage titles, the difference between them and what they have in common.
- The major difference is the legal status. Salvage cars are not roadworthy and not insurable in most states, according to the law. Rebuilt titles are reconstructed or repaired salvage titles which were officially recognized roadworthy.
- A salvage vehicle is not necessarily a severely damaged vehicle that needs to be repaired or at least the amount of what needs to be repaired is not that great. It can be a theft recovery without any damage at all or have just external cosmetic damage. For example, indents from hail damage, numerous scratches received on a parking lot or multiple broken glass elements may be enough to total out a vehicle, especially an older one. You may need to do no repairs at all or just replace the broken windshield or other glass parts, have the car inspected and apply for the new title - and most states will recognize it operable and mail you the new rebuilt title. On the other hand, a rebuilt car could have suffered a severe damage, especially if it's a newer car of a premium or luxury class. Having a damaged engine, frame, transmission, brake system, water or fire damaged electric system, chassis, roof (particularly for convertibles) entails not just large repair costs but higher risk that the car will be fixed just anyhow to give it a decent look. Read about the value of rebuilt vehicles to better understand how it works.
- Rebuilt vehicles are generally more expensive than salvage ones because they are supposed to be repaired (work + parts expenses).
- Rebuilt cars are generally sold either by dealers or private persons who fixed them on their own or bought already in a rebuilt status. Salvage cars can be bought either at salvage auctions / salvage yards (cheaper) or from dealers (more expensive)
- Salvage vehicles may be sold "as is" without any repairs done at all, or they may be partially or even completely fixed by dealers but still have a salvage title. Rebuilt vehicles are those that were fixed - it they had a damage that affected their operability. Needless to say, prices will vary and fixed ones will be more expensive. At first glance, salvage cars without any repairs seem to be the worst choice because they need to be fixed, even if they are much cheaper. However, how can one be sure that repairs done to the rebuilt vehicle are actually worth the price difference and that the vehicle is even safe and won't cost you a fortune to service?
- Salvage and rebuilt title laws vary from state to state. For example, in some states, like Ohio, the only purpose of DMV inspections preceding re-titling is to make sure no stolen parts were used in the car. No safety or mechanical guarantees. In some states, a vehicle can get a rebuilt title only after meeting certain mechanical and safety requirements. For example, in California a special inspection certifies that brakes and lights are in proper operable state. In some states, vehicles get a rebuilt title after being used for some time in a salvage status and passing a few inspections. The latter, even with a salvage title, may be a less risky choice and have a higher value an Ohio rebuilt car
- In some states there are age limitations for vehicles that can get a rebuilt title.
As you see, the choice depends on many factors and often it's hard to say for sure which one is better - salvage or rebuilt car. Take into account the following:
How much of your time and efforts you are ready to invest into repairing, searching for parts or someone who can do it all for you, and, finally inspecting and re-titling it the car. Do you have facilities, equipment, strength, time and skills for that? Optionally, a reliable mechanic / bodyshop to fix the car for you at a decent cost? Then buying a salvage car can be a better idea than a rebuilt title. You buy it at the lowest possible price (sometimes just dirt cheap), know what you get and you have a full or at least a better control of all repair procedures and investments. Rebuilt titles are more expensive due to prior investment but the quality and actual cost of repairs done and, accordingly, the value you get are questionable.
The damage. The damage is always the primary factor when estimating the value, repairability and safety of a salvage or rebuilt car. If the damage is from the light or minor category, like cosmetic, stripped off parts or just a theft recovery, and you are not handy with cars and have no time and desire for fixing and re-titling a salvage car, go through all the bureaucratic routine, safety inspection in order to get a roadworthy status, then buying a rebuilt car is a better idea. You get a roadworthy vehicle by the law and you can drive it. In any case, you'll need to hire and independent mechanic to inspect it before buying.
Dealer's reputation. Some dealers or body shops actually do a great repair job, even on totally wrecked cars. Some do just a great a rip-off job on buyers. A salvage title from the first type is a way better choice than a rebuilt title from the second type.
In some states, only licensed dealers and autoshops can buy, repair and re-title salvage vehicles. Make sure the law of the state allows you to hanlde a salvage if you choose to buy one and reconcstruct it on your own.