Rebuilt Title Due to Theft Recovery
If you are buying a vehicle with "Rebuilt Title Due to Theft" (aka Theft Recovery) you want to make sure it didn't receive any serious damage. An important thing to understand is when the vehicle gets totaled due to theft there is no need for the insurance company to take into account other damage it might receive because there is no need to make any repair calculations. The major reason for writing it off you'll see on the title will be 'theft'.
Is it a good buy?
Although a stolen car is a used car buyer's nightmare and the biggest red flag one is watching out for when checking a used vehicle's history, the statements on the title rebuilt title: theft recovery or rebuilt title due to theft aren't so bad at all. On the contrary, a rebuilt title after theft can be a great buy, on the following 3 conditions:
- You are not planning to resell it at a normal price or as a trade-in and want to use for a long period. Technically, such an ex-stolen vehicle may be absolutely roadworthy, and can even be safer and in a better condition than other rebuilt autos because it could have suffered no damage at all, unlike common rebuilt cars which get fixed after being exposed to a damage fixing which costs it by 70-75% of its market value. On practice, I don't recommend to include the money from selling such a vehicle into your financial plans.
- You check the vehicle's history by VIN and see no issues/warnings/discrepancies
- You see no airbag deplyoment on its history, any time back
- You have it examined by a mechanic (only after history check simply becuase inspection is way more expensive!) for unseen problems, especially if it had an airbag deployment but you still want that vehicle
If the word theft appears on the title or elsewhere on the DMV issued papers along with recovery you may rest assured that the vehicle will not give you any problems with the police and the vehicle won't be seized from you. It was successfully registered with it's theft recovery history because nobody is searching for that car any longer - it was found and the previous owner it was stolen from received settlement form the insurer while the latter became the new owner. As a rule, settlement is paid when the vehicle is not found within 3 weeks - 30 days.
How a Stolen Vehicle Gets a Rebuilt title
In some states, salvage titles are given not just to damaged cars, but also to stolen vehicles, either if the insurance claim is paid before the vehicle is found or if the recovered vehicle suffered certain damage and cost of repairing it higher than 70-85% of its market value. Such states are AZ, FL, GA, IL, MD, MN, NJ, NM, NY, OK and OR. When the vehicle is found, it becomes the property of the insurance company and then is sold at a salvage auction or back to be owner. In either case, the recovered auto will have a salvage for a lifetime, as the law requires in most states. Later, it can be inspected, recognized roadworthy and get a rebuilt or rebuilt salvage title, which also can never be converted into a "clean" one. Although stolen cars can be abandoned, stripped or vandalized, the interior may be damaged or the audio ripped out, as a rule, such autos are generally in a good condition: there is no use for the criminals in damaging the plunder and thus decreasing the value of the cars they are going to resell. However, sometimes major parts like transmission or engine a taken off and resold. To avoid this, you need to match the engine and the VIN number and if they don't match, check the vehicle history report for any engine replacement records. Quote often, recovered vehicles have no damage at all - these are actually great buys. Be cautions here: dealers know that you know that theft recovery rebuilt cars are from the "best buys" category, and they will almost certainly try to avail themselves of this. You'll be told that the car received salvage title due to theft, not physical damage, with the hope that you swallow the bait any buy it without any concerns. However, remember that it can be damaged. It's a totaled out vehicle so the insurer doesn't care much. Have it inspected before you buy and make sure the mechanic who does it for you is not related to the seller in any way.
Can rebuilt title be issued for a stolen vehicle still searched by the police?
In theory, it can - because title washing scam still works and VIN numbers are faked to cover tracks. However, even in this case there is a chance to notice that the current title status in inconsistent with the clean history attached to the VIN! To avoid a stolen car with a rebuilt title (or any other title), always take the following steps prior to buying:
- Always get full vehicle history report. But don't content yourself with the records about the current title state you may receive at the DMV or even at you state's police office because authorities in different states sometimes fail to transfer vital car history data to each other. Get vehicle history reports from online VIN check companies because they specialize in collecting every bit of information associated with a used vehicle across the states. They pull information from about 100,000 sources, including car auctions, insurance and finance companies, police records, body shops and other.
- Always make sure the VIN is genuine, a fake VIN means checking a wrong history of a rebuilt title vehicle. Although VIN number inspection and verification is a mandatory procedure before the DMV allows you to register the vehicle, you should know what to watch out for: any signs of repainting, molding or filing (if the VIN is printed or etched), scratches around or printing on the VIN plate (if the VIN is on the plate), non-matching digits and letters, letters I, O, Q in the VIN.
- If the seller is telling you a rebuilt car received a salvage title due to theft, get a car history report and check it for in reality there might be an accident as well. But, as the vehicle has been stolen the grounds for totaling it out will be theft and not the accident as the theft happened and was reported to the police before any damage. A dishonet seller may tell you anything to sell the vehicle.
- If you are not a car pro get it inspected by a mechanic. In many states, the only purpose of mandatory inspection by the DMV before assigning a salvage vehicle with a roadworthy title, like rebuilt, revived and other equivalents (depending on the state) is to verify that the VIN is not forged and no stolen parts or parts from stolen vehicles are used it it. Safety is not always checked. The problem of its actual value, possible issues, failures and reapir costs in future are laid on the new owner.