Should I check the history of a rebuilt vehicle by VIN?
A rebuilt auto needs history check by VIN because awareness of the branded title is not enough to make a buying decision you won't regret, or reject a deal that might be really beneficial for you if only your have had more data at your disposal. The reason is that the title brand is more than a mere indicator of the vehicle's lowered value and difficulties finding financing and full coverage. The fact that the vehicle is roadworthy and the state issuing the title allows to drive it on public roads and highways, buy and sell as any normal vehicle (as opposed to savlage which cannot be driven according to the law and in some states can only be bought and fixed by licensed bodyshops) also does not shield from problems.
Branded title disclosure is mandatory in all states, regardless of the diversity of automotive laws and, specifically, those controlling the conversion of totaled cars, trucks, motorcycles, SUVs and buses back into legally drivable vehicles. But automotive laws and those regulating assignment of branded titles may vary significantly from state to state, as well as the way pre-registration inspections for rebuilt vehicles are conducted. This means that a vehicle deemed good only for parts in one state may be rebuildable in another state and a vehicle that won't pass a pre-titling inspection in one state may have a better luck in another.
For instance, in CT a vehicle having ten or more major component parts damaged is deemed beyond repair and is good only for parts. Other states have lax standards. A vehicle with a damaged frame won't be eligible for reconstruction is one state because its ability to protect people inside the salon is impaired, even if it is straightened and welded. It's alignment and positioning of substantial parts is also broken and the vehicle becomes unbalanced. But it may be fixed and registered in another state with less strict requirements or depending on the extent of the damage, type of the frame and other factors. These are just a couple of short examples. This lack of centralization results in a number of cracks in the wall that holds back the influx of defective vehicles into the market.
Why is VIN check on a rebuilt vehicle so necessary and how does it help?
The vehicle history report for a rebuilt vehilce is as crucial as for any used vehicle. You want to know as much as possible of the reason why the vehicle was totaled and its condition before it was fixed.
First, the fact that the vehicle acquired a rebuilt status and, consequently, was once totaled does not mean that it didn't have issues before or after total loss, while the buyer's attention is often fixed on the total loss incident, completely missing out other critical data.
Second, you want to know when the vehicle was totaled. If the vehicle was relatively new at that moment writing it off implies a severe damage and such vehicles should be approached with great caution simply because they may be unsafe. You can read more about age / value / damage correlation here.
Third, unfortunately, specific damage type is not always mentioned on the title and you can only find out about it via history reports combined with salvage auction report with photos, where the vehicle is shown as it was before any repairs and visual improvements were inmpelented.
Fourth, if you think of buying a rebuilt vehicle and you are not a car expert you will have to bring your own mechanic to inspect it and test-drive it with you. This procedure is costly so you want to have only those options examined that worth the money spent. VIN history report helps sift the weak candidates out from the very beginning.
Below are just a few examples of what a rebuilt vehicle may hide and how a VIN report not just comes handy but helps you out of a disastrous purchase.
The vehicle has a rebuilt title with no extra information on the title other that the obvious fact that is was a salvage in the past, which in predominantly occurs due to a collision damage. It appears safe and undamaged on the outside and inside. You see repair receipts and see that none of major functional components have been damaged or replaced. But there are types of damage you want to avoid at all costs, they include water damage. This is a most treacherous damage notirous for leaving the vehicle intact on the outside and even inside, with all the pernicious effects postponed and this timespan is enough to sell the vehicle. Although many states will keep a flood damage alert on the title once the vehicle is deemed salvage due to flooding, it's not alwas like that. You might suspect water damage if you know that the car was registered and received a salvage title in a state / region prone to natural disaster in time or after such a disaster took place. By means of VIN check you can verify that with certaintly because even if the title does not mention the type of loss that occurred the history records specify the damage and, which is important, all the locations the vehicle was registered at.
Your are having a 10-year-old hail damaged vehicle and even its auction data at hand. You know that the primary damage is cosmetic so you assume vehicle is fully operable and safe and your only concern is to prevent corrosion of its exterior. You are unable to fix all the outer body defects immediately but you are ready to dirve it like that. You don't know that 9 years ago the vehicle was is a collision which didn't total it but caused an airbag deployment. As the actual chash value of the vehicle at that time was high enough, repairing rather than totaling made sense. Unfortunately, airbag scams leaving the driver without protection in an accident are quite widespread because airbags are expensive to replace.
You want to be aware about airbag deployment to run extra checks with specialized tools during prepurchase inspection or search for anther vehicle. If you see no loan/lien on the history associated with the current owner before the airbag deployment these is a change that the vehicle was not financed and possibly had no comprehensive coverage so the owner might choose not to reinstall airbags at that time. The bodyshop that fixed the vehicle for the unsurance company might also be uncrupulous. The seller must disclose about airbag issues to the buyer by the law but sellers don't always do so and the buyer may find out about a missing of inoperable airbags only during a collision. It may be too late to sue the seller then and the lawsuits like taht are not the best place to invest your efforts, all the more they can be avoided if you have a VIN report for a rebuilt auto.
The vehicle failed to comply with state emission requirements multiple times after being rebuilt. Savlage vehicle reconstruction is often done with used parts because new parts are unaffordable for a significantly devaluated vehicle. Sometimes vehicles get a branded title simply after replacement of a major part like engine with another, used engine. A malfunctining engine may cause a lot of trouble down the road, statring from huge maintenance and repir bills and to non-comliance with the state's emission regulations.
Rebuilt / reconstrucred vehicles are not always those that have sustained damage. Theft recoveries are a separate category that may have no damage at all, although it is unlikely that you buy such a vehicle cheap unless it is salvage and you buy it from an auction. Sometimes restored Antique or Classic autos or thier replicas assembled by auto enthusiasts are titled as reconstruced but that a unique, separate case.