A rebuilt title is a repaired salvage vehicle. Check vehicle history by VIN before you buy or even order pre-purchase inspection!

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Rebuilt vs Salvage title - Know the difference!

A frequent question from our readers and used car shoppers is: Is rebuilt title same as salvage title? The answer is NO. Although on numerous automotive forums you’d be told that rebuilt and salvage cars are the same - a junk car which is not worth buying, that’s not correct. Rebuilt and salvage titles are not the same thing, and both a rebuilt and a salvage title car can be a good buy. Below is rebuilt vs salvage title comparison by a number or criteria.

  • Roadworthiness. A salvage title is not roadworthy and cannot be registered and driven legally in most states. Rebuilt title receives a roadworthy status after being inspected by an authorized state entity. You can register and legally drive a rebuilt vehicle. You may have to show all repair receipts to register such a vehicle though. This is the major difference between rebuilt and salvage title.
  • Insurance. Get insurance quotes in advance if you want to buy a rebuilt vehicle! Rebuilt title can be insured and even get full coverage with some insurance companies. A salvage title cannot get even liability coverage in most states.
  • Financing. You van finance a rebuilt title car with some companies, you cannot finance a salvage title car.
  • Resale value. Rebuilt title cars are more expensive than salvage cars because of added reconstruction costs and roadworthiness.
  • Technical condition. Rebuilt title cars are reconstructed, salvage title cars in most cases still have certain damage that needs to repaired (although not all of them) so as to be legally used on the road. Some have hidden damage, some may have theft recovery salvage status without actual damage.
  • In some locations, salvage cars cannot even be bought by private persons.

Much confusion about salvage and rebuilt title is caused by title names varying from state to state, and criteria for establishing whether or not a vehicle should receive a salvage title. For example, in some states (NJ) there is no “rebuilt” title - a reconstructed vehicle is given a normal title which, however, pertains a “salvage” affix on its title for all the time. In Colorado, a “Rebuilt from Salvage” title is given to rebuilt damaged cars. In Virginia or PA, they use “Reconstructed” title for rebuilt salvages, in Delaware it’s “Restored title”. In 11 states, all recovered stolen vehicles get salvage titles, even if they were not damaged.

Also, a salvage car and a junk car is not the same. Although the terminology differs depending on the state’s law, a salvage car is generally the one can can be repaired, although repair cost will exceed 70% of it’s actual cost (that’s why such cars are written off by insurance companies). A junk car is good for parts only and is not repairable, although there are exceptions from this rule, for example in California. Stolen or stripped cars may be given a salvage title.

The bottom line is, if a vehicle has a salvage or rebuilt title, it is highly recommended to study the state’s regulations for issuing such titles. A rebuilt title can equally be a better deal than a used regular car or just a hurriedly fixed junk. In the same manner, a salvage car can be better than a rebuilt car. Many used car experts will say that mandatory state inspections are more about examining the vehicles for altered VIN and stolen parts than safety, and some DMV agencies directly warn about it on their websites. So, be on the alert with rebuilt title cars, choose those with the least damage and hire a qualified mechanic to inspect it.

Rebuilt Title means that the vehicle has had a serious damage. You can safely buy such a vehicle only when you know what exactly happened. That is why it is critically important to check vehicle history by VIN.

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