Rebuilt vs Salvage Title
In most general words, a rebuilt vehicle is a repaired salvage vehicle, the one that was severely damaged, got a salvage title, and then was fixed (at a certified body shop, if the state law requires so) and then got a roadworthy status from an authorized inspection station according to the state's law. That is why one should check the vehicle history of such vehicles by VIN and learn about the damage before buying or even ordering pre-purchase inspection, simply because as thorough inspection is not cheap!
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, all the more so that Junk is a totally different vehicle status. They are not the same thing, and both cars can be a good or a bad 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. A 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. 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.
- Car sales. Bulk rebuilt car sales or auctions are not common, most are sold by dealers and bodyshops that pick damaged cars carefully, although some specialized on such vehicles and have a large choixe. As to salvage cars, the auctions run in every state where one can purchase a car really cheap and then rebuilt it. There is one good point about buying a car in a salvage status: you know it's actual condition and the extent of the damage rather than guess on the quality of repairs already done. Please, note that in some states private persons are not allowed to buy salvage cars by the law.
- Both have been totaled.
- Both Rebuilt salvage title will never be clean again, unless they are purposefully cleaned by unfair dealers so as to sell them later as clean title cars.
- Both are deemed repairable
- Both fall under disclose requirement law
Much confusion about salvage and rebuilt titles is caused by title names varying from state to state, and criteria for establishing whether or not a vehicle can receive a certain 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.
Another fact contributing to the misunderstandig is that the brands Salvage and Rebuilt often appear together on the title. However, the word Rebuilt/Revived/Restored or another word present on the document always means that the vehicle was recognized good for public roads by the state DMV.
Also, you should note that a salvage car and a junk car are not the same as far as value, repairs and insurance concerns, although in the course of discussions they are frequently (and mistakenly) referred to as the same thing. Although the terminology differs depending on the state's law, a salvage car is generally the one can can be repaired, although at a high percent of it's pre-damage cost which may exceed 70% (that's why such cars are written off by insurance companies). A junk car is good for parts only and is not repairable due to an extensive damage. Possible brandings for it are 'Irreparable', 'Junk' or 'Parts Only' or even 'Wrecked', the latter means that the vehicle can only be recycled as scrap metal and is not even suitable for parts.
However, there are exceptions to this rule, for example in California. In other states, stolen or stripped cars may be given a salvage title as well.
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 vehicle. 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 declared in their VIN histories and hire a qualified mechanic to inspect them.
Rebuilt From Salvage - what does this name mean?
Rebuilt from salvage title or rebuilt salvage brand is just a variation of a rebuilt title name issued in a number of states, such as Colorado, Alabama, Arizona, Connecticut, Georgia, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, North Carolina, Nebraska, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, Virginia, Wisconsin. The difference is just in the wording and the criteria for recognizing a vehicle properly repaired and roadworthy, which may vary from state to state. In Colorado, the law requires that "Rebuilt From Salvage" notice be also etched or stamped on the vehicle. The brand is commonly stamped on the title paper.
Which is Good and which is Bad?
There is no unified answer to the question which of the titles is good, better or bad. You can find some points and considerations here. Saying briefly, if it was properly reconstructed, the frame wasn't damaged and the airbag didn't deploy, it can be very good from both reliability and price viewpoints. However, making sure reconstruction was done properly is one of the biggest problems and the reason why some people find unrepaired salvage vehicles more attrective. Estimating how adequate the added repair cost is also not easy. As a rule, newer totaled cars are riskier choices because the damage is more severe. The damage is calculated based on the cost of repair works, which is approximately the same for newer and older cars. However, its ratio to the cost of the car is different because older cars are devalued due to age. That's why older cars may be totaled even without significant damage. Such vehcles are the safest choices.
Always get a car history report when buying a rebuilt salvage title car to know what kind of damage it suffered. After that, hire a mechanic to inspect it - only this way you can be sure repair jobs were done properly and the car is safe. One definitely bad thing about both the titles is that they are not a good investment - the chances to sell them later are low, be prepared for that or be ready to offer a serious discount.
Rebuilt from salvage disclosure laws help protect used car buyers from unknowingly obtaining cars with salvage history which in most cases means a major damage. Currently, the law is most effective in Colorado. It imposes an obligation on vehicle sellers to disclose whether they were rebuilt from salvage vehicles. Evading the mandatory disclosure requirement in Colorado is prosecuted by the law. Thus, the law makes it more difficult to sell rebuilt cars.
Salvage Yards - should I try them out?
Salvage yards, can be a great place to search for a good deal, if you know your way around cars really well because rebuilt cars are usually available from dealerships where they were already fixed (either properly repaired or patched up) and set out for sale in full, all glossy and shining. At a salvage yard, you can buy a car with all the damage it has to fix fully visible. However, even given that "as is" condition, the extent of the damage can be not so easy to assess and "the cost of repairs/vehicle's cost" ratio depends on the age of the car a lot.
Rebuilt from Salvage Mark on a UK Vehicle
As a rule, this means that the car was imported from the US where is previously had rebuilt title.