Vehicle Title Check: Ways to Learn Facts about a Car, Branding Explanation
Vehicle title check and title brand awareness eliminate the risks of running into another branded title that should be avoided or at least be disclosed. Apart from a vehicle history report, below we'll talk just about the paper document itself and what information it can give you. A Rebuilt title is by far not the only branded title a used vehicle might have.
What is a vehicle title and what information does it have?
A title (aka Certificate of title) is a legal document. The major purpose of the title is providing proof of the ownership. Besides the owner(s) name(s) and address it also contains:
- the VIN,
- vehicle make, model and body type
- year of manufacturing
- color at the time of the registration
- odometer reading and the date when it was taken
- the date when the title was issued
- title number
- car loan lender's / lien holder's name, if any
Other information specified on the title may be optional or differ from state to state and include:
- the license plate number
- the engine number
- the number of cylinders in the engine
- the type of fuel used by the engine
- the weight of the car
- certain damage types on branded titles, like water damage
What is a branded title?
It's a car title with a permanent branding on it indicating that the vehicle has had an major isssue the information of which should permanently remain on the vehicle's title because the problem may potentially significantly affect a car's value or even safety. These titles are designed to inform future buyers or lenders that the vehicle's value has been impaired and it needs extra caution and checks, will incur extra expenses or even that driving it in its current state is illegal. For example, a hidden issue like airbag deployment without its proper reinstallent is posssible, even though airbag issue disclosure is mandatory in many states. Please check our Titlepedia section for the information about each particluar title name or category.
What does a branded title look like?
Every state has its own requirements and forms for vehicle titles. Generally, a branded title either looks like a normal title but has a special note, stamp or tag on it (eg. 'salvage', 'rebuilt', 'lemon', 'junk') or it's a title form issued in a special recognizeable desgin, for instance, with red margins. In all cases, the name of the brand is indicated.
Is checking a car title certificate enough before buying a vehicle?
No, but the certificate of title can tell you a lot even before you check the vehicle history or order an inspection. Just keep in mind the following points:
Every title brand name has it own meanging and a 'range of problems' the vehicle has or might have had. However, title branding across the states is not standardized or unified. This means not just that every state issues its own titles in its own template or design, but also that the same title brands with the same problems may have slightly different names or the same names can have different meanings and different criteria for a vehicle. Sometimes, this causes confusion.
Example 1. A rebuilt vehicle, the one that have been damaged and written off as a total loss, assinged a Salvage Title and later fixed to a roadworthy state generally has a Rebuilt Title. In some states Reconstructed or Restored title name is used, is some it is a speciallly designed Rebuilt Salvage title, in some just Rebuilt Salvage brand added to a normal title, in some states the equivalent is a normal title with a Salvage affix adedd. But in another state the latter variant may also be issued for a non-roadworthy salvage vehicle that hasn't been rebuilt. The terms Reconstructed / Restored / Reconstituted / Rebuilt / Revived may also be used differently from state to state and apply to kit vehicles, altered, dismantled and reassembled vehicles or just vehicles with no prior damage but with significant transformations.
Example 2. Recovered stolen vehicles receive a Salvage Title in some states. Such vehicles may have no damage at all and only get a brand because a total loss claim has been filed and settled.
Example 3. A 'Junk' title generally means that the vehicle cannot be fixed and it only fit for parts or scrap. However, 'Revived Junk' title exists in California and those 'revived junks' are fit for public roads! A document issues intead of the title for irrepareable vehicles is the Certificate of Destruction.
You should always check with the state DMV what the current title brand means in that state. This makes sense even in you have the vehicle history report at hand. Check with title state requirements for the states where problem titles were registered, the first branded title in particular, as prior to that point the vehicle might have had the most severe damage and maximun amount of repairs ahead. The state law may require that just a part of those repairs be done in order to deem it driveable and issue a roadworthy title. In some states these requirements are milder than in others and some dealers will fix a total loss vehicle only up to a condition that it pass the mandatory state inspection by a certified officer before getting registered for normal use but is may still have critical issues like malfunctioning airbags the oparability of which is not so easy to verify and relying on indicator lights in not always sufficient.
For this reason, just studying a car title certificate alone and even knowing the state's requirements is often not enough. Sometimes it won't even give your the information whether the vehicle was damaged or not. You also need to know the exact requirements for a vehicle to be roadworthy in each state. Many of the answeres can be found in the vehicle history .
What else can I learn directly from the certificate of title?
As car titles may have the engine number (serial number) you can match it with the actual number on the engine and see if an engine replacement has been done recently. Sometimes the VIN is also stamped on the engine block (its a different number, read about VIN vs engine number here so make sure it matches the VIN on the title. In this case you will want the proof that the engine was obtained legally, you will need these papers when registering the vehicle becuase the numbers mismatch.
What if there is a duplicate mark on the title?
A duplicate title is a replacement for an altered, damaged, lost or stolen certificate. Issuing a duplicate voids the orignal title. On the other hand, this also makes a big sense if your have the vehicle history and see a duplicate title record but the current title does not have a duplicate mark.