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Most used cars that you come across will have a clean title, meaning that an insurance company has never declared them a total loss. If you’re shopping for a used car, though, be wary of “bargains” that seem too good to be true. That vehicle could have a salvage or rebuilt title, which definitely drives their prices down. That’s not to say that every such vehicle – particularly one with a rebuilt title — is automatically unworthy of purchase. Still, you should be aware the titles exist, and understand how they differ.

It’s important to note that each state has its own regulations regarding salvage and rebuilt vehicle titles, as well as when considering a vehicle title loan in South Carolina.

Explain Salvage Title

This is a title for a vehicle that’s been in a major crash or sustained heavy damage, say during Hurricane Ian or some tropical storm. Depending on the state, the insurance company may write a flooded vehicle off as a total loss.

Because cars with salvage titles are usually not safe to drive, if they’re drivable at all, the only time you should even think about purchasing one is if you’re a mechanic who plans to rebuild it to the point where it could pass a state inspection. Even then, you should first weigh the cost of repairs against the vehicle’s post-rebuild value.

Explain Rebuilt Title

A vehicle with a rebuilt title is one that previously had a salvage title and is now in street legal shape. Understand, though, that doesn’t always mean the car’s been rebuilt from the architecture up. A transition from a salvage to rebuilt title does require a state inspection.

A vehicle with rebuilt title is ready to be registered, insured, and driven, although it’s essential to look over the vehicle in person before buying it.

Should you buy a vehicle with a rebuilt title? It’s hard to say, since not all cars with such title are in equal condition. If you’re considering such a vehicle, first run a history report and don’t be afraid to ask lots of questions about the vehicle’s past and what kind of repairs were done. Also ask for accident before-and-after photos. Walk away if the seller seems evasive or less than transparent.

Lastly, pay to have the vehicle inspected unless you’re mechanically inclined. Doing so could save you a whole lot of grief.

How Does a Rebuilt Title Impact the Vehicle’s Value?

Because a vehicle with a clean title has never been deemed a total loss, it will always be more valuable than one with a rebuilt title. This means that an automobile with a rebuilt title that has been repaired to the nth degree will have diminished cash value because of the major collision.

Can a Rebuilt or Salvage Vehicle Be Insured?

Usually, but perhaps not fully. Again, that depends on the state. It’s a good idea to first obtain a quote from your insurance company before buying a vehicle with a rebuilt title (and be certain to apprise them of the title status). If you have a good driving record, your premiums likely won’t be much more than what you’d pay for a vehicle with a clean title.

You usually won’t be able to insure a vehicle with a salvage title since such a vehicle is illegal to drive on public roads.

The bottom line is that if you’re looking to buy a used car, it’s important for you to understand the difference between salvage and rebuilt titles in case you run across one. Unless you’re a mechanic, forget about picking one up with a salvage title. You just may be able to find a good deal on a vehicle with a rebuilt title, but don’t be hasty about a purchase.