Should I Buy a Car With a Rebuilt Title?

Posted by Charlie Maniates | Jul 16, 2019

Vehicles with rebuilt titles can offer up to thousands of dollars' worth of savings compared with their clean-title counterparts, but they come with a significant amount of added risk that can’t be ignored.

As we’ve discussed before, a rebuilt title designates a used car that was restored to a drivable condition following damages that resulted in it receiving a salvage title. To be granted a rebuilt title, these vehicles need to pass inspections, which can be lax, as laws vary by state. And, regardless of the inspection level, it’s still very difficult to predict the future reliability of these vehicles following repairs, even if the rebuilder put in maximum effort — which isn’t always the case.

If these risks haven’t already dissuaded you from considering a rebuilt vehicle for the savings potential, there are several factors for you to consider before making the decision to purchase one.

How Was the Car Damaged?

When dealing with a rebuilt car, it’s vital to find out how the car was damaged, how extensive the damage was and the specific repairs that were made to restore its functionality. Some types of damage, such as flood or fire damage, should be avoided at all costs, while others, such as superficial body damage, may be more manageable.

Take a look at Consumer Reports’ handy list of red flags to be on the lookout for while inspecting a rebuilt car to help you evaluate the extent of its repairs and outstanding issues. Be sure to also obtain all the paperwork associated with the damage and repairs to verify the seller’s claims about the vehicle’s history; walk away if the seller can’t provide these documents.

Will Your Insurance Company Cover the Car?

Some insurance companies won’t provide full coverage for rebuilt cars and some won’t insure them at all. The reasoning lies in difficulty with value assessment and the unpredictable reliability mentioned above.

If your provider refuses coverage for a rebuilt car you’re considering, you can always shop around and try to find one that’ll work with you. But it could also be a sign that the juice isn’t worth the squeeze.

Will You Want to Sell the Car Someday?

Given their heightened susceptibility to problems, rebuilt cars can often be difficult to resell. Additionally, some dealerships won’t accept them as trade-ins for the same reason. Though reselling one isn’t impossible, you should be mentally prepared to own any rebuilt car till death do you part.

Be Thorough With Your Due Diligence and Trust Your Doubts

Rebuilt vehicles may offer an abundance of savings, but you shouldn’t buy one without a meticulous vetting process. Ask the seller as many questions as you can, examine the car inside and out, take it for a test drive and have a trusted certified mechanic perform a full inspection. And, given the level of risk you’d be acquiring, don’t buy a rebuilt car without having full confidence in it.

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