What Is a Rebuilt Title?

by Shelley Moore

A rebuilt title is issued to a vehicle that previously was a salvage vehicle and has since been reconstructed. Most states require an inspection by a licensed garage or body shop along with the state department of motor vehicles before the vehicle is allowed back on the road. These vehicles can provide inexpensive options for buyers.


Vehicles with rebuilt titles typically were severely damaged in an accident, flood or fire. If an insurance company determines the repairs would cost more than the worth of the vehicle, the vehicle is issued a salvage title. People commonly call a vehicle like this "totaled," indicating it was a total loss. The owner of a salvage vehicle cannot legally drive it on highways or obtain valid license plates for it, but can sell it to an automotive center to use for parts or to restore.

The Process

Once the car is repaired and restored, the owner can have it inspected and then surrender the salvage title to the DMV in return for a title that identifies the vehicle as "rebuilt." At this point, the vehicle is again legal to drive on highways and can be licensed. Regulations for obtaining a rebuilt title vary by state.


Vehicles with rebuilt titles provide buyers with opportunities to own models they might not otherwise be able to afford. The vehicle might only have had severe cosmetic damage, but be structurally and functionally sound. Reconstructed vehicles sometimes cost approximately half the price of vehicles with regular titles.


Before buying a rebuilt vehicle, have it thoroughly inspected by a mechanic. You should also find out if your insurance company insures vehicles with rebuilt titles, because some do not. Some insurance providers will insure a vehicle with a rebuilt title for liability only, not for collision damage.


Sometimes a car that technically should have a rebuilt title actually has a regular one. People buying used cars are advised to run the vehicle identification number, or VIN, through an identification process to point out any issues with the vehicle's history. These processes also can identify vehicles with incorrect odometer readings and cars that once were identified as stolen property.

About the Author

Shelley Moore is a journalist and award-winning short-story writer. She specializes in writing about personal development, health, careers and personal finance. Moore has been published in "Family Circle" magazine and the "Milwaukee Sentinel" newspaper, along with numerous other national and regional magazines, daily and weekly newspapers and corporate publications. She has a Bachelor of Science in psychology.

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