How to Tell If a Car Has a Rebuilt Title

Does your slightly-used car have a rebuilt title?
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There are advantages and disadvantages to owning a car with a rebuilt title. If you are someone who purchases a car and drives it for the remainder of its useful life, then a car with a rebuilt title may be right for you. You want to purchase any used car, however, with your eyes wide open, knowing all the facts. You would not want to be surprised to discover after your purchase that the vehicle has a rebuilt title, resulting in a loss of resale value or an inability to trade the vehicle to a car dealer.

Step 1

Check for a state inspection sticker that would indicate that the vehicle is rebuilt. Many states require that a vehicle with a rebuilt title be labeled with a decal stating its rebuilt status and have passed laws that make it illegal to remove the decal. The decal will have been placed by the appropriate authority after the vehicle has passed inspection to be retitled. Contact your state’s motor vehicle department to find out whether a decal is required to be placed, and where on the vehicle it would be located.

Step 2

Inspect the title of the vehicle. Many states require that rebuilt titles be branded as such. For example, in Alabama the title will be branded with “Rebuilt” on its face, while in Washington state, if the title is 5 years old or less or if it meets specific criteria established by the Washington State Legislature, then the title will be branded “WA Rebuilt.” Tennessee requires that the title be branded according to its damage; it may be branded as rebuilt or as a flooded vehicle. (Resource 1) Title inspection is not a fool-proof method of determining whether a vehicle has been rebuilt since state laws vary as to how or whether a rebuilt title is marked as such.

Step 3

Order a vehicle history report from an online retailer. Vehicle history reports should follow the history of the vehicle from the time of its manufacture. Any report should show subsequent resales as well as a history of the vehicle's being totaled or issued a salvage title. (Reference 6)

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