Branded Titles: Good Deals or Red Flags?

If you are looking for a new car on a budget, you might be seeing a lot of titles listed as “branded titles.” What does that mean for you as a potential buyer?

What is a branded title?

There are two types of vehicles with branded titles: salvaged title vehicles or rebuilt title vehicles.

  • Salvaged title vehicle: A salvaged title vehicle is a vehicle that has been damaged that the cost of repair is greater than the fair market value of the car. (Note that cars can have excessive damage, but as long as the cost to repair the damage does not exceed the value of the car it, may not be considered salvaged.) The insurance agency has the final say on whether or not a vehicle is to be salvaged. Some states are very litigious and will salvage vehicles for simple reasons.
  • Rebuilt title vehicle: A rebuilt title vehicle is a vehicle that was salvaged but has since been repaired properly and can legally be driven on the road again.

When a branded title vehicle is being sold, the branded title dealer must display a notice in the windshield informing potential buyers that the vehicle they are looking at has a branded title. If someone is selling a branded title car but is not a dealer, they are still required to disclose the status of the title to potential buyers.

Reasons titles get branded

A number of things could lead a vehicle to receive a branded title. Understanding why a vehicle has a branded title helps you understand the overall condition of the vehicle itself.

  • Hail. Damage from hail can be extensive to the hood and roof (and even windows) of vehicles that are left out in the weather, especially if the hail is on the larger side. The process to repair the damage from hail is complicated and expensive, so insurance companies often would rather replace a vehicle than bother with the repairs. A lot of the time, the hail damage is just cosmetic, so if it is replaced, the vehicle works just as well as any of its non-hail-damaged counterparts.
  • Collision. Vehicle collisions occur thousands of times every day across the country. Whether or not the damage is enough to be deemed “salvaged” is on a case-by-case basis since some minor damage to a vehicle may be salvaged by the discretion of the insurance agency.
  • Flood. For a vehicle to receive a branded title due to flooding, the entire car does not need to be submerged in water. A flood-related branded title just means the car was near or in water, not necessarily submerged.
  • Theft. If a vehicle is stolen, it often receives damage from the thieves or even had parts stolen from the vehicle. This theft is reflected and recorded on a title.

When being branded is a red flag

If handled correctly and rebuilt properly, a branded title vehicle can be a great way to get a quality vehicle at a lower price. But not everyone handles rebuilt titles in the right way. Here are some red flags to avoid when you are looking at buying a rebuilt title vehicle.

  • The odometer seems odd. If the reading on the odometer seems off, especially when compared to the readings listed in any paperwork (registration, inspection, service, etc.), then that is a red flag. If an odometer has been tinkered with, run from the car. Rolling back an odometer is illegal.
  • Different interior materials. If the interior of the vehicle you are looking at is different than what is reported initially, the car may have received some extra cosmetic care for damage that is not being reported.
  • Sketchy dealer. Do your homework on the dealer you are considering when you purchase a branded title vehicle. Rebuilt vehicles can be risky if things are handled in unethical ways. Research reviews on the dealer to see if their previous customers drove away happy, and research their process for rebuilding titles and certifying them for on-road use again.

As with any vehicle purchase, it is in your best interest to have a trusted mechanic look over a vehicle before you buy it, but especially in the case of a rebuilt or branded title vehicle. Cosmetic issues are easy for an untrained eye to spot, but damage to brakes, gas tank, or suspension would be harder to find if you don’t know what you are looking for. We perform a third party inspection from where you can go look up the inspection on their website.

At TJ Chapman Auto, we specialize in rebuilt and branded title vehicles. Our vehicles undergo extensive safety inspections after they have been rebuilt so you can know that you are receiving a quality vehicle. We also back our work with warranties that offer peace of mind. If you are looking for a rebuilt title car for sale in the Salt Lake City area, stop by our dealership. If you’re living outside of Utah, check out our online inventory. We offer interactive tours and can ship vehicles across the country for no-hassle buying.