Types of Vehicle Title Brands

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Meghan Carbary has been writing professionally for nearly 20 years. A published journalist in three states, Meghan honed her skills as a feature writer and sports editor. She has now expanded her skill-set into the automotive industry as a content writer for Auto Credit Express, where she contributes to several automotive and auto finance blogs.


, - March 19, 2019

A title brand is a designation or label placed on a vehicle's title to let buyers know that the car has experienced an incident or damage that may have compromised it at some point. Title brands and the definition of those brands can vary by state, but there are six main title brands that you should be aware of when buying a used car.

Common Title Brands

There are several types of brands that a state can place on a vehicle. The most common brands have to do with the type of damage that was incurred, alerting a potential buyer that the car has suffered damage in the past.

The most common branded titles seen around the United States are:

  • Salvage – This type of title is typically issued to vehicles that were heavily damaged in an accident or natural disaster, and have been deemed a total loss by an insurance company. In these cases, repairing the car would cost more than 75 percent of the vehicle's value, so the insurance company generally sells them at auction.
  • Rebuilt – Once salvage cars are repaired and considered drivable again by state law, they're issued a rebuilt title in many states. The names of titles like this vary widely by state and include rebuilt, reconditioned, reconstructed, and repaired. Some states don't have these designations, and repaired vehicles usually keep their salvage brand in these cases.
  • Junk – Cars with this designation can only be sold for parts or scrap. Similar titles may include crushed, dismantled, scrap, and unrepairable. Many states also call these titles “totaled.”
  • Flood – Vehicles that have been through a flood may be labeled as a flood vehicle by title designation. However, cars that have suffered damage from standing water can also receive salvage or junk titles.
  • Lemon – All states have some form of lemon laws, but they’re not the same in every state. To be considered a lemon, new vehicles have to spend a significant number of days (more than 30) out of commission, or have have the same issue repaired multiple times without result.
  • Fleet – Not technically a brand designation, some vehicles that are resold or auctioned carry a fleet designation to alert buyers that these cars have had a number of miles driven by multiple drivers. Fleet vehicles can include rental cars, company vehicles, government cars, taxis, police vehicles, and more.

Beware of Title Washing

Some cars that carry branded titles can go through title washing. This happens when a vehicle with a branded title is brought to another state and retitled to remove the brand.

Because the names and definitions of title brands vary by state, unscrupulous sellers often "wash" a brand away by titling the vehicle in a state that doesn't use or share the brand that's currently assigned to the car.

This allows them to sell vehicles for a higher price than they might fetch with the brand in place. Title washing is illegal, and can be dangerous for consumers.

Should You Buy a Vehicle With a Branded Title?

Whether or not you buy a vehicle with a branded title is ultimately up to you. However, because branded vehicles have a greater potential to have issues than those with a clean title, it's important that you get a vehicle history report for any used car you're considering buying.

It's also a best practice to have these cars inspected by a certified mechanic. Vehicles with branded titles can still be a good cars that come at a cheap price, but others run the risk of having serious hidden problems from past damage that may not be obvious to the untrained eye.

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Meghan Carbary has been writing professionally for nearly 20 years. A published journalist in three states, Meghan honed her skills as a feature writer and sports editor. She has now expanded her skill-set into the automotive industry as a content writer for Auto Credit Express, where she contributes to several automotive and auto finance blogs.


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