What Is a Clean Title Car Brand?

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Megan Foukes is a recent graduate from Indiana University who graduated with a bachelor’s in journalism. Megan works as a content writer for Auto Credit Express and contributes to several automotive and finance blogs.


, - September 13, 2019

Title brands are name designations placed on a vehicle’s title. There are many different title brands to watch out for, but when buying a used car, you should look to see that the title is “clean.” A clean title indicates the vehicle has never been declared totaled by an insurance company. However, not all cars with a clean title are guaranteed to not have experienced past problems – there’s always the risk of a washed title, and we’re going to explain how to combat this.

6 Other Title Brands

Before we get into title washing, it’s important you understand and recognize the six most common title brands associated with vehicles. Definitions and terms can vary by state, however, most recognize these six branded titles:

  1. Salvage – Any car that has been severely damaged and deemed a total loss by an insurance company typically receives a salvage title.
  2. Rebuilt – If a salvage vehicle is repaired and considered drivable again according to the state law, it receives a rebuilt title. There are variations for this type of title brand, and cars can be listed as reconditioned, reconstructed, or repaired, depending on the state.
  3. Flood – If a vehicle experienced flood damage from a natural disaster or standing water, it receives a flood title. CarsDirect recommends consumers don’t purchase flood-damaged vehicles.
  4. Junk – If a car gets a junk title, it means it can only be sold for parts or scrap. Other names for this type of branded title include crushed, scrap, unrepairable, totaled, and dismantled.
  5. Lemon – Lemon laws exist in every state. To be considered a lemon, new vehicles must have spent more than 30 days out of commission, or have had the same issue repaired multiple times without it getting resolved.
  6. Fleet – Although not necessarily a title brand designation, fleet vehicles include rental cars, government cars, company cars, and taxis. These are resold or auctioned and given a fleet designation as a warning to buyers about the potentially high mileage and possible other issues.

What Is Title Washing?

We briefly mentioned title washing, but what exactly is it? Title washing happens when a vehicle with a branded title is brought to another state and re-registered.

Title brands and definitions vary by state, and sellers are sometimes able to “wash” a title in a state that doesn’t have the same brand assigned to the car. This is deceitful, dangerous, and illegal – but you can take extra steps to combat it.

To better protect yourself from title washing, take the vehicle on a test drive, push all the buttons, look under the hood, and listen to the car. You also need to have the car carefully inspected by a certified mechanic before you buy it.

Even if you feel confident there’s nothing wrong with it, a mechanic should dig deeper to look for potential issues that can't be spotted by the average consumer. They may be able to tell you if the vehicle experienced things like flood damage or a severe accident.

The Bottom Line

Look for a used car with a clean title. This way, you can avoid potential expensive repair costs, and feel safer knowing the vehicle hasn’t experienced extensive damage in the past. But, as we mentioned above, title washing is real, and, unfortunately, some sellers are willing to go the extra mile to wash a title in order to make it sellable. If you have a certified mechanic check it out and ask questions about the car’s history, you should be in good shape to avoid a vehicle with a washed title.

When you’re ready to buy a car, you can check out our new and used car sections and browse vehicles. From there, you can get the financing process started with our help.

At CarsDirect, we work with a nationwide network of dealerships that specialize in helping bad credit car buyers get the financing they need. All you need to do is fill out our auto loan request form to get started!

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Megan Foukes is a recent graduate from Indiana University who graduated with a bachelor’s in journalism. Megan works as a content writer for Auto Credit Express and contributes to several automotive and finance blogs.


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