Rebuilt Title Insurance: Should You Buy It?

Most states require rebuilt title cars to have insurance.

A.M. Steinbach
Written byA.M. Steinbach
A.M. Steinbach
A.M. SteinbachInsurance Writer
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A Harvard graduate, Mark has worked as a freelance personal finance and tech writer. He’s also written for Saturday Night Live.

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Sara Getman
Edited bySara Getman
Sara Getman
Sara GetmanAssociate Editor

Sara Getman is an Associate Editor at Insurify and has been with the company since 2022. Prior to joining Insurify, Sara completed her undergraduate degree in English Literature at Simmons University in Boston. At Simmons, she was the Editor-in-Chief for Sidelines Magazine (a literary and art publication), and wrote creative non-fiction.

Outside of work, Sara is an avid reader, and loves rock climbing, yoga and crocheting.

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Updated May 23, 2024

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Buying a car with a rebuilt title has advantages and disadvantages. A car with a rebuilt title often costs less than an average used car, which might be tempting amid rising car prices. But car insurance companies may offer limited coverage options when it comes time to insure your rebuilt vehicle.

You can still stay protected on the road while driving a vehicle with a rebuilt title. Here’s what you should know about how to insure a car with a rebuilt title, including some best practices for choosing coverage.

Quick Facts
  • Most car insurance companies sell some form of rebuilt title insurance.

  • The more damage a car previously sustained, the more it’ll cost to insure.

  • Many insurance companies require a mechanic’s certification to insure a rebuilt title car.

What to know about insuring a rebuilt title car

Every vehicle comes with a title, which is a legal document that establishes a given driver as the owner of that vehicle. If a vehicle sustains significant damage that qualifies it as a total loss, it has a “salvage title” to let any future buyers know about this damage. Rebuilding a salvage vehicle to a road-ready condition will earn the vehicle a “rebuilt title.”

After repairs, salvage cars must pass inspection from the state’s DMV to reach “rebuilt” status. Because motor vehicles with a rebuilt title could have future mechanical issues related to their history, insurance companies may try to offset this risk by charging higher rates. Some companies might also hesitate to offer full-coverage insurance to drivers of rebuilt vehicles.[1]

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Do you need rebuilt title insurance?

All drivers must have their state’s required liability coverage in order to drive legally. Drivers of cars with rebuilt titles shouldn’t have an issue purchasing liability coverage — though insurers may not want to sell them full-coverage insurance. Full coverage includes collision and comprehensive coverage to protect your assets in an accident or non-collision incident.

Most insurance agents will advise you to buy more than your state’s minimum liability requirements. Drivers of cars with rebuilt titles should look for an insurer that will allow them to exceed liability minimums. Otherwise, you could end up with sizable out-of-pocket costs in the event of an accident.[2]

Drivers of cars with rebuilt titles could face higher premiums, so seeking out affordable options is key. Shop around and receive quotes from multiple insurance companies in order to find the best deal.

How to get rebuilt title insurance

You’ll need to buy rebuilt title insurance in order to drive legally. The insurance-buying process is a bit more involved when insuring a car with a rebuilt title, but you can still find solid coverage at a reasonable rate by following these steps:

  1. Check your state laws. Check with your state’s DMV to figure out what inspections and standards the car needs to meet in order to qualify for a policy.

  2. Secure a mechanic’s statement. Even if your car passes state inspection, insurers will often ask for a certified mechanic to inspect your vehicle and ensure all damage has been repaired and the rebuild was done correctly. A mechanic should also check for any damage not associated with the rebuild that could affect the car such as rust or electrical damage. Make sure to compile a statement from your mechanic, photos of your car, and any repair estimates for your insurer.

  3. Determine your desired coverage. Cars with a rebuilt title still need to meet the state minimums for liability coverage. Many insurers won’t offer full coverage, such as a comprehensive or collision policy, for a rebuilt car. It’s difficult for insurance companies to establish the value of the vehicle after being rebuilt, and if the car incurs damage or has any issues, the insurer can’t determine when the problem arose: before or after the rebuild.

  4. Compare companies. It can be difficult to get insurance for a rebuilt title car, and it can be more expensive due to safety concerns. Compiling a list of quotes from various insurers and comparing them is the best way to find the right insurer for you.

Learn More: Vehicle Inspection Requirements by State

Learn More: Vehicle Inspection Requirements by State

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What factors affect rebuilt title insurance premiums? 

Car insurance companies may charge you higher rates because they see rebuilt vehicles as more likely to need repairs than other vehicles. But that isn’t the only factor that affects your rates.

The following factors may influence rate increases or decreases:

  • Vehicle condition and history: Insurers see a car with major damage to its frame or electrical system as a greater risk for future mechanical problems and will consider this risk when determining your rates.

  • Driving record: Drivers with traffic violations on their record, such as speeding tickets, at-fault accidents, or DUIs, face higher rates. Insurance companies see these drivers as a higher risk for future claims and adjust rates accordingly.

  • Coverage requirements: Some states have higher minimums for liability coverage. If you buy more coverage, you’ll end up spending more.[3]

5 ways to save on rebuilt title insurance

You can take some extra steps to save on your rebuilt title insurance policy, including the following:

  • Shop around. Prices vary by each company within the highly saturated insurance market. Receiving quotes from multiple insurers makes it easier to find an affordable rate.

  • Only buy necessary coverage. The more coverage you buy, the higher premiums you’ll end up paying. Figure out just how much insurance you need and avoid costly optional coverages.

  • Maintain a good record. Your rates will typically increase following an at-fault accident, speeding ticket, or other traffic violation. Completing an approved defensive driving course can qualify you for discounts.

  • Take advantage of discounts. Almost all insurance companies offer discounts to people who drive safely, earn good grades, equip their car with safety features, insure multiple cars, or bundle car insurance with homeowners insurance.

Assess the risks of buying a car with a rebuilt title

Buying a car with a rebuilt title is often cheaper than buying a regular used car, though you’ll want to be thorough during the buying process to avoid future costs. Always ask lots of questions, especially if you’re buying the car from a third-party seller who didn’t oversee the car’s repairs.

Here are some questions to ask the seller:

  • How was the car damaged originally? Was there extensive damage?

  • What repairs were done? Who performed these repairs?

  • What parts of the car were replaced, and where were these parts sourced?

  • Is a maintenance history available for the vehicle?

  • Can you provide state inspection documentation and proof of title status?[4]

Carefully assess the risks before buying a car with a rebuilt title. The more damage a car has sustained, the more risk you take on. For instance, cars with major damage to their frames or electrical systems could present safety risks down the road.

Important Information

Exercise caution with sellers who avoid questions, won’t offer a full vehicle history report, or use high-pressure sales tactics. It’s a good idea to visit the seller’s site beforehand and search for customer reviews or Federal Trade Commission complaints.

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Pros and cons of rebuilt title insurance

You should weigh the pros and cons before purchasing a car with a rebuilt title. The most obvious benefit of buying a car with a rebuilt title is the lower cost of purchasing a vehicle. Unfortunately, drivers of rebuilt vehicles might have a difficult time finding full-coverage insurance.

Consider the following advantages and disadvantages before purchasing a car with a rebuilt title:

Pros
  • Costs less to buy a vehicle with a rebuilt title than other used or new cars

  • Wider variety of available vehicles

  • Safe to drive after passing inspection

Cons
  • Potential difficulty finding coverage

  • Limited coverage options

  • May struggle to receive a car loan

Rebuilt title insurance FAQs

Buying a car is a big purchase you should take seriously — especially if you’re considering a vehicle with a rebuilt title. If you still have questions, the information below should help you navigate the process.

  • Should you buy rebuilt title insurance?

    If applicable, yes. Drivers of cars with rebuilt titles need to buy car insurance that meets their state’s minimum car insurance guidelines. In most cases, rebuilt title insurance costs more than coverage for a typical used or new vehicle. Insurers may sometimes limit your coverage options to just liability insurance.

  • How much does rebuilt car insurance cost?

    Rebuilt title insurance typically costs more than regular car insurance. Prices vary based on the car’s condition, your driving history, and the amount of auto insurance coverage you purchase. Comparing rates from multiple insurance companies is a great way to save.

  • What’s the difference between a rebuilt and salvage title?

    A salvage vehicle is unsafe to drive due to extensive damage from an accident, theft, or weather-related event. If a salvage vehicle undergoes repairs that return it to operating condition, it’ll earn a rebuilt title. You can legally sell or purchase a vehicle with a rebuilt title.

  • Do auto insurers sell rebuilt title insurance?

    Yes. Most auto insurers sell rebuilt title insurance, but you may have to shop a bit more to find an affordable rate. Some insurers may not want to sell you full-coverage insurance. Progressive, State Farm, and American Family are a few insurance companies that sell rebuilt title insurance.

  • Can you change a rebuilt title to a clean title?

    No. Vehicles with a clean title have never had a total loss. “Title washing” refers to changing a rebuilt title to a clean title and can lead to criminal charges. This practice misleads consumers into buying cars that appear “clean” but have sustained major damage in the past.[5]

Sources

  1. Consumer Reports. "Should You Buy a Car With a Rebuilt Title?."
  2. III. "How much auto coverage do I need?."
  3. III. "What determines the price of an auto insurance policy?."
  4. NMVTIS. "Used Car Buying Tips."
  5. US Attorney's Office Eastern District of Michigan. "Farmington Hills Man Sentenced to 116 Months in Prison for Title-Washing Scheme."
A.M. Steinbach
A.M. SteinbachInsurance Writer

A.M. is a Brooklyn-based writer, editor, and content marketing strategist who's worked with major brands in insurance, tech, finance, and healthcare. He also contributes to The Average Joe, a personal finance newsletter that reaches over 250,000 daily readers. Since 2019, he's written for Insurify, breaking down a diverse range of insurance topics into crisp, readable prose.

Sara Getman
Edited bySara GetmanAssociate Editor
Sara Getman
Sara GetmanAssociate Editor

Sara Getman is an Associate Editor at Insurify and has been with the company since 2022. Prior to joining Insurify, Sara completed her undergraduate degree in English Literature at Simmons University in Boston. At Simmons, she was the Editor-in-Chief for Sidelines Magazine (a literary and art publication), and wrote creative non-fiction.

Outside of work, Sara is an avid reader, and loves rock climbing, yoga and crocheting.

Konstantin Halachev
Data reviewed byKonstantin HalachevVice President of Engineering
Headshot of Konstantin Halachev, VP of Engineering at Insurify
Konstantin HalachevVice President of Engineering
  • 7+ years experience in data analysis

  • Ph.D. in Computational Biology

Konstantin has led data teams across multiple industries, including insurance, travel, and biology. He’s led Insurify’s engineering team for more than three years.

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