What Is a Reconstructed Title?

What Is a Reconstructed Title?

A car’s title may be something that you don’t think about much, but it’s actually a very important legal document. It not only identifies the owner of a vehicle, but it can also influence the dollar value of your car, the insurance coverage you may be able to secure, and your ability to drive the vehicle on public roadways. A title is a record of the vehicle’s history.

The information included on a car’s title includes:

  • Vehicle Identification Number (VIN)
  • Make and Model
  • Manufacture Year
  • Lienholder Information
  • License Plate Number
  • Owner’s Name and Address.

Different types of titles include:

  • Clean – The car is structurally sound and has not been in a severe accident.
  • Clear – The vehicle is paid for and owned outright (no lienholder).
  • Salvage – The car has been wrecked or damaged to such a degree that an insurance company has declared it a total loss.
  • Reconstructed/Rebuilt – A salvaged vehicle has been rebuilt, inspected for safety standards, and licensed by the state DMV.
  • Branded – This is a category of titles that includes reconstructed/rebuilt, as well as titles for vehicles damaged by flood or with previous odometer tampering.

Is Reconstructed Title the Same as Salvage Title?

A “salvage title” and a “reconstructed title” are not the same thing. A salvage title is the title issued by the state Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to a car or truck that has been in a major accident and has been declared a total loss by an insurance company. These vehicles are no longer roadworthy. Cars and trucks with salvage titles are sometimes sold for used parts or scrap metal. A vehicle with a salvage title is not eligible for license plates and cannot legally be driven on public roads.

However, sometimes a mechanic will purchase a vehicle with a salvage title, and the mechanic will significantly repair and rebuild the vehicle to meet stringent California safety standards. The vehicle, if it passes state inspection, can then qualify for a reconstructed title, also referred to as a rebuilt title. Any vehicle with a reconstructed/rebuilt title must be in roadworthy condition. If you purchase a vehicle with a reconstructed title, you can register it with the DMV, get car insurance, and legally drive it on public roads. Most insurance companies will write an insurance policy for a vehicle with a reconstructed title, but it may or may not be full coverage.

Revived Salvage Vehicles in California

California has a category for “Revived Salvage Vehicles,” which refers to salvaged vehicles that have been rebuilt, inspected, and re-registered. The DMV can issue a branded title when specific requirements have been met.

Non-Repairable Vehicles in California

California has category for “Total Loss/Non-Repairable Vehicle,” which meets one of the following criteria:

  • The vehicle has been declared by the owner solely as a source of parts or scrap metal.
  • The vehicle has been completely stripped (surgical strip).
  • The vehicle is a completely burned shell with no usable or repairable parts.

Once this total loss certificate is issued, the vehicle cannotbe titled or re-registered for use as a revived salvage.

Is a Vehicle with a Reconstructed Title Worth Less?

Yes, a car or truck with a reconstructed title will almost always be worth less than the same make and model with a clean title.  This is true even if the rebuilt car or truck has been repaired to the highest possible standards. That’s because the car’s VIN number will always carry a history of a major wreck that totaled the vehicle. Any vehicle that has been involved in a severe crash in the past – even if it looks pristine now – will always raise questions and concerns in the minds of potential buyers. Buyers typically won’t pay as much for a rebuilt car as they will a car with a clean title. Anyone can search a car’s VIN number on CarFax and find out if it has a history of any accidents and how severe the damage was.

What Does Reconstructed Title Mean in Practical Terms?

A lemon law attorney explains reconstructed title meaning and how it could impact your buying decisions.

If you’re considering buying a vehicle with a reconstructed title because you’re on a tight budget and have only a modest amount to spend, here are some important things to keep in mind:

  1. Make sure you’re purchasing from a reputable, honest dealer that you trust.
  2. Get a free CarFax report and review the vehicle’s prior crash history.
  3. If possible, have your own mechanic look the car over and get an independent opinion about its condition.
  4. Ask your insurance company in advance what kind of coverage you can get on the vehicle and how much it will cost.
  5. Know at the outset that the vehicle’s resale value will be less than that of a similar vehicle with a clean title that has not been in a wreck.
  6. Make sure the vehicle can pass a state safety inspection.
  7. Check with the DMV and confirm that the vehicle can be registered and licensed in California.

There are always inherent risks in purchasing a vehicle with a reconstructed title, so do your homework. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Buying a vehicle with a reconstructed title can be a good way to save a few dollars, but it is important to be sure that your vehicle has been repaired properly.

Talk to a California Lemon Law Attorney Today

If a dealership committed fraud by failing to disclose critical information about the vehicle they sold you — such as misrepresenting information about the vehicle’s previous salvage title and current reconstructed title — then you may have legal recourse under the California lemon law. It is wrong for a dealership to hide a vehicle’s crash history. A California lemon law lawyer can help explain your legal rights. At Neale & Fhima, we have successfully represented thousands of clients in lemon law claims. We really understand the ins and outs of California’s motor vehicle laws and what protections are available to consumers. If you suspect you’ve purchased a lemon, call Neale & Fhima at 877-308-2128 for a free initial consultation about your legal options.

Attorney Aaron Fhima

Attorney Aaron Fhima is a trial attorney who has secured numerous settlements and verdicts against large corporations and some of the largest auto manufacturers in the world. Representing consumers and injury victims throughout the state of California, Aaron’s practice areas include personal injury, and lemon law litigation. Aaron has a long record of success taking on large defense firms; and he doesn’t hesitate to take cases to trial when necessary to enforce his clients’ rights.