June 25, 2024
Car Repair

Understanding Branded Titles: What They Are, Different Types, and Potential Risks

If you’ve searched for a pre-owned vehicle, one of the key selling points often emphasized by sellers is the title status. “Clean title” cars are highly sought after, but there are other options available that come with some level of risk in exchange for a lower price. Used vehicles with branded titles typically sell for significantly less than those with clean titles, but simply reading the Carfax report may not provide a complete picture of the story behind the branded title, nor does it explain the significance of each brand.

What is a Branded Vehicle Title?

A branded title can be thought of as one that has been marked with a notification indicating that something has occurred with the vehicle. Branded titles often originate from insurance companies covering repairs after a major accident. If the damage is extensive enough, the insurer may declare the vehicle a total loss, signifying that the cost of repairs exceeds the value of the car. Salvage or rebuilt titles are also considered branded titles.

What is a Clean Title?

A clean title indicates that a car has not been in a (recorded) significant accident or theft, is not a lemon-law buyback, and can be registered and insured without complications. However, this does not guarantee that the vehicle is problem-free or that there hasn’t been undisclosed damage. It is still advisable to undergo a thorough pre-purchase inspection even for cars with clean titles.

Can a Branded Title Be Removed?

It is illegal to alter a vehicle’s title in an attempt to eliminate a brand. Once a title has been branded, it will remain with the vehicle for its entire lifespan. However, it is possible to convert a Salvage Title to a Rebuilt Title by having the necessary repairs done and passing an inspection.

What is Title Washing?

One important consideration when buying a used car is that each state issues its own vehicle titles, and the branding procedures may vary. There have been cases where vehicles are sold across state lines in an attempt to remove a branding from the title, a practice known as title washing. It is illegal to engage in title washing. If you are considering purchasing a used vehicle from another state, it is crucial to conduct a comprehensive title check as part of a vehicle history report and to invest in a pre-purchase inspection.

Types of Title Brands to Be Aware Of

Salvage Title

A vehicle with a Salvage Title has typically been in an accident requiring repairs that exceed the car’s value. Insurance companies deem such vehicles as total losses. It’s important to note that cars with salvage titles cannot be registered or driven until they have been restored to a roadworthy condition. Rules for salvage titles may vary by state.

Rebuilt Title

A vehicle that previously had a salvage title can return to the road after undergoing necessary repairs. Rebuilt cars can be registered and insured, but their value is significantly impacted by the branding. It is essential to ensure that the repairs have been carried out correctly to avoid any future issues.

Lemon Law Buyback Title

A Lemon Law Buyback Title is assigned to a vehicle that has had persistent issues that could not be resolved despite multiple repair attempts. Automakers may repurchase such vehicles, but they can be resold, significantly affecting their value. While these cars can offer cost savings, buyers may encounter challenges obtaining loans and insurance for them. Reselling a vehicle with a lemon law buyback title may also pose difficulties.

Odometer Rollback

Reducing a vehicle’s mileage can make it more appealing, but tampering with odometer readings is illegal and can have serious consequences for both buyers and sellers. Detecting odometer tampering is possible, underscoring the importance of a thorough pre-purchase inspection before buying a used car.

Other Title Brands

In addition to the common title brands mentioned above, there are other types of brands that may be encountered, such as flood damage or hail damage. It is crucial to conduct thorough research and have the vehicle inspected if faced with any type of branded title. Even seemingly minor brands can lead to future complications.

Should You Consider Buying a Vehicle with a Branded Title?

Whether or not to purchase a vehicle with a branded title depends on various factors. While it may offer cost savings upfront, other expenses such as higher interest and insurance rates may offset the initial savings. Reselling a vehicle with a branded title may also result in lower values. Branded-title vehicles can be ideal for projects or customization, but they are not typically viewed as investments, even if they are rare. If considering a vehicle with a branded title, a pre-purchase inspection is essential to fully understand the potential risks involved.


Q: Can a branded title be removed?
A: It is not legal to alter a branded title to remove the designation. Once a title has been branded, it will remain with the vehicle for its lifetime.

Q: What is title washing?
A: Title washing refers to the practice of selling a vehicle across state lines to remove a branding from the title. This is illegal and can have serious consequences.

Q: Should I buy a vehicle with a salvage title?
A: Purchasing a vehicle with a salvage title can be a viable option for cost savings, but it is essential to understand the potential drawbacks and risks involved.


Understanding the implications of branded titles is crucial when shopping for a used vehicle. While branded-title cars may offer initial cost savings, they come with their own set of challenges and considerations. Conducting thorough research, obtaining a vehicle history report, and investing in a pre-purchase inspection can help mitigate risks associated with branded titles. It is important to weigh the pros and cons carefully before deciding to purchase a vehicle with a branded title.

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