When a car has a clean title, it means it has never experienced severe damage or been used as a fleet vehicle. This is the type of car you should be looking to buy, but not all clean title vehicles are necessarily “clean.” If you’re not careful, you could purchase a car that has a washed title. We’ll explain how to avoid a washed title, and what title brands you may come across.
6 Types of Title Brands
The first thing you need to be aware of is the types of branded titles out there. You may not see all of these, as their definitions may vary by state, but there are six common title brands associated with used vehicles:
- Flood – If a car experienced flood damage from a natural disaster, it's given a flood title.
- Salvage – When a vehicle has been severely damaged and was deemed a total loss by an insurance company, it can be given a salvage title.
- Fleet – Fleet cars include rental vehicles, government cars, taxis, and company vehicles.
- Lemon – To be considered a lemon, a car needs to have been inoperable for more than 30 days, or been affected by the same issue multiple times, and it still remains unfixed after addressing it with repairs.
- Rebuilt – This title represents a salvaged vehicle that has been repaired and is now considered drivable again according to state law. Other common names for this title brand include reconditioned, reconstructed, or repaired.
- Junk – Junk titles mean a car can only be sold for parts and scrap. Other common names for this title include crushed, scrap, totaled, and dismantled.
Title Washing Explained
Title washing happens when a vehicle with a branded title – any title other than clean – is brought to another state and re-registered as clean. This is illegal, and isn’t always easy to spot, but we have one tip you can use to avoid buying a used car with a washed title.
Like with any used vehicle, you need to check the car yourself, and have it inspected by a certified mechanic before you buy it. Everything may look right and work during a test drive, but a mechanic is able to take a closer look at things most vehicle owners wouldn’t think of or notice.
A trusted mechanic is more able to determine whether or not a car has experienced extensive damage, such as flooding or a major accident.
The Bottom Line
It’s important you understand the difference between a clean vehicle title and one that has a title brand associated with it. It’s especially important you have any used car looked at by a certified mechanic so you can avoid buying a vehicle with a washed title. It’s better to be safe than sorry.
When you’re ready to buy a vehicle, you can use our new and used car research tools to get an idea for what’s available. Once you're ready, we can point you in the direction of a dealership near you.
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