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Understanding Title Branding


There are many different title variations that can affect a vehicle. It’s important to understand a vehicle’s history before making a purchase to avoid unexpected problems down the road. Here are some common title types you may encounter.


A clear title means the vehicle has no reported history of major damage or theft. Be aware: that doesn’t mean the vehicle has never seen any major repairs, they may have just been unreported. Even if a vehicle’s title is clean, make sure to thoroughly inspect any vehicle you are thinking about buying. Mechanical issues are often undiagnosed and may impact the condition of the vehicle.


A rebuilt title means the vehicle was, at one point, declared salvaged and was rebuilt and inspected by an authorized agency. A rebuilt brand may be permanently attached to a vehicle and can affect insurance rates. Like clear titles – just because a vehicle was rebuilt and inspected does not mean that it is guaranteed to be in good shape. Be sure to inspect the vehicle’s history for more information.


A salvage title typically means the vehicle was deemed a ‘total loss’ by an insurance company. This could have been because of an accident, water damage, vandalism, theft, or many other reasons. A salvage title does not necessarily mean the vehicle is unsafe, however. For example: if a vehicle is stolen and recovered without any damage, the insurance company may automatically write it off as a total loss despite the fact the car is in perfect running order. For older and rare vehicles, even the smallest of accidents (such as a fender bender) may cost more to repair than the listed value of the car – also deeming it a total loss. 


A title marked “irreparable” or “junk” means that it was damaged so much it has been deemed beyond repair by an insurance company. A vehicle with this title brand may only be used for parts or scrap – it cannot be registered. In some cases, there is a lengthy and expensive process that can be done in certain states to remove this title type, but it is almost never worth the cost.


Certain states will mark a salvage title vehicle with a ‘flood’ designation – meaning the car was damaged by water. While the damage may look like it’s only cosmetic, flooded vehicles often have significant mechanical and electrical problems. If you’re considering buying a vehicle with a flood designation, make sure to do a thorough inspection. While it may run when you see it, a variety of problems may arise soon.


A lemon-law vehicle has a defect recognized by the manufacturer that was either repaired or is still an issue. Often, manufacturers will buy back defective vehicles and sell them at auction rather than fixing them – or multiple attempts were made to fix the issue and were unsuccessful. It’s important to know that lemon laws vary from state to state and a brand of this sort is not always permanent – so look into your vehicle’s history to check.

Be sure to get a vehicle history report!

There are many variations in title brands, and again, every state has its own designations. The best way to be sure you understand the history of a vehicle is to get a VIN Report and check all the motor vehicle records. ClearVin is a first level NVMTIS provider – The National Motor Vehicle Title Information System – and can provide a clear and comprehensive ClearVIN VIN Check Report. Through a ClearVin report, the entirety of a vehicle’s history is right in front of you so you know what you’re getting into.

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