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Certificate of Destruction Title Explained

A certificate of destruction, also known as a non-repairable vehicle title, is issued by an insurance company when a vehicle is no longer legal for road use and is intended for the vehicle to be destroyed. A certificate of destruction is not a salvage title or a junk title, it means that the only use for this vehicle is to destroy it. A certificate of destruction is issued because of liability. If the vehicle is on the road, it becomes a liability for the insurance company so to avoid this, the insurance company will issue a certificate of destruction.

The types of vehicles that may receive a certificate of destruction are those that have been damaged beyond repair from an accident or from natural disasters such as fire, flood, earthquake, or hailstorm. However, a vehicle that is seemingly in perfect condition can be issued a certificate of destruction if deemed necessary by the insurance company. The insurance company deems that it would be too costly to repair the vehicle and therefore will not cover repairs on it. The insurance company then takes ownership and issues the certificate of destruction.

Vehicles with a certificate of destruction are not legally allowed to be on the road, so how do these vehicles get sold? Most vehicles with a certificate of destruction will be sold at an insurance auto auction. Since they’re not road legal, the vehicles are often sold for parts.

Many people buy cars at salvage auto auctions for the purpose of rebuilding. They can then sell rebuilt cars at a profit or use them for themselves. When buying a wrecked car to rebuild, it’s important to know what you’re getting into. The cost of rebuilding may outweigh the value of the car, and there’s no guarantee that you’ll be able to find all the parts you need.

Can I rebuild a vehicle with a certificate of destruction?

While the vehicle may be cheap if the vehicle has a certificate of destruction, no amount of title recovery can fix it to allow the vehicle on the road. The certificate of destruction is a permanent title brand and removing this brand is considered a federal crime. Even if you are able to sell the non-major component parts, it may not cover the full purchase price of the vehicle. Additionally, without a vehicle title, you cannot take the major component parts to a junkyard. After selling the minor parts, you may still have the chassis and frame that will need to be disposed of and this removal can be expensive.

What can I do if the vehicle I purchased has a certificate of destruction?

Oftentimes, a vehicle with a certificate of destruction may go through multiple owners and turn into a game of “musical chairs” where someone purchases the vehicle and realizes that it has a certificate of destruction, then sells the vehicle to someone else without disclosing that fact. Then, that person goes through the same discovery and sells it again without a title and the cycle continues.

If you’ve purchased a vehicle with a certificate of destruction, the first question to ask is if this fact was disclosed at the time of your purchase. If the vehicle was purchased from a licensed auction house or auto dealer and they did not disclose at the time of purchase that this vehicle has a certificate of destruction, you can return the vehicle. If a vehicle has a certificate of destruction, this must be disclosed prior to purchase.

Similarly, if you’ve purchased a vehicle with a certificate of destruction from a curbstoner, also known as an unlicensed dealer, there are still actions you can take. Anyone who sells vehicles, whether it’s two vehicles or two hundred, must be licensed. If they don’t have a license and are operating in the capacity of a dealer without a license, you can report them to your local department of motor vehicles and law enforcement agency.

A certificate of destruction is a permanent title brand and what you can do with it will depend on your jurisdiction. For more information on the certificate of destruction, non-repairable titles, and VIN reassignment, check out

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