Consumer Title Resource | Since 2009!

What is a Branded Title for a Vehicle?

A branded title is a designation on a vehicle title that signifies that the vehicle has been involved in a previous insurance incident and has been deemed by the insurance company subject to damage or a total loss. The claim may have been filed by an insurance company or by the owner of the vehicle.

A branded title does not necessarily mean that there was actual damage to the car, but it does mean that the car was involved in an accident and had to be repaired before it could be titled again.

There are many different types of branded titles for vehicles, some of the most common include:

Salvage title

When a vehicle incurs some type of loss event such as major damage, theft, or repair, the title may be designated as a salvage title. The decision to place a title in salvage status is normally made by the insurance company that pays a claim on the vehicle. In some states, there are statutory regulations that require an insurer to brand a vehicle with a salvage title. An example may be that a vehicle incurred damage that is more than 60% of its value. However, an insurance company can decide to place a salvage title brand on any vehicle it decides to, even if there is little or no damage.

Salvage titles can normally be registered for road use. In some states an inspection is required to make sure that the vehicle is safe for the road, and that any parts used for repair are legal and have a verified origin. For your own safety make sure that any vehicle you purchase as a salvage title has operational airbags and valid documentation of the VIN# and all major component parts.

Junk title

Vehicles for which the title has been sold to a junkyard may be designated junk titles if it is intended to be scrapped or sold for parts. A vehicle’s VIN in the NMVTIS database means that it can no longer be titled after receiving a junk title brand.

Rebuilt title

A vehicle that has been substantially rebuilt may have a rebuilt title brand issued by an insurance company, body shop, collision center, or licensed rebuilder. A vehicle with a rebuilt title can normally be registered for road use but may have an inspection requirement to verify it is roadworthy. The vehicle insurance may have limits if the title is rebuilt.

Parts-only title

A parts-only designation is typically found on a bill of sale or transfer form, not on a title. However, if a parts-only bill of sale is submitted for vehicle title processing, the title may be issued with a salvage brand or other cloud on the title.

Certificate of Destruction

When an insurance company has paid a claim for a vehicle and taken ownership from the insured, they have the option of processing the title as a certificate of destruction. In this case, the vehicle is intended to be destroyed and never to be used on the road or registered. It is unlikely that a vehicle with a certificate of destruction can ever be issued a valid title for transfer.

A vehicle with a certificate of destruction can sometimes appear to be in acceptable condition. The insurance company decides to prevent the car from road use to limit its liability in the event that the car is driven and is involved in an accident at a later date. If it is proven that an injury in an accident is because the car had some existing defect, the injured person could claim that the insurance company should not have let the car go back on the road.

A vehicle in otherwise good condition can be issued a certificate of destruction if the insurance company thinks that the airbags could be damaged, the frame could be weakened, or simply does not want to spend the money to do a detailed inspection, and just wants to sell it cheap to a junkyard.

Depending on your needs, a vehicle with a title brand can be a great option if you want to fix up a salvage vehicle or use it for parts. Before moving forward with a vehicle, make sure to check the title for permanent title brands. Any attempt to remove, obscure, conceal, or alter a title brand using unauthorized means can be a violation of law often referred to as “title washing” or “title laundering.” The salvage title designation is shared with all 50 states. Evading a title brand is a serious offense. Getting a new title for that purpose is illegal and results in serious criminal penalties.


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