What are Branded Titles?

What are Branded Titles?

A title brand is a label assigned to a car by the state agency after an insurance claim has been made to cover costs that are beyond the usual limits. It generally means that a car has sustained serious damage as appraised by the insurance company. It does not matter if car damage is repaired or not after the incident. The branded titles are designed to stay permanently in order to flag down buyers on the extent of damage the car may have obtained due to an unfortunate past incident. Hence, these title brands shall appear on car reports and other documents to get consumers up to speed about the cars.

Since no one can fully assess the actual extent of car damage after being titled or the effectiveness of repairs it underwent, a title-branded car can be a great bargain if it shed off a significant amount of its market value albeit effects of the accident on the vehicle’s quality and performance are hardly noticeable.

Common Types of Branded Titles

The definition and qualification for a title brand vary by state. Similar title brands may have different qualifications from different states. To learn more about the specifics of a local title brand, we suggest referring your questions to the authorized state agency or DMV of your residence.

Salvage Title

A vehicle may qualify for a salvage title if the repair cost for its damage constitutes more than half of the vehicle’s market value. Another way that a vehicle may suit this title brand is if a declaration of a ‘total loss’ has been made by the insurance company. In this case, a car shall be prohibited from being used. Once repairs have been made to rectify all deficiencies it may have sustained and after a thorough evaluation by agencies concerned, the state may relegate its branded title to a “rebuilt title ” so that the vehicle can be legally driven once again.

Rebuilt Title

A rebuilt title can be granted to a car if it is restored to a roadworthy condition after being deemed a ‘total loss’ by the insurer or has been given a salvage title by the state. The vehicle must pass a preliminary inspection from an authorized state agency to qualify for the rebuilt title, and thus, be eligible for driving again. A car with a rebuilt title can command a great price but it also comes with risks, since its past issues may have some recurring effects on the day-to-day condition of the car.

Odometer Rollback

Mileage affects the pricing of a car. As is often the case, high mileage is commonly correlated with a high depreciation rate. Dubious sellers may attempt to tinker with a vehicle’s odometer reading to display a mileage record lower than what the vehicle actually has achieved. Enlist the help of a certified mechanic to check if the odometer device can read mileage accurately. Reviewing a vehicle history report or other documents can also confirm the occurrence of an odometer rollback. A car with a confirmed incidence of an odometer rollback will receive a corresponding title brand.

Water or Flood Damage

Flood, water damage and other equivalent title brands can also be given to motor vehicles that have sustained damage from water-related natural disasters. Either through forgery or other tricks, a water-damaged vehicle can wind up in a dealership garage in areas that are not prone to typhoons or flooding. Luckily, a trained mechanic can detect flood stink, the presence of rust and other signs of water damage even if the seller’s documents fail to point at any particular type of damage.

Hail Damage

Hail damage can adversely affect the resale prospects of a motor vehicle, especially if the severity of its impact is more than meets the eye. Like always, a trusted auto mechanic can unveil the underlying problem beyond face value. Not all states issue hail-damage titles. However, the data can still influence the decisions of other parties in non-issuing states. One example of this is the hesitance of many insurers and lenders in giving their full coverage for vehicles subject to the title. This is due to the high risks they may have to take with such cars. This being the case, and if damage to a car can easily be corrected, you could save a lot of money if you will buy a car with this title brand.

Other Labels (Besides Branded Titles)


During theft and recovery, there is a high chance that a vehicle will sustain serious damage. As such, law enforcement and DMV agencies may also add ‘theft recovery’ on a motor vehicle’s title after it has been returned to the legal owners. As a result, the resale value of the vehicle may also take a serious hit. And if the repercussions of such an incident to the car are hardly noticeable, it could be a great buy for anyone looking for one.


Many US states have ‘lemon’ laws that allow buyers to return vehicles that have persistent defects after many attempts have been made to fix their issues. The defects in question may have occurred during the manufacturing process, or when the vehicle was still under a dealership’s care. Vendors may answer lemon claims by buying back the vehicles or by replacing them with different units. Vehicles that are sold ‘as is’ may be exempted from lemon law. Each state’s criteria that qualify for ‘lemon’ claims vary. So, it is important to get in touch with the local DMV to know the local process in dealing with lemons.

What is Title Washing?

Title washing may happen inadvertently due to varying definitions and standards of title brands in each state. But many dishonest individuals exploit the interstate loophole intentionally by registering the vehicle to different states, thereby ‘washing’ a vehicle’s past titles. This way, they may be able to hike the vehicle’s market value to the detriment of consumers’ welfare. The best way to know if brand titles have been cleared off is to check the VIN for vehicle history reports. If certain title data do not appear on the seller’s copies, but it does on your own independent research, there is a chance that a title has been washed.

All title brands can work either way. It makes you aware of possible problems the car may cause you if you proceed in buying it but it can also open you to the opportunity of getting a bargain if you have the ability and the knowledge to play your cards right.

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