Q. I'm considering buying a car with a "rebuilt" or "salvage" title. Will PEMCO insure it?
A. Yes, but there's much to consider.
While hunting for a bargain on used vehicles, I've come across some with wording on their titles such as "salvage" or "rebuilt." Customers often ask what that means and if those vehicles can be insured. While the short answer is yes, consider the following to make an informed decision about your purchase.
First, about those title notations. Often called "branding," notations are added to the title by the Department of Licensing to show prior damage to the car. At some point, the vehicle essentially was deemed a total loss, meaning it suffered damage that wouldn't have been economically feasible to repair. A newer car typically sustains heavy damage to be a total loss, while an older car could be "totaled" for something as minor as a scratched fender.
Are those cars safe to drive? The answer varies by vehicle and damage, so there's no simple response. In some states a "rebuilt" notation may indicate that a totaled vehicle was repaired and passed a subsequent inspection, but that's not always the case. For example, in Washington the vehicle merely needs to meet
certain criteria unrelated to repairs to receive the "rebuilt" brand, so don't rely on that alone to help you decide if a vehicle is safe.
Not all sellers prominently advertise a vehicle's prior damage or title branding, but you can do research using services like
Carfax. It's also a good idea to have your mechanic inspect any used vehicle before you buy. That's especially true of vehicles with prior damage or branded titles.
So what does all of this mean for your insurance? Will PEMCO insure these cars? Yes, although we'll ask to see photos of the vehicle before we can provide Comprehensive or Collision coverage. Be aware that even a vehicle that appears to be fully repaired will have a reduced value if the title is branded, so expect to receive a lower settlement offer if the car sustains future damage, and expect less value if you try to sell it.
Because of that, make sure you get a good deal if you buy any vehicle with a branded title!