Title Brands-Where To Look
A “brand” is wording on a Certificate of Title or registration card that indicates certain conditions in the vehicle’s history. Most states put history brands somewhere on their titles and the wording varies from state to state (for example; Totaled, Reconditioned, Salvaged, Junked, Damaged, Rebuilt, Warranty Returned).
Although California has indicated prior history on titling documents for many years, vehicle history information is more prominently displayed on the latest revision of both the Certificate of Title and Salvage Certificate in a red box near the upper right-hand corner of the document.
Why Brands Are Important to Consumers
Brands indicate what has happened to a vehicle in the past. They can indicate high mileage, significant damage, or chronic problems.
What Conditions Require a Brand?
The following brands are placed on California vehicle titles and DMV records:
Salvaged-Vehicles marked with a “salvaged” brand were involved in an accident or incurred considerable damage from another source, such as a flood or vandalism. This brand includes previously dismantled (junked) vehicles.
Original Taxi or Prior Taxi–Vehicles formerly used “For Hire” which usually have high mileage.
Original Police or Prior Police-Vehicles formerly used by law enforcement and which usually have high mileage.
Non-USA-Vehicles manufactured for use and sale outside the United States which have been converted to meet Federal and California safety and emissions standards.
Warranty Return or Lemon Law Buyback-Vehicles which have been returned to the manufacturer under California’s Lemon Law.
Remanufactured-Vehicles constructed by a licensed remanufacturer and consisting of used or reconditioned parts. These vehicles may be sold under a distinctive trade name.
Of all the vehicle brands, Salvaged has received the most attention in the past few years.
The California Department of Consumer Affairs found that more than 700,000 structurally damaged and 150,000 salvaged vehicles are returned to streets and highways every year without a safety inspection, and pose a potential hazard to all of the state’s motorists.
A Salvage Vehicle is a vehicle that has been wrecked or damaged to such an extent that it is considered too expensive to repair. The title, license plates, and a required fee are submitted to the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) and a Salvage Certificate is issued for the vehicle.
A Revived Salvage is a salvage vehicle which has been repaired and reregistered with the DMV.
Be Cautious When Buying a Revived Salvage Vehicle
Although many salvage vehicles are expertly repaired, some vehicles:
Are not properly repaired and/or tested and may be dangerous to operate.
Have been repaired with stolen parts. If the California Highway Patrol or DMV determines the vehicle or its parts have been stolen, the vehicle cannot be registered and the vehicle or parts will be seized.
How To Identify a Salvaged Vehicle
First, look at the title. The title will tell you:
If the vehicle is salvaged.
The mileage when the vehicle was last sold.
Who the owner of record is.
Sellers, including dealerships, are legally required to disclose the vehicle’s salvage title and history, but the law is difficult to enforce, especially when cars come in from another state. Be sure the seller is indeed the owner. If the seller isn’t the owner or an authorized agent for the owner, he or she is not entitled to sell the vehicle, and you are not entitled to buy it. If the seller’s name is not on the title, there must be documentation, such as a bill of sale, dealer report of sale, or power of attorney, authorizing that person to sell the vehicle.
Next, inspect the vehicle itself. Some of the following “clues” may indicate the vehicle has an undisclosed salvage history.
Signs of major repairs on the inner fender structures.
Mud, mold, or rust under the carpet in the trunk.
Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) plate attached with materials other than rivets.
Safety restraint light is always on.
Airbag covers are resealed or improperly installed.
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) labels which usually appear on doors, inside hood, tailgate, or hatchback are missing.
You might also want to check various aspects of the vehicle’s history by using the following links. By clicking on any of these links, you are acknowledging and agreeing (1) to not hold the State of California, Department of Motor Vehicles, liable for any reason relating to the condition, identification, or status of a vehicle, including, but not limited to, whether the information is inaccurate, (2) the State of California, Department of Motor Vehicles, does not endorse or make any representations with respect to any vehicle, and (3) the State of California, Department of Motor Vehicles, does not have a duty or ability to ascertain any facts from these links at the time application is made for initial registration or transfer of ownership of a vehicle.