What is a Branded Title?

  • by: Sibora
June 04, 2021

what is a branded title

A branded title means that a vehicle has suffered some type of incident where the insurance company declares it a total loss. The state’s Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) issues a new “branded” title to explain it. Some things that might result in an unclean title is a major accident, flood, fire, vandalism, theft, hail damage, or an odometer rollback. 

Common Types of Vehicle Titles

There are various reasons why a car or truck is branded and different types of titles. The most common types are:


If the car’s title is clean, then it will not include a branding, and the pink slip should not have the words “branded” on it anywhere. Something to be careful of is that sometimes criminals take a branded title vehicle to a different state (that does not honor the brand) and register it as new to get a fresh, clean title. This is called title washing, and it is illegal. 

Buyback/Lemon Title/Junk Title

When someone buys a new or used car or truck, and they experience a plethora of issues that cannot be fixed by the dealer or manufacturer, depending on state lemon laws, the car may be labeled a “lemon.” Once the car is returned to the manufacturer, the state may issue it a “lemon,” “buyback,” or “junk” title, and it may be resold as lemon or for junk parts. If the issues affect the safety of the car, it will only be sold for parts. If the issues are mechanical but not safety-related, it may be sold as a used car but branded a lemon. With these cars, it’s a buyer beware sitatuation.


After a car has suffered damage due to an accident, if the insurance company determines that the cost of repairs exceeds the car’s value, they may deem it a salvage vehicle. When this happens, it is called a total loss or a totaled car and receives a salvage title brand. The vehicle is then rebranded as “salvage” and can be sold to a junkyard for parts or rebuilt. States have specific laws on what classifies as a salvage vehicle, so something in one state may be roadworthy might be unacceptable in another state. 

Water Damage

In some parts of the United States, floods are an issue. Suppose the car or vehicle has been in water, caused by a flood for two days (not necessarily submerged). In that case, it may suffer severe damage to the mechanical and electrical systems and interior furnishings (mold and mildew). In these cases, an insurance agent may declare it a complete loss due to water damage. In many cases, these cars have very little damage (nothing that affects the mechanics or safety), and they can easily be repaired and restored to new condition. 

Hail Damage

Weather is a significant factor in property, and car damage. Hail is other item that can cause an insurance company to declare a vehicle damaged or a total loss. The great thing about hail damage is that it is usually just cosmetic and can be repaired or fixed easily. When a car has been issued a hail damage brand, these cars are highly desirable because although they might have some dents and scratches, they typically run fine. However, some hail-damaged vehicles may have more extensive damage than can be seen with the naked eye. Always make sure you have the car thoroughly examined by a good mechanic before buying. 

what is a branded title on a car

Not Actual Mileage/Odometer Rollback

Car thieves often tamper with the odometer making it look like the car has fewer miles on it than it does. These cars are issued a brand with “not actual mileage” or “odometer rollback” on them.


Insurance companies may declare a complete loss if a car is stolen and missing for a number of days or vandalized. Even if the damage is not severe, the state has no idea what happened to the car while it was missing, so to cover their losses, they brand it with a new title. 


Some hobbyist or car mechanics like to take a totaled car and restore it to perfect condition. These are called rebuilt vehicles. They were previous salvage or junk branded title cars, but if they are completely restored and checked out by an approved mechanic, the state may agree to issue them a “rebuilt” title and they may be sold as used vehicles. Before registering a rebuilt car, you must pass a safety inspection ensuring that the car is roadworthy. 

Things to Take into Consideration When Buying a Branded Title Vehicle

When looking for a branded vehicle, you should only consult reputable dealerships and always have the car or truck checked out by a good mechanic. They may identify issues you might miss like previously deployed airbags. Plus it will give you peace of mind knowing you had it thoroughly checked out. 

Perform a search online and always do a vehicle identification number (VIN) check the vehicle history report to see if the car or truck has a brand and why. If the vehicle is branded with a junk or salvage title, you won’t be able to drive it, but you might be able to fix it up. 

Car buyers should ask the seller for the original repair estimate and check online reviews before buying. 

Consider how you will insure the vehicle and get it registered to meet state and local requirements. 

how do i know if my car has a recall


Some standard frequently asked questions about branded titles are: 


  Should you buy a car with a branded title?  
  The decision to buy a branded title car is entirely up to you. There are pros and cons, and you should weight them all and have the vehicle professionally assessed first. Some branded title vehicles can cost 40% less than fair market value and much less than a new car.   
  Is branded title the same as salvage?  
  A salvage title is a type of branded title. The branded title is the broad term for many different types of car titles.   
  Can a branded title be changed?  
  Only a salvage or junk title may be switched to a rebuilt title if the car is restored correctly after passing a multi-point inspection. Otherwise, they will remain a branded title forever.   
  Will insurance cover a branded title?  
  In some cases, they will, but most often not. Salvage and junk cars may not be driven or registered legally, so they will not be covered.