What Is a Branded Title And How Is It Different Than a Salvage Title?

Vehicles with branded titles just want to be loved.

byChris Teague|
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A title is one of the most important documents related to your ownership of a vehicle. No matter how you’re paying for the car, loan or other otherwise, somebody is listed on the title as the vehicle’s owner. We’ve already talked at length about salvage and rebuilt titles and tried to gently coax you into believing that buying a rebuilt car isn’t all that bad. This time, we’re talking about branded titles.

If you’re thinking that title names and the circumstances behind them are annoyingly complicated, don’t. It’s true that trying to figure out what different titles mean is annoying, and it’s also true that certain states have befuddling processes behind which titles are applied and when, but the system isn’t hard to decipher with a few pieces of information. 

In this post, The Drive’s editors will take you through what branded titles are, and we’ll discuss why they’re different from salvage titles. You shouldn’t be too afraid to chase down and buy a car with a branded title, so long as you know what you’re looking at. 

Do your homework, and there are great deals to be had., Depositphotos

What Is a Salvage Title? 

If a vehicle is damaged in a major accident, the owner’s car insurance company will usually pay them market value for the vehicle if the repair costs are more than 50 percent of the vehicle's value. Once that happens, the title’s status changes from “clean” to “salvage.” Salvage means that the car cannot be driven legally. In many cases, the damaged vehicles will just be auctioned off for parts instead of being fixed for a normal sale.

What Is a Branded Title?

Assuming the damage done to the vehicle isn’t severe enough to warrant a write-off, it can be repaired. At this point, the title changes again, but this time takes on the “branded” designation. A branded title applies to a vehicle that has been repaired or rebuilt in order to make it safely driveable again. Depending on the state, the different title names may end up being the same, but the concepts work no matter the location.

Is a Branded Title Bad?

It really depends on how serious the damage was after the initial wreck. There’s nothing inherently bad about a vehicle with a branded title, so long as the repair work was done properly and it passes all safety and operational inspections. Where a branded title may cause problems is with bank financing and with subsequent sales of the vehicle, as the next party might not be so understanding with their purchase. It’s a good idea to thoroughly review the vehicle history report for anything you’re looking to buy so that there are no surprises for you down the road.

What If I Want To Keep My Wrecked Car?

Depending on where you live, you might not have a choice. Certain states have laws that make it far harder to buy back a wrecked vehicle or to prevent the insurance company from totaling and taking the car for a scrap sale. Check your local laws to be sure it’s something that is allowed in your area.

Your title designates the legal owner of the vehicle., Depositphotos

Branded Title Terms You Need to Know  


Just like the deed to your house, a title designates the legal owner of a vehicle. If you are making payments to a lender for your vehicle, the lender is likely listed as the legal owner and will remain there until you’ve paid off the loan.


We use these terms broadly, but here it really just means any damage caused in a collision or other accident. The degree of damage is what’s important for insurance companies to determine whether or not to salvage a vehicle.

Vehicle History Report

You’ve heard of CarFax, no doubt, but there are other companies that provide history reports. Just make sure you choose a reputable company that has been reviewed and rated by at least a few other users.

FAQs About Branded Titles

You’ve got questions, The Drive has answers!

Q. I Think My Title Should Be Branded, Not Salvage. How Can I Change That?

A. First, you’ll need to make sure that you can prove the vehicle has been repaired to the point that it’s safe for you to drive it on the road. Once that’s happened, head to your state’s department of motor vehicles to find out the best way to proceed. Unfortunately, the process will likely take some time and effort to complete.

Q. Can I Insure A Vehicle With A Branded Title?

A. We won’t speak for your specific insurance provider, but for the most part, you can insure vehicles with branded titles, so long as they’ve been properly repaired.

Q. My Car Was In A Wreck And Was Repaired. Why Don’t I Have A Branded Title?

A. If the damage was minimal and the repairs performed professionally, there may not have been enough repair costs involved for the insurance company to deem it a salvage (and subsequently a branded) title vehicle.

Branded and salvage titles aren't all that bad., Depositphotos

Let’s Talk, Comment Below To Talk With The Drive’s Editors!  

We’re here to be expert guides in everything How-To related. Use us, compliment us, yell at us. Comment below and let’s talk! You can also shout at us on Twitter or Instagram, here are our profiles.

Jonathon Klein: Twitter (@jonathon.klein), Instagram (@jonathon_klein)

Tony Markovich: Twitter (@T_Marko), Instagram (@t_marko)

Chris Teague: Twitter (@TeagueDrives), Instagram (@TeagueDrives)

Got a question? Got a pro tip? Send us a note: guidesandgear@thedrive.com

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