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Buying a car with a rebuilt title?

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  • #16
    In college (9 years ago) I had a friend rebuild a '03 Tacoma (he bought at auction) with ~40k miles on it that was totaled from a T-bone to the back of the drive's side. At the time it was worth about $24k if it were a used truck had a clean title (prices were low at the time because gas was high). I had about $15k in it once it was all done - plus new wheels and tires. I had a few minor things - other than usual maintenance- like replacing seals around the door, but no other problems until recently (at 135k miles). Due to the wreck the rear end was slightly bent (not noticed at the time). Last month the right one snapped as I was traveling home post-call due to 70k miles of abnormal stress. I had the rear axles, left wheel bearing and a bearing in the rear-end replaced. So now I have another $3k in it. I'm hoping it will last me through residency before these wear out and it can become my off-road/farm truck. As of today it was still worth buying. I still don't have in it what on with a clean title would have cost at that time. I'm not sure I will buy salvage once I can pay cash for new cars, but I will probably consider another rebuild as my next purchase at the beginning of my career. My dad just bought a rebuilt truck based on my experience.

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    • #17
      I've traded in a car that was totaled (twice!) to a dealership and got $1,000 for it back in 2008.  You get garbage money for trade-ins, anyway.  If you don't need it right away, try selling by owner.

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      • #18
        Thanks everyone for the input. Much appreciated. Will probably keep driving my current car and get something next year

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        • #19







          I have an FJ. They are built like tanks. And you are right, a clean 2007 with 130,000 miles will easily go for $15/16K. Find out exactly what caused the insurance to declare it a loss. If it was body damage I’d say buy it. If the word frame ever comes up walk away. Anything else in between, it is your call.

          Things to check on a 2007 are fender bulges and rear diff status (it was upgraded in later years). fjcruiserforums.com for everything you need to know about the truck.
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          I have a good friend who owns an autobody shop. He assures me that when the insurance company totals it out, it really will cost more than it is worth to make it good as new. You are buying a car that is not good as new even after being rebuilt and made shiney again. Whether the aspects of it that aren’t new are a big deal to you or not depends on both you and the car. Shortcuts were taken compared to what a complete restoration would be. It would behoove you to know what the shortcuts were before buying. You may be just fine with them, but you should be getting this car at a big discount compared to one without a salvage title.
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          But it doesn't have to be made "good as new". We drive a car that was totaled. We bought a new windshield, left the side panels looking crunched, took the rest of the pay out, and enjoyed paying 1/2 the car insurance (no collision now). That said... We knew what had happened, and wasn't trying to guess from phantom records or a questionable guy on the corner lot (or corner craiglist ad).

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          • #20







            Gosh, I think this scenario exceeds my standards for frugality. By a new Prius or Nissan Leaf and live like a king!
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            Hahahaha! Let me clarify. I am a car guy but only sports cars and muscle cars…think hellcat, z06, gt350. I have zero interest in spending 15-20k on a an SUV or sedan. My plan has always been to pay off debt, get the retirement going and daily drive a beater(we have winter where I live)so I can not feel guilty about buying a fun car(toy).
            Click to expand...


            Completely off topic. My husband daily drives a Hellcat (warm weather state). I've never seen him happier about a car purchase!

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            • #21










              Gosh, I think this scenario exceeds my standards for frugality. By a new Prius or Nissan Leaf and live like a king!
              Click to expand…


              Hahahaha! Let me clarify. I am a car guy but only sports cars and muscle cars…think hellcat, z06, gt350. I have zero interest in spending 15-20k on a an SUV or sedan. My plan has always been to pay off debt, get the retirement going and daily drive a beater(we have winter where I live)so I can not feel guilty about buying a fun car(toy).
              Click to expand…


              Completely off topic. My husband daily drives a Hellcat (warm weather state). I’ve never seen him happier about a car purchase!
              Click to expand...


              Oh man I'm jealous! Someday!

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              • #22
                I bought a rebuilt car once...the passenger's seat floor always leaked when I went through a car wash and other strange stuff.  Not worth it in my opinion, if only because you'll always be wondering if a certain problem with the car is due to the rebuilt title.  Also, my time is worth too much to be taking it to the repair shop to fix the little bugs.

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