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What Does Clean Title Mean?

what does clean title mean

Car ownership isn’t all bells and whistles like the commercial makes it out to be. There is a significant amount of documentation and paperwork involved –the most important of which is your car’s title. A car’s title is pivotal not only in identifying the vehicle but also the current owners, condition, legal status, and more. 

When a title is clean, that means the vehicle has never experienced any significant or otherwise noteworthy damage that should impact its performance. While minor damages and repairs on account of the usual collisions do not count –severe damage like water damage or even totaling the car as a whole will. Below is everything you need to know about car titles, the different types, and just what makes a car title clean. 

Your Car’s Title And The Condition of Your Car 

Aside from the legal owner and general information about the vehicle, the title will also make a specific mention of its condition, which will determine whether or not it’s legally driveable. The following are the different types of car title brands that can be assigned based on the condition of the car:

  • Salvage car title - When the car has been totaled or damaged to the point where repairs cost more than the vehicle itself, then it will be assigned a salvage car title. This means that the car is no longer legally driveable until the necessary repairs are made. Totaled cars are often turned over to insurance companies to sell to scrap if the owner chooses not to have them repaired. 
  • Rebuilt car title - After a salvage car has been repaired back to working order, it will be issued a rebuilt car title to replace the salvage title brand. This also means that the car is legally and safely driven. 
  • Water damage car title - Water and flood damage is an iffy thing when it comes to cars. It’s often not covered by traditional car insurance and can seriously compromise a car’s functionality. This damage is usually caused by road flooding.     
  • Junk car title - A junk car title is different from a salvage car title because the car can no longer be repaired and is only salvaged for parts. Even if the owner has the money for it, the car will not be allowed to be repaired. Once again, it’s best left up to the car insurance company to sell it for such parts. 
  • Odometer rollback car title - Odometers need to read the actual mileage the car has traveled. Some people have taken the illegal liberty of tampering with their car’s odometer when they decide to sell it. If this has been discovered, then the vehicle will be given an odometer rollback car title, indicating that it’s unreliable. Still, these cars can be driven like any other legally. 
  • Lemon car title - If a car has been useable for at least a month due to some issue that just can’t be fixed, then it’s legally deemed a lemon and reflected on in the title. This is usually the fault of the automaker, but lemons happen with every product on the planet. 
  • Clean car title - Very self-explanatory; a clean car title means the vehicle has experienced no major issues. 

Can Clean Titles be Faked?

As a matter of fact, clean car titles can be faked or forged in what is known as title washing. Again, this is for the sole purpose of hiding title brands. When it’s something as major as a salvage, it’s fraud in its plainest form. There are a couple of ways that scammers are able to wash car titles of their assigned brands. 

Some states may not recognize the same car title brands as others do. So, scammers will take these cars with salvage or junk titles to other states where they wouldn’t be recognized as such. Of course, they can also forge the title document directly like any other legal document. 

Car titles can also be reapplied for. Scammers are able to do this and withhold certain information, like the vehicle history report. They could get a clean vehicle title as a result. Title washing is fraud and is punishable with fines and even jail time. 

Clean Title Cars And Car Insurance 

Like so many other factors about your car, the status of the title can influence your car insurance. Having such a salvage title or a junk one will flat-out prevent you from getting it insured at all because it’s not meant to be driven. 

You will have more luck finding car insurance for a vehicle with a rebuilt title. It’s not impossible, but it will take some digging to find an insurance company that will take you on. Finding full coverage, in particular, will be a challenge as most cars with rebuilt titles usually settle for basic coverage. This is a salvage vehicle that was rebuilt for more than it’s valued due to extensive damage, and most drivers don’t plan on doing that again. 

Updated: December 2023

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