Find out the most popular types of car titles, how to know which is which, and where they might be useful to you.

1. Certificate Of Origin

This is the original document given from the car's manufacturer to the car dealership. This is the document you will receive when you buy a brand new car, you use this document to obtain a title.

2. Manufacturer’s Statement Of Origin

Almost identical to the "certificate of origin", the manufacturer's statement of origin is another document that is transferred from the manufacturer to a car dealer, which is used to obtain a title.

3. Affidavit

This document is a title that is issued under an affidavit (a sworn statement of fact issued by the state) when there is other missing documentation about the vehicle.

4. Bonded

When there is no clear owner of a vehicle, you can apply for a bonded title. Basically, you purchase a security bond worth the amount of the value of the car. If another person claims ownership of the vehicle in the future, the bond can be used to pay to remove that valid claim of ownership or lien. A Bond title will have a "bonded" stamp on it for up to 5 years. This can be an expensive option but when dealing with lack of ownership documentation, this may be the only option when transferring a title into your name.

5. Clear

The terminology for a title that has no lien.

6. Electronic

An electronic title can be issued in many states. These can be useful in obtaining physical titles for transferring or loan processing.

7. Lienholder

When you purchase a car through financing you will have a lienholder title. This title lists you as the owner but the lienholder is listed as the lender. The lender has possession of the title until the vehicle is paid in full.

8. Junk

If a vehicle has been collected by a junkyard, the title will change to a junk title if the vehicle will be scrapped or sold for parts in the future. A junk title is one of the few title designations that is almost permanent and rarely removed. Removing the junk title status can be very complex and can take an entire reconstruction just to upgrade to a branded title*.

9. Salvage

The three loss events that qualify a vehicle to be designated as a salvage title are theft, repair, and/or major damage. Typically, the salvage title status is decided by an insurance company that pays a claim on the car. Some states have stricter laws on when a salvage title must be designated. Usually when a vehicle has incurred 60% more damage than its value it is designated as a salvage title. Even if there is not much damage on the car, insurance companies can still  decide to designate a vehicle with a salvage title brand. A salvage title is almost always permanent and removing the brand from the title can cost more than the car is worth.

You can typically keep driving and registering your vehicle for road use. Depending on the state, an inspection may be necessary for continued road use. If you purchase a vehicle with a salvage title, make sure the airbags are operational and the vehicle has proper documentation of the VIN number and other repaired components.

Serious criminal charges can be involved in covering up vehicle salvage titles. Any attempt to alter, conceal, obscure, or remove the salvage title brand from your vehicle, without using the proper legal channels is illegal.

10. Flood & Water Damage

Any time a vehicle goes through a flood, has had water damage from a rain storm, or has been submerged in a body of water may be designated a flood & water damage title. Be careful when buying vehicles with this designation as water damage can be detrimental to the car's electronic and mechanical components.

11. Import

An import title is simply a vehicle that has been imported into the U.S. for the first time. If the car was previously titled in the U.S. this does not apply. All vehicles manufactured outside the U.S. and not originally marketed for the U.S. are subject to certification of safe and legal road use in the U.S.. Vehicle requirements such as safety, bumper height, and emissions must be approved by agencies like the NHTSA (National Highway Transportation Safety Administration), the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency), and the DOT (Department of Transportation) before entering the U.S.

12. Export

If a car is being exported, the vehicle will need a designated export title. This title makes it possible for customs clearance.

13. Reconstructed

Any car that has been rebuilt for road use can be branded as a reconstructed title by a collision center, body shop, insurance company, and/or a licensed vehicle rebuilder. You may need an inspection to register the vehicle for continued road use.

14. Rebuilt

Similar to the reconstructed title, the rebuilt title brand can be assigned by a collision center, body shop, insurance company, and/or a licensed vehicle rebuilder. You may need an inspection to register the vehicle for continued road use.

15. Certificate Of Destruction

An insurance company may designate a certificate of destruction once the insurance company has paid a claim on a vehicle. This title designation means that the car is to be destroyed and not used for road use. You likely cannot transfer this kind of title.

The insurance company will not want to be liable for a vehicle that is this damaged ever being on the road again. If a person in an accident believes that an insurance company has designated the wrong brand on a vehicle title, they may be able to claim that the vehicle should not have been allowed to be used on the road. This is the main reason of the certificate of destruction designation.

A vehicle could also be issued this title brand if an insurance company finds that the vehicle does not meet the safety requirements for road use such as a weak frame or bad airbags.

16. Parts Only

This title brand is typically taken care of on a title transfer for parts only. If the new owner of the vehicle decides to process the title, they may receive a parts only title.

17. Lemon

lemon title brand is a title designation for cars that have experienced the same mechanical failure several times. Lemon titles regulate from state to state but the general rule is that the vehicle may be deemed a lemon title after multiple mechanical failures of the same essential vehicle parts under warranty.

The lemon title brand is placed on the title by the manufacturer after the car problem persists after several repair attempts.

18. Odometer Rollback

If someone has attempted to tamper with the odometer in a car in order to sell the car at a higher price, a mechanic can brand the vehicle with an odometer rollback title. Tampering with the odometer of a vehicle in order to sell the car at a higher price is illegal in the U.S.

What Does It Mean To Have A Title Brand?

title brand is a mark on a title for cars that qualify for a junk title, a salvage title, or a certificate of destruction title. These cars may be dangerous for road use due to previously sustained damage through an accident or mechanical failure. 

What's The Difference Between A Car Title & Car Registration

A title proves that you own the vehicle vs a car's registration which is a document to authorize your car to legally drive on government roads.

See more on car title vs. car registration here.

Get Rid Of A Car, No Title

Trying to sell your car without a title can be a hassle. When you donate your car to Wheels For Wishes, we help you sort out almost any title issue and get you a 100% tax deduction in the process. Here's how you can donate a car with title issues:

  1. Call 1-855-278-9474 or visit our online donation form to get started on your car donation.
  2. Next, we’ll arrange your free towing within 24 hours of the next business day. If you have no title or one of the titles specified in the article above, our title department will gladly help sort out almost any title issue your vehicle may have.
  3. Finally, when the car donation process is complete, we’ll mail you your tax deductible receipt. You can use this to complete your 1098 c form and attach it to your taxes.

That's all you need to get rid of a car regardless of the title situation. If you have any other title questions check out our Title FAQ page, it has great tips on state by state questions and other specific title issues. Help Make-A-Wish kids with the click of a button with your car donation to Wheels For Wishes!

Click here to see what a car title looks like.


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