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Should You Buy a Used Subaru with a Branded Title?

With used cars still in short supply as of February 2024, you see a lot of Subaru’s for sale on Facebook Marketplace with branded titles (i.e. salvage, R-title, or Rebuilt title, etc.).

Most are priced quite attractively, ranging anywhere from 20-40% off current market prices.

So, should you consider buying one of these “re-built” Subaru’s?

The answer to this question depends on many variables so let’s discuss them in detail.

What is branded title?

A branded title simply indicates that the car has had “major” repairs done to it. It can be from an accident or from act of God (i.e. floor). The insurance company usually “totals” a car when the repair cost exceeds 50%-75% of the value of the car.

The National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) operates a central database of cars that are totaled.

What the seller says

While looking for a used Crosstrek, I encountered many sellers of these rebuilt Subaru’s and they all say the same thing: “oh it was only a XXXX and YYYY and I replaced them. It’s no big deal. It’s in great shape. When do you want to come down and buy it, yada yada yada”.

Well, I can tell you that most rebuilt cars are from a major accident. Yes, during COVID, some insurance companies were quick to total a car when replacement parts were scare or took too long to get. But now, that is no longer the case.

Sample 1 – 2024 Subaru Crosstrek

Let’s take a look at this beautiful 2024 Subaru Crosstrek Limited with only 1,900 miles.

I will give credit to this seller because unlike others, he actually lists the items were replaced. But without proper context, they don’t sound too bad, right? I mean look at these pictures!

But if you look close enough on the second photo (of the rear hatch), you can spot a telltale sign. Notice how the gap on the right side of the hatch seems to be sider than the left side? The gap should be consistent throughout.

Most, if not all, rebuilt cars come from wreck yards and the biggest one of them is a nationally-operated Copart. If you search “Subaru VIN XXXXXXXXXXXXXX”, you should be able to find a listing for that wrecked Crosstrek that was rebuillt.

In addition to swappable parts like doors and windows, you see damages to the core body, including the roof line. Moreover, all four side curtain airbags were deployed (read about why this can be bad).

Yes, crumpled metal can be pulled and straightened out, then filled with bondo to make it look great but do you want to bet your life that next time you get into an accident, the repaired area will hold up to protect you?

Final Thoughts

Of course there are legitimate repair shops who buy wrecks and restore them in a safe manner. But many of these Facebook sellers operate without a store front so if something were to go wrong, you are entirely on your own.

Aligning body parts so that gaps are consistent is a really hard work. Wider the gap in certain areas, you will have to contend with water and wind penetration that can cause other problems.

My recommendation is stick with un-wrecked cars unless you are confident of your ability to detect and solve problems.