CarTalk.com Best of Deals Car Reviews Repair Shops Cars A-Z Radio Show

Buying a rebuilt car?

I’m on a really tight budget and I’ve been looking to get a half decent car. I was reading about rebuilt title cars & I seen alot of people have had good luck with them. I do understand the risks… I only need something that’ll last me a year or 2 until it stops running and I don’t plan on reselling & I would only get liability insurance. I found a 05 nissan maxima sl for $1800, with 144x miles. It’s a rebuilt title and he had pics of the actual damage… I’m going to look at it on Monday and if everything seems okay I’m going to take it to see if it will pass inspection (it’s inspected till december. He has pics of when it was damaged… he says the air bags were not deployed & there was no frame damage
I know you can’t tell just from pictures but how bad does the damage look?? Is this something I should stay away from?

Before [https://imagizer.imageshack.us/v2/320xq90/r/923/50CNwq.jpg

After https://imagizer.imageshack.us/v2/320xq90/r/922/vYiOUr.jpg

https://imageshack.us/i/pnu8gmLej

I’d be tempted to skip it

There are plenty of clean title cars for low money out there

The damage doesn’t look catastrophic, but that’s assuming you’re being told the COMPLETE truth

Even if the damage was completed halfway respectably, what about the rest of the car?

Could be rusted out, maybe the automatic transmission has never been serviced, could need tires, brakes and more. The exhaust could be rusted out. Maybe it won’t even pass emissions inspection, for various/expensive reasons. I could go on and on, but I hope you get the point

Yeah . . . “he” says

Could be lying like a rug

Could be there’s actually no airbags behind the steering wheel cover and dashboard cover. If that is the case, and airbag light is actually off, there could be resistors plugged in, instead of the airbags. And then when YOU get in accident, there’s no airbag to actually protect you.

Who’s to say the pictures are of the car you’re looking to buy?

Could be the car you’re looking to buy was damaged far more extensively than that picture you showed us

If I were you, I’d forget the idea of buying a rebuilt title car

Buy a car within your budget that has a clean title. Pay for a pre-inspection. Make absolutely sure the mechanic has nothing to do with the seller. The clean title car that does fit your budget will probably be a little older, smaller, and less well equipped than the Maxima, but your goal should be to buy a fairly reliable car, not a rebuilt nice car with many question marks

If you buy this, I could envision a scenario where you easily spend $1800 more on TOP of the initial purchase price just to get it to be a halfway reliable and safe car.

4 Likes

Have a pre-purchase inspection performed before buying the vehicle.

And tell the shop it was in a front end crash.

The $100.00 you spend could prevent you from spending $$$$$$$$$$.

Tester

5 Likes

If you just need basic transport for a year or two, I think a better choice would be an older Corolla or Civic, one with a clear title that’s never been in a major wreck. Something in the 1995-2000 range in those models would likely cost less than $1800 and have a good chance of lasting a couple of years before requiring any major repairs. A well maintained early 90’s in either of those two models even. You’ll increase your odds of avoiding big $$ repairs if you can find one with a manual transmission, or if an automatic, one that has been recently replaced.

I presume the title problem with the car you’ve posted about is b/c it was totaled by an insurance company, bought by someone who fixed it up. That’s certainly a possible way to a good car, but there’s a risk of hidden damage. In modern cars even something simple like a pinched wire harness can result in a week or more at the shop and a thousand dollars of labor just to diagnosis the problem. That was not nearly so much of a problem with pre-electronic fuel injection cars, but once they introduced the computer systems, minor but hidden problems caused by crashes can be really expensive to diagnose & repair.

Whichever path you choose, before writing any checks, make sure to pay your own mechanic do a pre-purchase inspection.

2 Likes

Thank you for the response… did you look at the pics? The tires are brand new. I questioned the damaged picture being legitimate as well but I put it into Google image search and it is found nowhere on the internet meaning it has to be his picture. That being the actual damage, does that look like really bad damage or no?

And as far as the rest of the car being good… wouldn’t they be able to see that when I take it to get inspected (before I buy)? I don’t know much about cars which is why I’m here. But I’ve definitely read alot of success stories with rebuilds but I’m still skeptical.

I did not see the tires

But, as I said, there are so many uncertainties

That’s a heck of an assumption to make

It looks like expensive damage. It’s easily repairable, assuming the unibody itself isn’t tweaked. The cost to fix properly could easily exceed the value of a 13 year old car with 144K miles. That said, you have no idea of the quality of the repair.

It seems you’re really liking this particular car. Anyways, if you want it inspected, perhaps the appropriate place would be a body shop that is not affiliated with the seller. Their mechanics should be able to at least tell you if the car was repaired decently, or if the car is in fact 2 cars that were welded together

How much does a 2004 car go for in your area? Let’s be realistic, and go with a smaller car, such as a Corolla, Cavalier, Civic, or something similar?

What are your goals?

Drive a nice car for a low price?

Drive a fairly reliable car that will hopefully not give you too many expensive surprises over the next 2 years? . . . that’s the time frame you used, so I’m going with it, as well, for now

If it’s the former, my advice is to forget it, especially because you don’t know much about cars

And you should be skeptical. Who’s the one announcing success? The guys that have fixed their cars and are now offering them up for sale?

If that damaged Maxima in the first picture were my car, I’d probably fix it, with the results basically being the second picture . . . with the goal of me continuing to drive the car

But on the other hand, I wouldn’t want to be on the other side. I wouldn’t want to be the guy buying the car. Because the seller knows the whole story, whereas the buyer does not

I’d rather hang onto my own repaired car, versus buying somebody else’s repaired car, with uncertainty, as to the quality of the repairs

1 Like

Wow! I buy used cars and I try and find ones that have not been in a collision!

A really tight budget could be the best reason to stay away from these cars.

"I know what you’re thinking: ‘Did he fire six shots or only five?’ Well, to tell you the truth, in all this excitement, I’ve kinda lost track myself. But being this is a .44 Magnum, the most powerful handgun in the world, and would blow your head clean off, you’ve got to ask yourself one question: ‘Do I feel lucky?’ "

Do you feel lucky? It’s a dice roll. You could get a half way decent car or you could get a half-baked car with more problems than you can shake a stick at and never get it quite right.

Unless you know what you’re doing or can afford to gamble and take a loss (In other words, you don’t have to ask us and you’ve got extra money), stay away!
CSA

4 Likes

CSA is right. And inspections aren’t guaranteed to catch everything. Think of it this way: When you buy a house, and have a home inspector check the place out before you plunk your money down, the home inspector isn’t going to rip all the drywall off to make sure some idiot didn’t screw up the wiring behind it. So if some idiot did screw it up, you’re not gonna know even though you got it inspected.

Same principle goes for cars. For all you know the front end collision sheared off the oil pan and the engine ran for awhile without oil until the driver regained consciousness and thought to shut it off. And maybe it’s running fine now, but that incident caused damage that will manifest in 10,000 miles and cost you thousands of dollars.

It’s a big gamble. You might buy it and end up with a great car that lasts 10 years. Or you might buy it and find yourself with a high-4-figure repair bill. We can’t tell from here, and even the guy inspecting it in person might not see trouble spots if they’re hidden from view.

4 Likes

I don’t know where you read that, but some insurance companies will not cover Salvage titled vehicles. Just because you could not find a picture with a internet search does not mean it is not there. An inspection station is not going to say a vehicle will pass in December if they look at it now. This is not something someone with limited funds should be doing.

3 Likes

Anyone buying an $1,800 car should have $1,000 set aside for repairs and an additional $100 per month added for the repairs to come.

4 Likes

I appreciate all the responses. But the original question in my post was if the pic of the vehicle when it was damaged looks to be that serious. It doesn’t look that serious to me, the radiator doesnt even look dented. But idk much so I came here but no one really gave me an opinion on the damage done here but rather their opinion on rebuilt titles.

And it’s absolutely the same car, It has the same silver paint chip on the front left corner of the hood. (I have other pics)

And if you look on Google for people with experience with rebuilt cars. On EVERYTHING I read anyone who has actually bought & owned a rebuilt car reports having no problems 99% of the time… while people saying to stay away from them don’t mention anything about actually ever owning one.

I know for 1800 im taking a risk buying any car in any condition. I’ll absolutly consider all the info posted. But I would like to hear opinions on the actual picture of the damage itself, not rebuilt titles. Does it look like there could be frame damage? Damage to the radiator or engine? It just doesn’t look that bad to me I would like a second opinion. Thanks guys

We can’t, because we weren’t able to inspect the car for ourselves

We simply told you the risks, and advised you how to proceed

How are we supposed to give an opinion, based on one picture?

Not being present to physically inspect the car when it was damaged, and afterwards, when it was fixed, we’re unable to offer opinions as to the car itself.

Good luck, in any case, whatever you decide to do :smiley:

[quote=“Skinnyjoey, post:11, topic:108999”]
But I would like to hear opinions on the actual picture of the damage itself, not rebuilt titles.

No one can give an accurate assessment of vehicle damage from a picture. There could be hidden structure damage or even future drive line problems. If you are willing to believe that 99 % percent of rebuilt vehicles are problem free than why ask. I do hope you are not comparing repaired body damage with rebuilt insurance totaled vehicles.

Here’s my take.

I’ve purchased vehicles with much more damage than the image shows.

In some cases, it required cutting out the radiator core support and welding in a used support.

I’ve even been lucky enough to find the bolt on parts, (bumper, fenders, hood, grill, etc) in the same color where no repainting was required.

And the vehicles looked like they were never damaged.

But it depends who does this type of repair.

That’s why you have the vehicle inspected prior to purchase.

Tester

I don’t think 99% of them are problem free. I was reading through the net and seen alot of posts of people who had bought cars that were once totaled and then rebuilt and it seemed like every single person said the rebuilt car they bought ran great… some saying they were the best vehicles they ever owned… I also noticed people saying to stay away from them make no mention of actually having experience with one. Which is what made me consider this kind of car in the first place. I do understand there’s risks but with this particular car, the guy has the original picture of the damage which didn’t look bad to me. Just wanted to see other first impressions on it.

Thank you for all the advice though. I will absolutely approach this with caution and make sure it’s thoroughly looked over. If everything looks & sounds fine and it passes inspection I will most likely buy it. If anything looks weary at all, im gonna run.

The damage doesn’t look that bad to me at all. If it runs and drives out ok I’d probably be all over it for 1800 bucks. There’s a lot of 8k dollar cars out there that are likely far worse off on a clean title.

A Subaru of mine was rammed into a full size Blazer and the damage looked 10 times worse than the Nissan. I fixed it up and drove it for another 8 years with a Salvage title and no issues. Finally scrapped it at 300k miles when the differential in the 4WD transmission started giving up and decided it wasn’t worth my effort to fix.

I would certainly follow Tester’s advice and spend a few bucks to have it looked over though. His advice about color matched bolt on parts is also excellent advice.

In the past I shared a shop with a body man that looked for “light hit cars”, easy repairs like the vehicle in the picture. That is a car that could be purchased for perhaps $500 to $800, repaired in a weekend, detailed and put up for sale.

I suspect that the bumper bar was straightened, not replaced, that is the hidden damage but who cares, this is not a collectors idem.

The salvage title system is to protect unknowing buyers from late model reconstructed vehicles but the result is that there are a great number of old previously damaged cars with a salvage or rebuilt title.

This is just an old used car. I would be more interested in a vehicle that was taken from an owner from an insurance company because of light damage than a random old car that would probably cost more.

I think OP wants a maxima because it’s nicer than an Altima. Or corolla. Or Hyundai. 1800 for any 05 car sounds good

1 Like

Very true! Some guys would knowingly sell total junk to others and some have more integrity than that. Without knowing the individual it’s tough to know which is the case.
CSA

One reason you’re finding so many “success stories” is because people who failed and lost money are much less likely to post “I spent $2000 on a piece of junk!”.

1 Like