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Implications of frame/subframe damage & titles

Hi -

My 09 Subaru Forester was totaled last week. UGH! Now I have to buy a new car. I looked at two 2011 Subaru Outbacks today, both had been in an accident.

The first said the passenger side quarter panel had been replaced, but the frame had not been bent. Would a 2011 Suburu Outback with 22,000 miles be totaled if the frame wasn’t damaged? This sounds a little odd to me. It had a “rebuilt” title. What the heck does that mean?

The second had backed into something with a tow hitch/bike rack. The back axle “subframe” was slightly bent. 2011 with only 8,000. The sales person said it made the car very slightly more prone to serious damage IF it got rear ended.

So, what is the implications of the rear axle sub frame being slightly bent. What is the implications of a “rebuilt” title.

Thanks, I’m an accountant and know NOTHING about cars!!

Colorado Rene

My inclination would be to stay away from any car that has a “rebuilt” title. The damage was probably more extensive than the salesman claims. My guess is that you are not dealing with a new car dealer or even a well-established used car dealer. There will be warranty problems with either of these cars and neither car will be worth much if you decide to trade it in. Shop elsewhere.

A “rebuilt” title is the same as a salvage title. While a salvage title does not always mean the car is not worth having a couple of comments could apply to the first one.
A salvage title makes the worth of the vehicle about half of normal retail.
A 2011 that has a salvage title was probably whacked and whacked very hard. I would be very nervous about a 2011 model that was declared a total already.

The second car might be feasible if an inspection was done and the price was right. The rear subframe might or might not be a problem so a thorough inspection should be done before buying it.
If they bent a rear subframe by backing into something with a bike rack they must have really been moving.

Triedaq is correct about any warranty issues as any existing warranty will not apply to anything affected by a collision and sometimes any debate over whether a factory warranty should cover something can get pretty volatile at the service desk. Proceed with caution.

Just curious, but what are they asking for these things?

I might add that your '09 was totaled last week. There’s a good chance your old vehicle will be repaired and resold with a salvage title; all depending on the damage of course.
Would you feel good about buying your recently wiped out car after it was repaired to some standard that you know nothing about?

Just look for something else, skip both of these. Go for a year or two older if you must, but you should try to find the ‘cleanest’ car you can find. Don’t buy a problem.

“Rebuilt title” = value at no more than 1/2 “book” value…Rear sub-frame a little tweaked, might be a good deal, might not…Ask to see the PICTURES of these cars before they were repaired…These pictures exist and the insurance company that paid for the repairs certainly has them…So will the repair shop. Everybody has a set of these pictures except YOU!! What a system!

I’d stay away from both. You will take a big hit on a salvage title vehicle when its trade in time. Also I suspect it was more than a qtr panel if it was totaled.

I would also stay away from the vehicle with a bent rear sub frame. Real good chance it will never be aligned properly and could eat tires quickly.

I dont think the savings are worth the gamble.

Stop shopping for used cars only by price. The seller almost always knows what he has, you don’t. The best used car I ever bought cost me slightly above book value. The sales manager and I both knew he was asking above book value but it was bought and serviced at the dealership I bought it at and I bought it the day after it was traded in.

Rebuilt titles are cars from other states that do not recognize a car as fully totaled. If the repair work is proper and the car meets spec from the manufacturer then it is as good as a car that has had an accident. Most owners keep these cars but some are total losses from the insurance and rebuilt to spec. These are on you to prove they are good. So the seller can be asked up front are these a fully factory spec vehicle. If he says yes get that in writing. These can be good if they are done right. Get it in writing.

In my opinion, as a owner of a salvaged title vehicle if you do your research on the person selling the vehicle such as talk to people who know them and the qualitiy of work they do you can get a pretty good deal. Yes, the vehicle no matter how new will not be covered by any manufacturer warranty. The guy I bought mine from let me drive it for 2 weeks before i bought it. I am a dealership mechanic so one saturday i took it into the shop and went through it top to bottom, threw it on the alignment machine all looked good. Now you may not be a mechanic but you could take it somewhere before you buy it and have it checked out, if he wont agree to that then i wouldnt buy it. I was looking for a good car for a decent price, i looked at several cars w/o a salvage title that were absolute junk at a higher price. Keep in mind I bought mine from someone who has done this for his living for going on 25 years, if he wasnt good at it he wouldnt have been around this long and I talked to no less than 5 people who had dealings with him and not one bad word to say about him. I usually dont buy a vehicle thinking about what the trade in value is, i usually drive the wheels off of them, for example my vehicles have 260,000/175,000/143,000 and the salvage title vehicle which i bought for my daughter just rolled over 100,000. Having said all that there are people out there that do crappy work and buy cars to rebuild that were so bad off they should have been crushed and made into beer cans. Anyway thats my 2 cents.

The OP said “Thanks, I’m an accountant and know NOTHING about cars!!”

That tells me there’s no way they should try and figure out whether a crash damaged car is a ‘good deal’. Just find a good used car, no crash issues.

I had a former colleague, a single woman, who is now deceased. She was very tight with her money and she bought used cars with salvage titles. She claimed that the cars were “like new”. What I observed was that the cars she bought rusted very quickly. We both drove our cars in the same climate. I had an 1978 Oldsmobile Cutlass and she had an Oldsmobile Cutlass at least 10 years newer. Mine showed no rust and hers became a rust bucket rather soon after she bought it. Now I don’t know what other problems she had and she replaced the car with a Buick LeSabre with a salvage title. She died quite suddenly while she still owned the Buick, so trade-in value wasn’t a problem for her. However, I really don’t think the risk of a salvage or rebuilt titled vehicle is worth the chance.

texases you are correct and i pointed out what they could do in my post. i said they could take it and have it checked out and not to buy it if the seller wouldnt agree to that. i wasnt telling them to buy or not to buy just giving as i said my two cents .

I understand, but in her shoes I wouldn’t buy it, even if it passed an inspection. Once there’s an accident, damage can be in places impossible to see with just an inspection. Just not worth the risk to me.

wow -

thanks all!! Lots of good info.

OK4450 asked about prices.

09 Outback, rebuilt title, 22K mile, asking $16,000
09 Outback, clean title, but “subframe” damage, 8K miles, asking $23,000. Which TOTALLY doesn’t make sense, since a new 13 off the lot is only $26,000.

I don’t think you want a car with potential problems. Cars are like husbands–it will take years to work out the problems if it is even possible. I’ve spent much of my married life trying to keep Triedaq from buying something cheap. A bent frame in a car is as hard to deal with as a cheapskate husband. Get an automobile that you have at least a sporting chance that won’t give you trouble.

Mrs. Triedaq

Can you afford a new car? Buy one or Subaru (not dealer) certified car.

Used car prices are quite high especially Subaru. Believe it or not a new Subaru is not that much more likely discounted vs overpriced used. Discounted new is easier since many folks have it. Used cars are harder since they supply is pretty short these days.

Even cars with “clean” titles can have been involved in an accident. Carfax or Experian can only report on what is reported to them. If the wreck was not reported to the police or to an insurance company, no record will exist. At least the salesman is telling you has been totaled. If a rebuilt salvage title has been issued, there should also be a sticker on the door jamb somewhere.

A salvage title is issued when an insurance company buys a wrecked car. After the car is fixed, not necessarily well, a rebuilt salvage title is issued. That “brand” will remain on the title as long as the car lives (at least if it stays in this country). Literally hundreds of wrecked cars are exported every day. Mexico is a huge buyer. Strangely, so are Russia, Poland, and the middle east.

As for a 2011 being “totaled”, as mentioned above, a car that new probably took a heck of a whallop to be totaled. I think you should keep looking. Six pr seven year old cars are often “totalled” for damage that I can fix for $500 or $600. There is a Grand Marquis in my driveway as I type that cost me about $250 to fix. A tree fell across the hood and took out the windshield. Windshields are $110 (wholesale installed) and a used hood, already white, was another $100. The rest was incidentals and issuance of the “rebuilt salvage” title.

+1 with @texases.
A crashed car is never a good deal.
It is like going to the bakery to get a cake and let yourself get talked into getting one that ‘doesn’t have very much rat in it’.

Sometimes it is even hard to insure a vehicle with a salvage title. My brother has a 1996 Chevrolet 3/4 ton van that was hit by a very large (6’ diameter trunk) that fell on it during a wind storm. The tree hit just behind the driver’s seat on the passenger side of the van. The insurance called the vehicle a total loss. My brother bought the van back from the insurance company and used a hydraulic ram to raise the roof back up. The doors behind the front seat on the passenger side were destroyed, but he replaced them with doors from a van that had been junked with a bad engine. The insurance company will only issue him liability --no collision or comprehensive; At any rate, the van was hit again by another falling tree limb and the windshield was cracked. One glass company would not replace the windshield because of the salvage title even though my brother did not expect a guarantee. He finally found a company that replaced with windshield without a guarantee for the work. My brother didn’t replace the van because he is retiring from the plumbing business and figured that the van would see him through another year. The resale value is obviously nill on an old van with a dented top with side doors that don[t match the rest of the vehicle. Insurance companies will only give him comprehension and even getting glass replaced is not easy.