Shopping for a car? Get to know the “brands” that matter most

Have your online shopping adventures extended to buying a vehicle? Before you sign that ownership, make sure you double check the vehicle’s “brand” to know if it’s been involved in a claim.

What are vehicle brands?

In this case, the “brand” isn’t the name on the bumper, but rather what’s on the vehicle’s title or ownership.

Your province’s transportation ministry gives each vehicle a permanent designation on its title to indicate whether or not it’s ever been damaged. This branding system helps protect consumers, enhance road user safety, and control vehicle registration fraud or theft.

Check the “label”

A vehicle’s brand is printed on the ownership/registration card.  If a vehicle has never been involved in a serious claim, the brand would be “None”, meaning it’s safe to drive. But if the title has any of the following brands, think twice before you buy:

  • Rebuilt: The vehicle was written off, branded as “Salvage”, and then repaired. The owner must provide photos, documents and receipts of the vehicle damage.
  • Salvage: The vehicle was written off, but it can be repaired or used for parts. Once the repaired vehicle passes an inspection, it would be rebranded as “Rebuilt”.
  • Irreparable: The vehicle has been written off as a total loss because it’s too damaged to be repaired; it can only be used for parts or scrap. This brand would also apply to flooded vehicles.
  • Stolen–not recovered: The vehicle has been reported stolen to police. If a stolen vehicle is found, its vehicle brand will usually be changed back to “None” if there is no other damage. While the “Stolen” designation is on the vehicle, it cannot be lawfully sold or operated on the roads.

“Rebuilt” and “None” branded vehicles are the only ones that can be operated on roads.

Buyer beware

Branded cars may seem ideal because of their typically lower price, but there are things you should keep in mind before you buy.

  • Vehicles involved in past claims can have extensive hidden damage to the structure, electrical systems and other parts that a buyer may not always know how to check. Always have a licenced mechanic that you trust inspect the vehicle first.
  • In some provinces, the “None” brand could also mean the vehicle had a damage-related brand outside of your province or Canada, may have been damaged or rebuilt before the branding system was instituted, or the degree of damage didn’t meet the branding criteria. Check with your local registry office for a vehicle history report, which typically includes information from anywhere in North America; it will show previous accident reports to a collision reporting centre and/or insurance company.
  • Branded vehicles are not easy to get insured in all provinces. Even if a vehicle has been repaired, passed inspections, and branded “Rebuilt”, you may not be able to get insurance for your vehicle.

Purchasing a branded vehicle is only a deal if you’ve done your homework. Before you decide to buy, contact us to see how it could affect your Auto coverage.