Title brands are one of the few things a dealer is required to disclose in California. The most common title brands are Salvage/Total Loss; True Mileage Unknown (Odometer Rollback); Junk; Lemon Law Buyback; Flood/Water Damage; and Grey Market. If a vehicle has a title brand, the dealer is required to put a big red warning label on the vehicle and must give you a NMVTIS (National Motor Vehicle Title Information System) report before you purchase the vehicle.
If the dealer failed to properly disclose a title brand to you before you purchased a vehicle, Auto Law can help get your money back.
SALVAGE/TOTAL LOSS: A Salvage brand occurs when an insurance company decides the cost to repair a vehicle after an accident is high enough that the insurance company would rather deem the vehicle a salvage or total loss than pay to repair the vehicle. The fact that a vehicle has been in a serious accident, even one that results in structural damage (also known as frame damage) does not mean the vehicle is a salvage or total loss vehicle.
California does not use the Junk or Flood/Water Damage title brands. If the vehicle was Junk or Flood/Water Damage in another State, it will be deemed Salvage in California.
Salvage vehicles should be regarded as dangerous until your own mechanic and body shop technician have inspected the vehicle.
TRUE MILEAGE UNKNOWN (ODOMETER ROLLBACK): True Mileage Unknown (“TMU”) and Odometer Rollback designations occur when the odometer on the vehicle is not accurate. This can be the result of someone intentionally changing the odometer to commit fraud, mechanical defects which either cause the odometer to show an incorrect reading or the odometer is reset when specific parts are replaced; or if someone replaces the original tires/wheels with a larger or smaller size and fails to adjust the computer settings to the new size tires (this will also result in an inaccurate speedometer until the settlings are corrected). How ever it happens, a TMU designation is a bad thing.
Any warranties and service contracts based on mileage will be voided by a TMU title brand. TMU vehicles often have 50,000 – 200,000 more miles than shown on the odometer, which leads to a lot of unexpected mechanical problems.
JUNK: A Junk title brand means the vehicle has been dismantled and used for parts. California, does not use the Junk title brand. Instead, vehicles that were Junk in another State will be deemed Salvage in California.
LEMON LAW BUYBACK: Many states, including California, require the Lemon Law Buyback title brand when a manufacturer repurchases a vehicle from a consumer under the state’s Lemon Law. In California, the Lemon Law Buyback brand is required only when a vehicle is repurchased under Civil Code § 1793.2(d)(2) (failure to repair under warranty after a reasonable number of attempts). In theory, the manufacturer will have fixed the defects before reselling the vehicle but that is not always the case.
FLOOD/WATER DAMAGE: Vehicles which have sustained water damage receive the Flood/Water Damage brand in some states. California, does not use the Flood or Water Damage title brands. Instead, vehicles that were Flood or Water Damage in another State will be deemed Salvage in California.
Water damage can cause mold or mildew, damage to the engine, and are known to cause significant electrical/computer problems.
GREY MARKET: A Grey Market vehicle is one that was originally built for a country other than the United States. Unlike the other title brands, Grey Market vehicles are not broken or defective.
Grey Market vehicles were designed to comply with another country’s regulations and may need to be converted or modified to comply with California law, including smog standards.
Another significant issue is that manufacturer warranties are usually country specific, which means the manufacturer will not perform warranty repairs on a Grey Market vehicle. Fortunately, California requires dealers to provide an equivalent warranty when selling a grey market vehicle.