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Title Brands (Salvage Titles)

When purchasing a motor vehicle in the state of Wisconsin you may encounter titles with “brands” on them.  We will explain the origins and significances of the five most common brands found on Wisconsin titles.  As the term indicates, brands are permanent and will remain on the title for the life of the vehicle (until junked).  These brands will be found in the area of the title just under the “Secured Party” area.


1) PREVIOUSLY TITLED IN (another state)

This brand occurs when the vehicle was titled in another state and brought to Wisconsin to register and operate on Wisconsin highways.  The only time I would be concerned with a brand such as this is if there are two or more states indicated.


The explanation of branded titles begins with the description of a “clean” title. This title is one where no brands are found.  This is not necessarily an indication of an unblemished past.  It simply means the vehicle did not pass through the process that causes the titles to be branded.  This avoidance of brands can occur where the vehicle was damaged and then sold through private parties without notifying the state of the damage.  You are supposed to notify the state of damage in excess of 30%, but the likelihood of that is about the same as paying the sales tax you owe on out-of-state purchases (not very likely).  You would then surrender the title for branding as “Salvage”.

Careful pre-purchase inspection by a qualified facility helps reduce the likelihood of  hidden damage of consequence.


The first brand we will discuss is the brand that reads “This vehicle transferred to insurer  upon payment of claim”.  This is commonly known as a claim paid title.

In the event the insurance company takes possession of a vehicle and the damage is between 1% and 35% of the Actual Cash Value (ACV) of the vehicle at the time of the incident it will acquire the “Claim Paid” brand.  This brand only exists in Wisconsin.

Since it does not say “Salvage” on the title it is not a Salvage brand.  The accuracy of this brand is determined by the accuracy of the initial estimate and how the insurance company processes the paperwork.  Very often this brand does not show up on a title that is transferred out of state, but if the title ever is transferred back to an owner in the state of Wisconsin it will reappear on the title as it will be carried in the data base for at least ten years.  Once again, careful pre-purchase inspection is recommended. 

4) SALVAGE TITLE (NOT "Salvage Inspected" - see below)

This is the brand that is applied to vehicles that have sustained between 1% and 99% of the Actual Cash Value in damage in the most recent incident.  This brand is characteristically applied by the insurance company involved in the setting of the claim.

The brand as applied in Wisconsin will read “This is a Salvage Vehicle”.  It will appear just below the Lien Holder area of the title. This vehicle is not legal to operate on public highways until it has been repaired and inspected in accordance with the salvage vehicle repair laws of the state of Wisconsin. With the range of damage that can be sustained, careful inspection and verification as to the extent of damage is imperative.  Anybody buying salvage bikes is strictly on their own and the phrase “Caveat Emptor” (Buyer Beware) definitely applies here.


This is the next step in the processing of a vehicle declared salvage in the state of Wisconsin.  Upon completion of repairs in accordance with the state of Wisconsin salvage vehicle laws the title will then have the brand changed to read “This Vehicle is Rebuilt Salvage – WI inspection passed” OR "Titled in WI as Rebuilt Salvage" (the current version of the brand). This inspection is done by a law enforcement officer.

This brand will remain on the title for the life of the vehicle.

While it’s true this brand does reduce the resale value of the vehicle, that is taken into account by a reasonable buyer at the front end of the transaction.  Knowing who did the repairs is very important and can determine the future resale value of the vehicle.

Here at Motorcycle Performance we do rebuild quite a number of salvage vehicles, and each one passes the inspection before they are made available to the public.  Some of these bikes we buy have very minor damage, and I am amazed they weren’t repaired by the previous owner.

All of the bikes we do are subject to the same standards and serviced by the same people responsible for our racing program.  The range of services available here allow the proper repair of nearly any type of damage from paintwork to complete chassis construction.

The rebuilding of these bikes also allows a more extensive knowledge of the newer models than just the minor levels of service characteristically done at some service facilities.  Our rebuilt salvage bikes have been to Daytona at over 165 mph and I recently took a Hayabusa done by us to Byron Dragway and ran 149 in the ¼ mile.


Adjacent states have slightly differing title laws, but the term “Salvage” will appear on titles of vehicles that have been damaged.  We buy bikes from other states that occasionally are salvage and those brands do carry over to Wisconsin.  These bikes, when repaired in accordance with the Wisconsin laws and inspected do qualify for a Wisconsin title, although it will be a branded title as described in the previous section.


These designations indicate the fact that 100% or more of the Actual Cash Value of the vehicle was involved in an incident.  Any vehicle with these terms on the title will not be eligible to be rebuilt and operated on public highways.  These vehicles can be used for racing or as a source of parts for other projects or sales.  Do not believe anyone who tells you otherwise.


One good aspect of a braded title purchase is that often a person can move up 2-4 years and a model or two, because of the lower price. The longer you hold onto a branded bike, the less the brand means in diminished value as can be seen by the accompanying diagram. Eventually everything has effectively a zero salvage value and the longer you hold onto a salvage vehicle the less difference there is between branded and unbranded.

Value Graph
The initial value is the purchase price of the vehicle
The shaded area indicates the amount of money saved.

When you buy a salvage title from a reputable source, it goes through the same inspections as a non-branded title, and is held to the same standards. As far as insurance companies are concerned, all bikes diminish in value after time.

Some insurance companies do not want to insure branded title bikes (ironic... since they created them). Some insurance companies will drop you faster than a fresh turd if you have a bouncy trampoline. The issue is not with the bike, it is with the insurance company. Some banks don't want to lend on branded title bikes, often related to the provision of providing collision insurance on the bike as collateral. This all comes back to finding an insurance company that is less restrictive.

I hope this information is helpful allowing you to make an informed decision when purchasing a vehicle and are presented with the title to look at before you agree to purchase.


We are required by state law to electronically file titles and collect registration fees. 

Our document fees go towards the payment for equipment, classes and ongoing training as required to make these electronic filings. 

The benefits of the electronic filing is that you can leave the store with registration and a license plate, thus avoiding the hassle of the “Applied For” syndrome of being pulled over, rarely at a convenient time, and having to dig out and show the paperwork to an interested law enforcement officer.  Your title will generally arrive at your address in 1 ½ to 2 weeks after your purchase. 

© Bill Whisenant 2007
updated 11/26/2012



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