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Car insurance write-off categories

Car insurance write-off categories

Your guide to Cat A, B, C, D and new N and S category write-offs

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What is a car insurance write-off?

If a car has been in an accident or is otherwise damaged, the driver’s insurer will inspect the vehicle to determine if it is safe to drive again.

Insurers will deem a car a write-off (or ‘total loss’) if it is unsalvageable or if it would cost more than the car’s value to return it to a roadworthy condition.

While many insurance write-offs are sent to the scrapyard, a write-off doesn’t automatically mean the end. A car can be assigned one of several write-off categories depending on the severity of the damage, and many written-off cars find their way back onto the road or the used car market.

What are the different write-off categories?

New insurance write-off categories were introduced in October 2017 to better reflect the complexity in repairing modern cars. These are the categories now used when assessing damage in insurance claims:

Category A: Can’t be repaired. The entire vehicle has to be crushed.

Category B: Can’t be repaired. The body shell has to be crushed, but you can salvage other parts from it.

Category C: Can be repaired, but it would cost more than the vehicle’s worth. You can use the car again if it’s repaired to a roadworthy condition.

Category D: Can be repaired and would cost less than the vehicle’s worth, but other costs (such as transporting your vehicle) take it over the vehicle’s value. You can use the car again if it’s repaired to a roadworthy condition.

Category N: Can be repaired following non-structural damage. You can use the vehicle again if it’s repaired to a roadworthy condition. This replaced category C in October 2017.

Category S: Can be repaired following structural damage. You can use the vehicle again if it’s repaired to a roadworthy condition. This replaced category D in October 2017.

Because some category C, D, S and N cars may have received minor damage that has been repaired at a cost to the owner (not the insurer), these types of write-offs commonly find their way to the used car market.

Despite being replaced by N and S ratings, some category C and D cars written off before the changes were introduced may still be up for sale.

Should I buy a written-off car?

You could find a bargain on the used car market if you're willing to buy a previously written-off car, but it’s important to fully understand what each category means and how much damage the car has sustained. Category A and B cars should be scrapped, so if you see one for sale it’s best avoided (unless you are buying a category B car to salvage parts only).

Category C, D, N and S cars should be safe to drive again once they have been professionally repaired. Once a car has been repaired it will need to be re-registered and pass an MOT to ensure it is safe to drive. You should check with the seller whether this has already been done or if they are selling as a fixer-upper.

It’s also worth considering the resale value as previously written-off vehicles tend to be worth much less, even after they’ve been repaired.

Previously written-off cars can also cost more to insure and some insurers won’t cover them at all. But it’s not impossible to find cover and should just be a case of shopping around by comparing quotes (and making sure you always declare the car’s status to your insurer).

If you’re fully aware of all the drawbacks of a written-off car, you may decide that the potential savings are worth it.

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