Car Insurance Write Off Categories – Explained

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By Cai Bradley

on Tuesday 27 August 2019

Black car crashed and written off

If you’re ever involved in a car accident and your vehicle has sustained pretty serious damage, your insurance provider may inform you that your car is a ‘write-off’.

But what is an insurance write off? What are the insurance write off categories? And can you drive a written off car?

Here’s our guide to the car insurance write off categories, what they each mean for your vehicle’s future, and why you should beware when buying an insurance write off.

What is an insurance write-off?

A car is listed as a write-off when the insurance provider deems that the damage it has sustained means that it is either:

  • No longer safe to be driven on roads

  • Uneconomic to repair – usually if the cost of repairing the vehicle to a roadworthy standard would be more than its current value

This means that – in typical cases – the less a car is worth, the more likely it is to be written off by an insurance company.

There are different levels, or categories, of write-offs, which can be most easily explained using the four main insurance write off categories: Category A, Category B, Category S, and Category N.

If your car is written off, your insurance provider will offer to pay you the amount your car is currently worth rather than the cost of repairing it, but – depending on your car’s write-off category – you can choose to scrap the car, keep it, or even try selling it.

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Car insurance write off categories

So, what are the car insurance write-off categories and what do they mean for your car?

Category A (Cat A) write-offs

Category A – or Cat A – write-offs are cars that have sustained an unsalvageable amount of damage, meaning that they are deemed unacceptable for use or re-sale and can only be scrapped.

Category A write-offs will be crushed in their entirety, nothing is salvaged.

Category B (Cat B) write-offs

If a car is listed as a Category B (Cat B) write-off by an insurance provider, it’s also likely to have sustained a significant level of damage and will have the same fate as a Cat A write-off – being scrapped – but only after any useable parts have been recovered from the vehicle.

These salvageable parts will be reused, but the body shell of the car is highly likely to be crushed.

Category S write-offs (Cat S cars) – formerly Category C (Cat C cars)

Category S (Cat S) write-offs are cars that have sustained structural damage.

They aren’t initially in a fit state to be driven, but can return to the road once they’ve been repaired to roadworthy standards by a professional.

Category N write-offs (Cat N cars) – formerly Category D (Cat D)

Category N write-offs are cars with cosmetic or electrical damage – usually less serious than the issues of those in other categories.

The cost of repairing is usually less than the vehicle’s current worth, but additional costs (such as transporting or towing the car) would make it financially illogical to repair it.

If it is repaired to a roadworthy condition, you can use it again if you wish.

What about Category X and Category F written off cars?

The four listed above are the most common car insurance write-off categories, but there are others.

You may come across Category F (Cat F) write-offs, which refer to vehicles that have minor fire damage, but these are not as common.

Category X (Cat X) write-offs also exist, where vehicles have suffered minor damages and can be repaired without much hassle.

What to do if your car is written off

If your car is in a bad way and has been written-off by your insurance provider, the insurance company themselves will usually deal with the process of scrapping the car for you, if you agree to it.

You simply have to send the insurance provider the vehicle log book (V5C), but you’re advised to keep the yellow “sell, transfer or part-exchange your vehicle to the motor trade” section for future reference.

You must remember to tell the DVLA that the car has been written off, or you could face a fine of up to £1,000!

The insurer will take control of the process from there. But what if you want to keep the car?

Don’t want to scrap your written-off car?

You can keep your Category S (formerly Cat C) or Category N (formerly Cat D) written-off car if you wish, as they aren’t legally required to be immediately scrapped.

The insurance provider will likely provide you with an insurance pay-out and sell the vehicle back to you in most cases.

If you want to keep a Category S (formerly Cat C) write-off, you’ll be required to send a complete log book to the insurance provider and apply for a duplicate one. If you want to keep a Category N car, you can keep the original log book.

Buying a written off car – is it worth it?

You won’t come across Category A or Category B write-offs on the second-hand market, because they aren’t suitable for re-sale and are required to be crushed.

But if you’re looking for a cheap bargain, some Cat S and Cat N cars could be viable options.

As long as the seller has all the relevant paperwork and car history, as well as evidence of any previous damage, buying a Category S or Category N write-off could save you some money!

It’s important to remember that buying an insurance write-off has its risks, though…

Beware when buying: damaged cars for sale

Always consider the cost of car insurance on the vehicle in question before buying, as insurance companies willing to provide cover for written-off cars are likely to charge higher premiums due to the added risk of such vehicles.

You should also be wary of people trying to sell Cat S or Cat N cars as non-damaged vehicles by hiding their past.

Sadly, it isn’t rare for sellers to do so, reiterating the importance of getting a vehicle history check each time you buy a second-hand car.

This check, if done by a professional, will make you aware of any previous damage and help you avoid paying full market price for a written-off car.

Cheap car insurance for written off cars

Whether you’re looking for motor insurance on your van, moped, or car, it’s important to shop around to find the best deal available for your situation – especially if your vehicle is written off and you want to insure it.

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For more, be sure to take a look at our range of insurance-related articles, from the factors that could invalidate your policy, to the best car insurance companies in the UK.

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