Car insurance write-offs - A buyer's guide to write-off categories

A badly damaged car

If you’re in the market for a second-hand vehicle then you’ve probably been warned about buying an insurance write-off.

What is a car insurance write-off?

A car which has been written off has typically sustained damage, making it either:

  1. Unsafe to be put back on the road, or
  2. Uneconomical to repair – meaning that repairs would cost too much in relation to the vehicle’s value.

But car insurance companies are strict when it comes to deciding what is a write-off and what isn’t. They must be able to return the vehicle in a condition identical to how it was before the accident, so you might be surprised to see a car with minor cosmetic damage being deemed unsuitable for repair.

As a rule of thumb, the less valuable the vehicle is, the more likely it is to be written off.

What are insurance write-off categories?

Every vehicle that is written off by an insurer will be designated a write-off category, determined by the level of damage sustained.

There are 4 general insurance write-off categories:

Category A (Cat A)

A ‘Cat A’ write off is for vehicles that are deemed acceptable for scrap and nothing else. When a vehicle sustains immense amounts of damage, they will usually be crushed - even salvageable parts will be destroyed.

Category B (Cat B)

Vehicles deemed as ‘Cat B’ write-offs will be crushed after being stripped of any salvageable parts which could be used in other vehicles.

Category S (Cat S) – Formerly Category C (Cat C)

Category S is exclusive to vehicles that have suffered some sort of structural damage, making the car unfit to drive.

Vehicles in this category may return to the road eventually, but only after they have been professionally repaired.

Category N (Cat N) – Formerly Category D (Cat D)

Previously known as Cat D write-offs, Cat N vehicles have been written off purely because of cosmetic or electrical damage that isn’t economical to repair. This can be very minor damage in low-value cars, but can also stretch to damage relating to brakes or steering.

Although these are the 4 main write-off categories, you will sometimes see Category F (Cat F) write-offs, where a vehicle has sustained minor fire damage or Category X (Cat X) write-offs, which have sustained minor damage and can be easily repaired.

Should I buy an insurance write-off?

You will never come across a Cat A or Cat B write-off as they are not suitable for repair, let alone re-sale!

But if you want to buy a Cat S or Cat N vehicle, then provided that the seller has full evidence of the its history, you could save yourself a fair amount of cash.

Bobatoo recommends that you pay for a full vehicle inspection of the vehicle which could identify any potential future issues you might have in relation to the write-off and can cost as little as £99.

It is also worth considering the cost of your car insurance policy on the vehicle, as insurers who don’t refuse cover for written-off vehicles may charge higher premiums due to the added risk.

Selling a car which has been written off

You may not have purchased the vehicle yet, but it might be worth considering when (or if) you’ll be looking to pass it on to somebody else.

Just as you’re looking to get a good deal on a salvaged car, the next buyer will probably look to do the same!

Where can I buy salvaged cars? – Copart UK and Salvage Market

Copart UK and Salvage Market are the 2 leading vehicle auction services in the UK.

They allow you to search and bid for salvage cars with filters such as make, model, mileage, location and, of course, write-off category.

You can also find previously damaged cars for sale on websites like eBay, AutoTrader and GumTree or at many local dealers.

Cheapest insurance on written-off cars

If you’ve purchased – or are looking to purchase – a written off car, then Bobatoo can help you find a reasonable insurance quote by scouring the market for a deal that suits you.

To get a free, non-obligatory quote on your car insurance policy, simply tap the button below!