If you’ve ever looked online for a cheap used car, you might’ve seen a number of suspiciously cheap adverts for ‘Cat C’ or ‘Cat D’ cars. These categories mean the car has been written off and then repaired by a garage.
The categories refer to the severity of the initial damage, with D being the least and C being more severe. Categories A and B are damaged so badly they’ll never be legally allowed back on the roads.
These models can look like incredible bargains, but should you buy one? We’ve put together a quick guide to weigh up the pros and cons of these used vehicle so you can decide for yourself.
Remember, if a new car is more your thing, you can use our car chooser and deals pages to find the one for you. When you’ve chosen your perfect car, our car configurator will help you to get the best price form the best UK dealers.
What are Cat C and Cat D cars?
If you’ve been unfortunate enough to have had your car written off, your insurance company may have assigned it a category or ‘Cat’. These range from A to D depending on the level of damage the car sustained and the amount it would cost to make it roadworthy again.
A car that’s completely wrecked and can never be returned to the road is assigned ‘Cat A’ or ‘Cat B’ status, while one which could be repaired and driven will be assigned a ‘Cat C’ or ‘Cat D’.
The difference between categories C and D is defined by the cost of repairs compared to the pre-accident value of the car. If the cost of making a car roadworthy exceeds its value, it is a Cat C, if less, a Cat D.
You may be tempted by a cheap Cat D car which, after a little attention, could be a serviceable and safe runaround, but what exactly is involved in returning it to the road?
Vehicle repairs and identity checks
Written-off cars used to be subject to a ‘Vehicle Identity Check’ to confirm they weren’t stolen. As of October 2015, this is no longer the case and the DVLA will not issue new registration documents for repaired Cat A or Cat B vehicles.
Cat C and D cars, however, could offer buyers discounts of as much as 50 per cent over comparable undamaged vehicles – if repaired correctly and to a safe standard. There is always a danger of sub-standard work resulting in a compromised or even dangerous car – the only way to be sure you’re not getting a sub-standard vehicle is to buy new.
Although insurers can write-off a car for any number of reasons ranging from water damage to paintwork scratches, any vehicle that’s been involved in a collision should be treated with a degree of trepidation.
If you do choose to buy a Cat C or Cat D vehicle, you may find arranging insurance more difficult. Although many insurers offer to cover Cat C and D cars, some will require the vehicle to be checked and an engineer’s report from the AA or RAC to be submitted. Even when they are satisfied that repairs have been completed to a high standard, you can expect to pay an increased premium over a standard vehicle.
Although you may have to pay for these reports, they will certainly help to put the minds of potential buyers at rest when the time comes to sell a Cat C or D car.
What to watch out for
If a vehicle has been written-off, the circumstances should be noted on the vehicle history. Where an accident has not been declared, some unscrupulous garages may try to repair damaged vehicles and sell them on for a quick profit without having the car fully inspected. In these cases, it’s possible that sub-standard repairs make the vehicle a danger on the roads.
In the worst of cases, Cat A or B vehicles could be masquerading as repaired second-hand cars and, without a complete history, you could be non the wiser. If damage has not been declared, vehicle history checks, such as those available on-line, will not be able to offer you the full picture.
If you are in any doubt about the quality of repairs, it’s worth having the car examined, but it is unlikely that even the most competent and well-meaning mechanic can match the quality of work carried out by a manufacturer.
There’s no denying that Cat C and D cars offer significant savings over comparable second hand cars but, with the possibility of hefty repair bills or worse still an accident resulting from sub-standard repairs, is it a risk worth taking?
Ultimately, buying any used car is a risk – you could find yourself with a dangerous Cat C or D car, or something even worse. The only way to drive with true peace of mind is by buying a new car that’s covered by a manufacturer’s warranty. Many new cars have incredibly attractive lease deals right now, so you might find it’s much cheaper than you think…
Not every budget can stretch to a new car but using our carwow deals pages and car chooser you could be surprised by the range of cars you’re able to afford. If you’ve a specific model in mind, why not put it into our car configurator and check out the fantastic deals on offer.