What is a write-off?
The term write-off applies to a car that has been written-off by an insurance company because it has been judged to be uneconomical to repair. If your car is written off, you won’t be able to drive it until it has been repaired and judged to be safe, although the damage could be so extensive that this is impossible. To measure how badly damaged a car is it will fall under one of four categories – called A, B, S and N –which replaced the old C and D categories in October 2017. A car doesn’t necessarily have to be badly damaged to be declared a write-off – if it has a low value, for example, a low-speed bump could be all it takes to see your car written off. Of course, it depends on the insurer but a good rule of thumb is that if the cost of the damage is more than half the value of the car, it’ll be written off. Repairing damage can be pricy, too, remember that you’ll not just be paying for replacement parts but also labour, often its the latter that can be the real wallet killer.
What is Category A?
Category A cars have been on the receiving end of the worst damage. They’re deemed to be unrepairable, in fact, the damage is so bad you can’t even sell the car as parts.
What is Category B?
Category B cars aren’t quite as severely damaged – they can never be legally driven on the road again, but you can sell their parts.
What is Category S?
Category S replaced category C back in 1997. Category S cars have suffered structural damage such as bumped crumple zones, a bent chassis or damaged bumpers. That said, they can be repaired and go back on the road, but first, they’ll have to be deemed safe.
What is Category N?
Formerly known as Cat D, this categorisation means a car hasn’t suffered any structural damage. Instead it could be a cosmetic or electric problem, or a problem with important parts. Even though damage might seem minimal, it could include the steering, brakes or engine electrics so it’s always best to get a thorough check if you’re thinking of buying a Cat N car.
What are the risks with Cat S and Cat N cars?
Damaged cars can look like a bargain, but you really need to make sure the vehicle you’re interested in has been repaired properly and safely. Otherwise it could be expensive to fix and, worse, you could be putting your own safety at risk. If a vehicle has been written off, its damage and repair should be detailed on the car’s history. It’s worth bearing in mind that some sellers might want to shift damaged cars quickly, and might not disclose the extent of the damage, the quality of the repair or even that they’ve been written off in the first place.
Can I insure a Cat S or Cat N car?
Many insurers will cover cars that have previously been written off and repaired, although not all will. Your premium – the amount you pay for insurance – might be higher for a Cat N or Cat S car than a comparable car that’s not been written off. You might have to submit an engineer’s report to be able to take out a policy. Companies such as the RAC and the AA can carry these out, but you’ll have to factor in the cost of a report and the possible higher premium when you’re weighing up if you should get a repaired car.
Should I buy a Cat S or Cat N car?
A written-off and repaired car can be significantly cheaper to buy than non-damaged equivalent cars, meaning you could pick up a bargain so long as all the necessary work has been completed to the best standard. If you’re in the market for a used car, considering a Cat S or Cat N car could get you more for your money, and impartial reports from the AA or RAC could give you more peace of mind on the car’s condition than a non-damaged car – even used cars that look great could be hiding problems. Of course if you can afford it, a new or approved-used car won’t have these problems and you won’t have to dig around for the car’s history. Most problems that may occur will be covered under warranty if you keep within the terms and conditions of the deal.