If you have been involved in an accident and the insurer has informed you that the vehicle is a write-off, you may be wondering what that exactly means. Our guide explains everything you need to about write-off categories and what you should do after being told your car is a write-off.
What is an insurance write-off?
An insurance write-off is a term that describes a car that is either no longer road-worthy, beyond repair or damaged to the extent that repairing it would cost more to fix than the value of the car itself.
There are specific categories when it comes to write-offs: A, B, S and N (previously C and D respectively). Below we break down the different categories and what they mean.
What insurance write-off categories mean
Each insurance category determines the extent of the damage and will decrease in severity starting from A.
The categories highlight the extents of the vehicle’s damage and make clear when one is beyond repair. This is designed to stop unsafe and unroadworthy vehicles from being put back on the road.
Category A (Cat A): Scrap
A category A write-off is the most severe and can never be put back on the road. It will mean the entire car, even parts that are salvageable, need to be destroyed.
Category B (Cat B): Break
The car’s body shell must be destroyed. However, some parts can be salvaged. While the vehicle itself can never reappear on roads, the parts that were salvaged can be used on other road-worthy vehicles.
Category S (Cat S) – formerly Category C (Cat C): Structurally damaged repairable
Category S means there has been structural damage to the vehicle. This could be where a part has crumpled where it absorbed energy from an impact.
This type of damage is much more serious than cosmetic damage. It shouldn’t be driven until a professional has repaired it.
Category N (Cat N) – formerly Category D (Cat D): Non-structurally damaged repairable
If your vehicle gets graded a category N, this damage could be deemed as more cosmetic, or there could be a problem with the vehicle’s electrics making it a less-economical repair.
However, you shouldn’t assume the vehicle is safe under this category. Non-structural faults could also include the steering, brakes and other important parts which could be a safety breach.
Is it safe to buy an insurance write-off?
You may see Cat S and Cat N cars for sale. While they are safe and legal once repaired, before you buy any vehicle, you should carry out a vehicle history check to get a background on any accidents it has been involved in.
You need to ensure you know the vehicles full history. The last thing you want is to pay more than market value for a vehicle that has been in an accident.
Can I get finance on a car that’s been written off?
Most finance companies won’t offer finance options on write-off vehicles, regardless of their category. This is because they are seen as potentially having a greater risk of complications in the future.
It’s also an extra level of protection for you, as you don’t want to be left paying finance instalments on a vehicle that is having problems.
What happens if my car is written off while it’s on finance?
If your vehicle is a total write-off (Cat A or Cat B), your insurance company will usually offer you a settlement figure for the car, and it should be based on the current market value.
You will then need to contact the lender who provided you with the finance and they will provide you with the next steps. It will usually be paying off the finance with the settlement figure and taking out a new finance agreement on a new car.