While unlikely, there’s always a chance that your car may be damaged while parked or on the road. Whether through an accident, environmental hazard, theft, or otherwise, there are a number of ways your car could be tarnished.
Fortunately, that’s why we have car insurance. But what do you do if you’re insurer tells you your car is a write-off? From what an insurance write-off actually means to where it’s safe to buy a written-off car, here’s what you need to know about insurance write-off categories in the driving world.
What is an insurance write-off?
An insurance write-off is a term used to describe any car that is either no longer roadworthy, beyond repair, or damaged to the extent that repairing it would cost more to fix than the value of the car itself.
As a result, instead of having your car repaired, your insurance will give you a payout designed to cover the cost of losing your vehicle, based on the repair-to-value ratio stated in your insurance contract and the total cost of the repairs required.
What are the UK’s insurance write-off categories?
When it comes to write-offs in the UK, there are four specific car damage categories your vehicle may fall into:
· Cat A
· Cat B
· Cat S
· Cat N
These car write-off categories are specifically designed to stop unsafe vehicles from being put back on the road. Each category covers a range of criteria to determine how damaged your car is, decreasing in severity from A to N, and allowing your insurance company to decide when your car is beyond repair.
Category A (Cat A): Scrap
A category A write-off covers the most severe vehicle damage. Any car that falls into this category can never be put back on the road, and this usually means that the entire car, even parts that are salvageable, need to be scrapped.
Category B (Cat B): Break
The second most severe category, a break, requires your car’s body shell to be destroyed to some capacity.
Cars in this category are also never allowed to return to the road, however, some parts can be salvaged. The parts that are salvaged can then be used on other roadworthy vehicles.
Category S (Cat S): Structurally damaged but repairable
Formerly named category C, this first of the new insurance write-off categories updated in October 2017 applies to any car that has at least been structurally damaged.
Under a category S write-off, structural damage refers to any part of your car where the internal structure has crumpled from absorbing the energy of an impact. This type of damage is much more serious than cosmetic scrapes and dents, but is often repairable - though your car shouldn’t be driven until a professional has repaired it.
Category N (Cat N): Non-structurally damaged and repairable
The second of the new insurance write-off categories; a Cat N write-off is when damage sustained is more cosmetic than structural. Or, alternatively, it could refer to there being a serious problem with the vehicle’s electrics that results in less economical repairs.
However, if your vehicle gets graded a category N, you shouldn’t assume the vehicle is still safe to drive. Non-structural faults could also include the steering, brakes, and other important parts, all of which must be in working to avoid a breach of road safety.
What can you do if you disagree with a car write-off decision?
If you disagree with a write-off decision, you can appeal it. In order to successfully nullify this decision, you must be able to prove that the value of your car prior to the accident was higher than the estimation provided by the insurers, or that the repair costs are lower than the car’s value.
To do either of these, you will need to know the value-to-repair ratio of the car. And if that’s not enough, you can reach out with a formal complaint to the Financial Ombudsman.
On the other hand, if you feel the repair costs of your car are worth paying for, you can agree to keep your car and take the payout, minus the salvage value, and then pay to have it repaired yourself.
Should I buy a Cat S car or Cat N car?
It’s not uncommon to see Cat S and Cat N cars for sale when looking at used cars.
However, while they’re safe and legal to drive once properly repaired, before you buy any vehicle that’s fallen under these categories, you should ensure it’s roadworthy - the last thing you want is to pay more than market value for a vehicle that’s been in an accident.
When looking at any previously written-off vehicle, you should consider the following:
· Ensure all recorded and unrecorded damage has been repaired to the required standards.
· Inquire into who carried out the repairs to be sure it was done by a professional.
· Have a review and report carried out by an independent engineer.
· Carry out a vehicle history check to confirm its prior accidents.
· Consider whether or not the car’s reduced value will be worth it when potentially selling the vehicle in the future.
If you suspect a car you’re interested in may be a written-off vehicle that hasn’t been recorded, there are a couple of steps you can take to confirm:
· Check the car’s vehicle identification number matches that in the vehicle logbook.
· Check for mismatched external colours and paint splatter in the interior.
Either of these things may be an indication of an unrecorded crash and quick repairs.
Can I get finance on a car that’s been written off?
Most finance companies won’t offer finance options on written-off vehicles, regardless of their category. This is because they’re seen as potentially having a greater risk of complications in the future.
But on the upside, this also acts as an extra level of protection for you, as you don’t want to be left paying finance instalments on a vehicle that’s having problems.
What happens if my car is written off while it’s on finance?
If your vehicle is a total write-off (i.e.: it falls under Cat A or Cat B), your insurance company will usually offer you a settlement figure for the car that will be based on its current market value. You’ll then need to contact the lender who provided you with the finance, who will walk you through the next steps.
You can read more about this in our article on suffering a car write-off while paying car finance.
With knowledge of these car write-off categories to hand, you should hopefully have a much better understanding of how car insurance payouts work.
If you’re in need of a new car after a write-off, why not get in touch with our expert team today to see how our car finance options could help you? From PCP finance to bad credit car finance, we’ll work with you to find the best car finance option for your personal circumstances.
Don’t forget to check out the Zuto blog for more helpful articles like this one.