If your car is a write-off it’ll fall into one of six categories, A, B, C, D, N or S. Some of those cars are still roadworthy, and others are too dangerous to drive again.
Cars are ‘written-off’ when the cost of the repairs are too high compared to the value of the vehicle, or there is too much damage for the car to be safely repaired and returned to the road.
In some cases, your car may be safe to drive again after repairs.
Malcolm Tarling of the Association of British Insurers (ABI) explains:
“A vehicle classed as an insurance write-off is one where it would be cheaper to replace (based on the value of the vehicle on the open market) than it would be to repair.
“A write-off can range from a vehicle that can be repaired and put back on the road and is insurable, to one damaged beyond safe repair, that should be scrapped.”
A car must be damaged somehow to be assessed as a write-off.
A serious accident could mean it’s a complete wreck, but even a relatively small bump could lead to a write-off.
The insurer awards the write-off classification based on its assessment of the damage, but what makes a write-off varies between insurers.
There are six different write-off categories, although only four are currently used.
If your car’s written-off, it’ll be classed as either category A, B, N or S.
If you’re buying a second-hand car that’s a write-off, ask for proof of the damage and repair work – there should be documentation.
If you don’t, you could end up with an expensive repair bill to cover.
If you like, you can pay for a motor vehicle inspection to make sure the car is roadworthy. The AA, RAC and Dekra are a few specialists who offer them.
The car can’t be repaired and must be crushed. It’s not safe or lawful to sell a category A write-off second hand.
It can’t be repaired, and the car body must be crushed, but you can salvage parts from it. It’s against the law to sell a second-hand category B write-off, if it’s roadworthy.
The car could be repaired, but it’s too costly for an insurer to do it. You can pay to have it made roadworthy, and you can buy a category C car second-hand if it’s fully repaired.
This category has been replaced with Category S.
It could be repaired, but other costs like transportation make it too expensive. You could pay to have it made roadworthy, and it’s lawful to sell a second-hand category D car.
This category has been replaced with Category N.
‘N’ stands for Non-structural damage, like electronics or mechanics. You can use it again, and sell it on, once it’s been repaired.
‘S’ stands for Structural damage. That means the bodywork or chassis needs sorting out. You can use it again once it’s been repaired and it can be sold on.