Write-off categories and what they mean for your car

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.

Simon Read

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What’s a write-off?

Cars are ‘written-off’ when the cost of the repairs is more than it’d cost to replace it.

However, it might still be safe to drive.

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.”

Key points

  • If the cost of repairs outweighs what your car’s worth, the insurer will declare it a write-off
  • There are six categories of write-off. Categories A and B can’t be repaired and should be destroyed, whereas C, D, N, and S are roadworthy if the correct repairs are made
  • Your insurer will pay out the current market value of your car. It’ll be much less than you paid for it

Causes of a write-off

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.

Car insurance write-off categories

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.

Cat A

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.

Cat B

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.

Cat C

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.

Cat D

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.

Cat 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.

Cat S

‘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.

If you’ve bought a write-off that’s safe and lawful to drive, you should be able to get car insurance. Premiums vary so always compare.

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Estimated value and settlements

To calculate your write-off settlement, the insurer won’t use the estimated value of the car you gave when you bought insurance from them.

Instead, it will look at the current market value of the car, which will be a lot less than you paid for it.

You can challenge a write-off settlement if you don’t agree. Alternatively, if you’ve got guaranteed value car insurance, or a gap insurance policy, that’ll help you recover your losses.

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