Car Insurance Write Off Categories Explained


author image-cai
By Cai Bradley
Updated on Thursday 9 January 2020

Black car crashed and written off

If you’re ever involved in a car accident and your vehicle has sustained pretty serious damage, your insurance provider may inform you that your car is a ‘write-off’.

But what is an insurance write off? What are the insurance write off categories? And can you drive a written off car?

Here’s our guide to the car insurance write off categories (Cat A, B, S, N and F), what they each mean for your vehicle’s future, and why you should beware when buying an insurance write off.

What is a car insurance write-off?

A car is listed as a write-off when the insurance provider deems that the damage it has sustained means that it is either:

  • No longer safe to be driven on roads

  • Uneconomic to repair – usually if the cost of repairing the vehicle to a roadworthy standard would be more than its current value

This means that – in typical cases – the less a car is worth, the more likely it is to be written off by an insurance company.

There are different levels, or categories, of write-offs, which can be most easily explained using the four main insurance write off categories: Category A, Category B, Category S, and Category N.

If your car is written off, your insurance provider will offer to pay you the amount your car is currently worth rather than the cost of repairing it, but – depending on your car’s write-off category – you can choose to scrap the car, keep it, or even try selling it.

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A guide to the new car insurance write-off categories 

So, what are the car insurance write-off categories and what do they mean for your car?

Category A (Cat A) write-offs

Category A – or Cat A – write-offs are cars that have sustained an unsalvageable amount of damage, meaning that they are deemed unacceptable for use or re-sale and can only be scrapped.

Category A write-offs will be crushed in their entirety, nothing is salvaged.

If your car has Cat A damage, it’s important that you DO NOT attempt to drive it or sell it to someone else - it’s likely that it’ll be totally undriveable and almost impossible to sell anyway.

Category B (Cat B) write-offs

If a car is listed as a Category B (Cat B) write-off by an insurance provider, it’s also likely to have sustained a significant level of damage and will have the same fate as a Cat A write-off – being scrapped – but only after any useable parts have been recovered from the vehicle.

These salvageable parts will be reused, but the body shell of the car is highly likely to be crushed if it has sustained Category B damage.

Category S write-offs (Cat S cars) – formerly Category C (Cat C cars)

What is category S damage on a car? Category S (Cat S) write-offs are cars that have sustained structural damage, beyond just cosmetic bumps and scratches.

They aren’t initially in a fit state to be driven, but can return to the road once they’ve been repaired to roadworthy standards by a professional. The new Category S includes issues such as a twisted chassis, or a collapsed crumple zone.

If your car sustains Category S damage, you should take it to a registered garage as soon as possible (and remember to have it towed away as it’s probably unsafe to drive).

Category N write-offs (Cat N cars) – formerly Category D (Cat D)

Category N write-offs are cars with cosmetic or electrical damage – usually less serious than the issues of those in other categories.

The cost of repairing is usually less than the vehicle’s current worth, but additional costs (such as transporting or towing the car) could make it financially illogical to repair it.

If the vehicle is repaired to a roadworthy condition, you can use it again if you wish, so it depends on your personal situation and you should discuss the matter with your mechanic.

Here’s a brief summary of the main car insurance write-off categories:

Write-off Category

Repairable?

Category A

Cannot be repaired.

Category B

Cannot be repaired.

Category S

Can be repaired.

Category N

Can be repaired.

What about Category F write-offs?

The four listed above are the most common car insurance write-off categories, but there are others.

You may come across Category F (Cat F) write-offs, which refer to vehicles that have been written off due to fire damage, but these are not as common as other types. Category F cars can return to the road if they are repaired extensively and tested by professionals, but insurers will usually refuse to cover the costs once the vehicle has been listed as a Category F write-off.

What happens if your car gets written off?

If your car is in a bad way and has been written-off by your insurance provider, the insurance company themselves will usually deal with the process of scrapping the car for you, if you agree to it.

You simply have to send the insurance provider the vehicle log book (V5C), but you’re advised to keep the yellow “sell, transfer or part-exchange your vehicle to the motor trade” section for future reference.

If the original has been lost or damaged, you can get a new vehicle log book (V5C) on the gov.uk website. You are able to apply by phone or post, and the cost is £25 for both. It can take up to five days to get the replacement log book if you apply via phone, while it can take six weeks if you do so by post, so it’s always worth applying on your phone when possible.

You must remember to tell the DVLA that the car has been written off, or you could face a fine of up to £1,000!

Once you’ve sent them your V5C, the insurer will take control of the process from there. But what if you want to keep the car?

Don’t want to scrap your written-off car?

You can keep your Category S (formerly Cat C) or Category N (formerly Cat D) written-off car if you wish, as they aren’t legally required to be immediately scrapped.

The insurance provider will likely provide you with an insurance pay-out and sell the vehicle back to you in most cases.

If you want to keep a Category S (formerly Cat C) write-off, you’ll be required to send a complete log book to the insurance provider and apply for a duplicate one. If you want to keep a Category N car, you can keep the original log book.

You might, however, struggle to keep hold of your Category A or B write-offs, but they won’t be much use to you anyway, and the best option for them is to be scrapped.

Is it worth buying a repairable write-off?

You won’t come across Category A or Category B write-offs on the second-hand market, because they aren’t suitable for re-sale and are required to be crushed.

But if you’re looking for a cheap bargain, some Cat S and Cat N cars could be viable options.

As long as the seller has all the relevant paperwork and car history, as well as evidence of any previous damage, buying a Category S or Category N write-off could save you some money!

It’s important to remember that buying an insurance write-off has its risks, though…

Beware when buying: damaged cars for sale

Buying a second-hand car has its risks, but you should be even more cautious when buying a used car that’s been written off.

Always consider the cost of car insurance on the vehicle in question before buying, as insurance companies willing to provide cover for written-off cars are likely to charge higher premiums due to the added risk of such vehicles.

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You should also be wary of people trying to sell Cat S or Cat N cars as non-damaged vehicles by hiding their past.

Sadly, it isn’t rare for sellers to do so, reiterating the importance of getting a vehicle history check each time you buy a second-hand car.

This check, if done by a professional, will make you aware of any previous damage and help you avoid paying full market price for a written-off car.

You can get a free vehicle history check from HPI Check in the UK, so it’s certainly worth doing in order to avoid any nasty surprises.

The HPI Check report will also include information on the vehicle’s MOT history, if it’s been listed as an insurance write-off, car finance history, number of previous owners, accurate mileage, vehicle valuation, and any number plate changes.

Almost unbelievably, HPI Check finds over 2,000 vehicles that have been listed as insurance write-offs every day!

Cheap car insurance for written off cars

Whether you’re looking for motor insurance on your van, moped, or car, it’s important to shop around to find the best deal available for your situation – especially if your vehicle is written off and you want to insure it.

Visit Confused.com to save up to £260 on your car insurance!

It takes around five minutes to get an accurate, cheap car insurance quote online from Confused.com, and you’re guaranteed to beat your renewal price.

For more, be sure to take a look at our range of insurance-related articles, from the factors that could invalidate your policy, to the best car insurance companies in the UK.


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