UK car write-off scandal revealed.

Undisclosed car accident damage and repair via MIAFTR database.


Motor Insurance Bureau (MIB) and MIAFTR damage insights.

There are two reasons vehicles in Great Britain are deemed a write-off by insurance companies.

  1. The car has sustained extensive damage and cannot be safely repaired.
  2. The car could be repaired, but the work would cost more than the vehicle’s overall value and is subsequently recorded in the MIAFTR database as written-off.

Get a car write off check

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Check MIAFTR Write Off

three car smashed up and written off from road traffic accident

A write off scandal

Some used cars that are initially declared as write-offs are repaired and sold to motorists with a clean bill of health. It means that a used car history check may not flag the true status of a car that has actually suffered substantial damage. This can impact car value and perhaps safety for potential buyers.

What is a car vehicle check?

A car vehicle check is important before buying, either privately or from a dealer. An online enquiry provides factual and traceable information about the vehicle, including:

  • Whether or not it has been written off by insurance companies or scrapped/unscrapped
  • Any outstanding financial issues such as Hire Purchase, Personal Contract Purchase or Lease Purchase
  • Any mileage irregularities (often found via inconsistencies in a MOT data check)
  • If the car has been stolen (recorded on Police Theft Markers or the National Insurance Database, resulting from an insurance pay out)

CarVeto provides this type of vehicle check with further information like VIC inspections, number plate changes, MOT, and road tax information and car owner data.

Our customers expect their car vehicle reports to be accurate, reliable and traceable.
But, there are cases in which vehicles are advertised for sale without write-off status declaration, despite being insurance category accident damage repaired.


Salvage auctions

When a vehicle is sold at salvage, it has sustained significant, structural damage, but could have parts still working that could be used on other models. Read this page for more information on car write off categories.


How are Vehicle History Checks Completed?

CarVeto, hpi check, my car check and all of the remaining car history check providers rely entirely on the Motor Insurance Anti-Fraud & Theft Register (MIAFTR), a nationwide database, to learn if a vehicle has been written off or stolen.

Created in 1987 and maintained by the Motor Insurers Bureau (MIB), MIAFTR holds records on all vehicles that have been reported stolen or written off.

The vast majority of insurance companies rely on the MIAFTR and place any vehicles they write off on the Registry.

How are written-off cars sold without write-off status declaration?

category s car accident
cat n written off car
category n car accident

MIAFTR is not mandatory, so not all insurers use it

While insurance companies are legally required to alert the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) of any car write-offs, this mandate does not apply to the MIAFTR. However, almost all insurance companies use it because the MIAFTR serves as a funnel that alerts DVLA of write-offs when the information is uploaded into their system.

According to the MIB, most insurance companies use MIAFTR to detail car write-offs.
It is the insurance firms that don’t use MIAFTR who create the issue of undetected write-off status.

There are 6 UK car insurance companies that are authorised by the Bank of England but not affiliated with the MIAFTR.


Not fully comprehensive?

The MIB also points out that vehicles that are not comprehensively insured are less likely to appear as a write-off. This is because third-party insurance doesn’t pay out a claim for damage to the insured vehicle itself. Therefore, these vehicles are not deemed a “total loss,” which increases the chances they won’t appear on the MIAFTR.


Updates to the MIAFTR may be delayed

The MIB states that insurance companies can choose to load manually or in batches, which can create delays when a written off car appears on the MIAFTR. There may be instances where delays take between 3 and 12 months before being recorded on the registry.

For example, in the 2018 calendar year, the DVLA was told of a little over 7,500 Cat D and Cat C cars. However, classification was updated in October 2017 with Cat N and Cat S.

This means that these vehicles were written off the previous year, leaving a rather alarming hole in the system.


Some cars are written off by hand

Additional data obtained from the DVLA via Freedom of information request shows that over 4,500 cars were written off on paper in the past 5 calendar years.

It’s highly unlikely these cars will show up in a vehicle history check because they bypassed MIAFTR entirely, though they do appear in the DVLA database.


The MIAFTR is the only place most vehicle history-checking firms look for writes off

When you consider that insurers are not required to alert the MIAFTR to write-offs and the MIAFTR is known for delays, it becomes obvious that relying entirely on the MIAFTR for write off information is a huge problem.

CarVeto is partnered with another main provider of UK car history checks. Their goal is to make MIAFTR database registration mandatory for insurance companies. Alongside this, a maximum time frame for notification is ideally standardised to 30-days. But, in terms of delivering up-to-date information to our customers, notifications should be added on a daily or weekly basis.

The current set up means that the insurance company are culpable when a written off car is not flagged via MIAFTR register. CarVeto is developing a new process to support our customers should car write off data be inaccurate. To our knowledge, we have had no such occurrences to date.

The MIB reports that “Cat S write-offs will receive a V5C document from DVLA to alert keepers of the status of the vehicle”. CAT S and N vehicles can be repaired and legally driven again.

The road ahead for car buyers

There are several issues car buyers have to consider. Safety is a huge concern. Firms like Clickmechanic provide car vetting with a qualified technician. This recommended service provides an additional layer of insurance before investing hard-earned cash into a new, used car.

Financial loss is another, a huge issue here. Written off cars have a substantially lower value than their counterparts. Be aware that it is considered an offence to knowingly sell a vehicle that has been written off without making the buyer aware of its status. Here, we emphasize insurance company responsibility.


How can buyers protect themselves?

Although most write-offs do eventually find their way on to the MIAFTR, potential buyers are strongly urged to pay for a full mechanical inspection when purchasing a vehicle second hand.


CarVeto customer can also take advantage of our complimentary car buyers guide that is included with each Platinum check. We offer a detailed, step by step process to spotting accident damage and car write off potentials. It can be surprisingly easy to identify replaced body panels once you are armed with the knowledge.

Run a free car check now and access our free car buyer’s guide to a genuine, accident-free vehicle.

In our previous article, we took an in-depth look at the leading car inspection services and round up the best of the bunch based on price and customer service.