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Insurance write off categories


How all insurance companies categorise accident damage

Next steps when a car is Cat A, Cat B, Cat S, Cat N, written off

If your car suffers accident damage and your insurance company is involved, it may result in car write-off status.

Damage can result from:

  • Car accident
  • Theft
  • Flood or fire damage

Including potential structural damage to the chassis or crumple zones.

Your insurer will carry out a full inspection to see if the car is safe to drive on the road.

If your car can’t be salvaged or repair bills are more than its actual value (usually reduced market value), your insurer categorises the car as a ‘write off’ or ‘total loss’.

Check car write-off

Enter a vehicle registration
(number plate) Example KX63TWF

CarVeto provides up-to-date reports for cars, vans and motorcycles manufactured after 1984

Undrivable car after an accident.

Insurance write-off categories explained

A car is written off when the costs of repairs exceed value. In such cases, insurance companies declare write off in one of the following categories:

  • Category A (Scrap)
    The vehicle is beyond repair and must be crushed, including all car parts.
  • Category B (Break)
    The car must be destroyed, but selected parts may be reused if deemed roadworthy. Cat A and Cat B vehicles cannot be resold or returned to the road.
  • Category S (Structural damage but repairable)
    The car can be professionally repaired and put back on the road. It can be resold, provided repairs are satisfactory, and the vehicle has been re-registered with DVLA.
  • Category N (Non-structural repairable)
    The car has suffered minimal damage, often cosmetic. It is common for older vehicles with minor damage to be classed Cat N.

DVLA must be notified of the write-off status. A written-off category remains with the vehicle for the rest of its life, often impacting value.

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What must I do after my car is a write off?

There are a number of options open to you, determined by the extend of the damage. The car is usually towed away for a thorough assessment that will determine the level of damage and subsequent classification.

Car write-off categories by definition

Categories were amended in 2017, so motorists could better understand the extent of damage and the options available, such as buyback and repair.

The latest salvage codes formed by The Association of British Insurers (ABI) and Lloyd’s Market Association (LMA) were designed to deal with various issues related to modern car repairs.

It includes how to meet design specifications and the use of synthesised (composite) material.

Revised car insurance write-off scrapped codes were A, B, C, D.

To date, the new codes are:

A – Scrap
B – Break
C – Repairable Structural
D – Repairable Non-Structural

New car insurance categories prevent severely damaged vehicles from getting back on the road. Cat A (must be scrapped) and Cat B (must be scrapped, but some parts may be reused).

Scroll down for more on write-off classifications

How the insurance assessor determines your car a write-off

The primary cause of write off is the cost of repairs versus the value of the car if it’s put back on the road. The uneconomical repair will differ depending on your insurance company.

Vehicle assessors:

Insurers use a ‘repair-to-value’ ratio. They inspect the vehicle condition to calculate repair costs.

If your car was worth £10,000 before it was damaged and your insurance company use a repair-to-value ratio of 50%.

A repair bill of more than £5,000 would be deemed uneconomical. Your car would become a car insurance write-off.

Learn more about types of car insurance

Illustrating a damaged car being assessed after it was damaged.

Image source: The Balance

Why do some cars have minimal damage but are still written off?

Repair-to-value ratios that lead to salvage are more common in older cars.

The less a car is worth, the more likely it is to become an insurance write-off category.

So, older vehicles are more commonly write offs.

If your car was worth £2,000 and your insurer repair ratio is 50%, repair bills only need to reach £1,000 or more for it to become non-salvageable.

Assessors also need to tally in specialist materials or repair centres that topple repair bills over the repair-value ratio.

The results are that many write off category cars are not deemed unroadworthy.

DVLA and the Association of British Insurers aim are to grade accident damage categories and help car owners understand if their car is worth buying back.

In doing so, owners may be able to buy, repair and sell their cars legally.

Category A: Scrap

Cat A car is unchanged from the old classification. Cat A’s are severely damaged and must be crushed for waste, including parts and bodywork.

Category B: Break

Cat B car is also unchanged. Cat B’s have suffered significant damage, and the entire body shell must be destroyed. But unlike Cat A, some parts may be salvaged for use on other roadworthy cars.

Category S: Structurally Damaged Repairable (previously Category C)

What is Cat S? Car damage can include structural. It includes crumple zone damage or a bent chassis from a traffic accident.

Category S means the insurer has deemed repair costs to be greater than car value, hence written off.

If your car has been classified as Cat S, it can be repurchased from your insurer. For roadworthiness, a workshop must professionally repair your car.

Category N: Non-Structural Repairable (previously Category D)

What is Cat N? The least severe classification.

The vehicle does not have structural damage, but repair costs were greater than car value. As we have already noted, Cat N uneconomical repairs are common in older vehicles.

Although much Cat damage is deemed ‘cosmetic’, it can include non-structural issues such as steering, brakes or other significant safety parts.

CarVeto Category N salvage reports include ‘Damage Indicator Information‘. It can include: ‘Accident‘, ‘Damage‘, ‘Fire‘, ‘Water‘ and areas of vehicle damage (for vehicles salvaged after 2018).

Depicts when an insurance company or driver decide to not repair a vehicle.

Image source: abi.org.uk

List of damage sustained by a written-off car.

Snapshot from a CarVeto report

Repairing a Cat N vehicle and insuring it

Some companies will offer cover for Cat N vehicles, but it may cost more. Try one of the search engine comparison tools like Confused.com.

Body sprayer repairing a BMW.

Repairing a Cat S vehicle and insuring it

You must demonstrate that the car has undergone professional repairs to all structurally damaged areas. The car must have also passed its MOT test to be considered.

Similarly to Cat N cars, only some companies provide cover and quotes are typically more expensive.

How to handle your insurance company after write off

After your claim is paid out, and you are settled in full, your policy ends.

If your car were a Cat S or N, you’d have the option to have it repaired. You’ll then be able to SORN (Statutory Off Road Notification) the car and keep it off the road or buy a new policy: Learn more about SORN.

If you choose to get back on the road, you must have a valid MOT (cars over 3-years old) and road tax.

Further steps to getting a Cat S back on the road:

What are the steps after my car is classified written off?

What you must do

Expect a settlement figure offered by your insurance company. If you are happy with the offer, your car will be scrapped.

ABI Code of Practice 4.0 : Disputes:

“In the event of a dispute between the insurer/ self-insured and other interested parties regarding categorisation, the matter should be escalated to an appropriately qualified person who assumes responsibility for the final decision.”

There are times when an opening insurance claim offer is too low. As the policyholder, you have a write to challenge this offer and raise an official complaint. It’s possible to negotiate for a larger payout or even prevent the car from being written-off (depending on salvage categories).

Additional steps you can take

You may have a private number plate that you want to keep. If so:

How much will my loss payment be after salvage?

Expect average market value before your car was damaged. It will be your assessor’s decision on how much the car was worth, but it won’t match what you paid for your car.

Disagreeing with a write off value

Your car insurance company should pay out sufficiently to buy a like for like car. Expect insurance excess to be deducted from your settlement.

Get an idea of payout by searching a like for like car – same age, similar mileage, and model variant. It’s a practical step in case you need to negotiate a better settlement.

You can negotiate with your insurer. Just recently, we saw a customer improve their write-off valuation from £10,000 to over £13,000).

The accident wasn’t my fault, and I don’t hold liability

Fully comprehensive car insurance covers you no matter if the incident was your fault or not. If the other driver admits fault, your damage claims are drawn from their insurance policy.

What happens if the other driver isn’t insured?

Visit the Motor Insurance Bureau to begin a claim as the ‘Direct Claimant’. MIB will guide you through the process of getting a payout.

Contesting insurance write-offs

To successfully appeal, you must know your insurer’s repair-value ratio.

If your car is worth £5,000 and the repair-ration value is 50%, your assessor has deemed the repair bill in excess of £2,500.

If repair costs were marginally more than £2,500, it might be worth appealing. Look out for ways to increase car value. For example, you may have new tyres recently fitted or a valuable immobiliser alarm system.

Consider buying an independent car valuation report. There’s a handful of providers like Hoopers.

Your final steps is a formal complaint via FinancialOmbudsman.org.uk/complaints. It is a viable step as the FO uphold a large number of complaints, many of which relate to insurance write-off valuations.

Can I keep my old car after it’s write-off declaration?

There are a good deal of insurance write-offs on the road. The extent of damage and vehicle age determines all insurance written off car categories.

Whilst the majority are sent to a scrapyard for salvage, some cars can be repaired, put back on the road and resold.

Owning and driving a category S or cat N vehicle

Some drivers are unaware that their cars are structurally damaged repairable write offs.

Using a car registration number, get a car check for car insurance companies cash payout.

There remains tens of thousands of cut and shut cars on the road in the UK. Cut and shut involves welding two parts of a car together. One vehicle suffered rear-end damage, but the front remained intact. Another had front end damage, and the rear remained intact. These are fused to make a cut and shut.

Such cars are both unroadworthy and illegal to drive.

What happens if I buy a written-off car?

In some circumstances buying and driving a write off can save money.

Know what each category of write off means.

Write off categories explained

Cat A and Cat B car damage are equal to scrappage. Under no circumstances should one of these be for sale or found on the road.

Cat S and Cat N cars can be driven on the road after professional repair. Each must pass its MOT test and be re-registered with DVLA.

Reduce resale values

Cars with a write off marker are worth significantly less. It also makes resale more difficult as many motorists want to avoid previous accident damage.

Perhaps the best time to own and drive insurance write offs is when you plan to keep the car for the rest of its life.