In the UK, if a car has been involved in an accident or suffered damage, we refer to it as being ‘written off’. The damage a car can undergo may be severe and this might result in repairs exceeding the value of the car entirely. In these instances, the car will be scrapped. But if the damage isn’t too severe, it may be repaired.
There are four categories of write-off for vehicles:
Prior to 2017, there were different categories, but these were changed to follow the write-off categories used by the DVLA. Below we’ve outlined what each category refers to but remember that you can check the status of a write-off vehicle with our checks simply by entering the registration number for instant access to the latest information.
A Category A write-off refers to a vehicle that’s suffered severe damage and can’t be deemed roadworthy again. Vehicles in this category are only good for scrap and are likely to have been involved in a serious road accident or a fire. Insurance companies or agents handling this claim will have determined that the car could not be repaired and, in the majority of cases, a Cat A vehicle will be destroyed since no parts are salvageable. If you see a vehicle for sale that is a Cat A vehicle, this should spark suspicion – while some vehicles may be returned to the owner to be repaired, it’s incredibly rare.
If a vehicle has suffered extensive body damage, but some parts are salvageable, it will be a Category B write-off. While the vehicle won’t be roadworthy again, it may be possible to take certain parts from it and use them on another vehicle in the future.
A Category S write-off applies to vehicles that have suffered structural damage, such as those with a bent chassis or a collapsed crumple zone. These vehicles are unsafe to drive with this damage but can be repaired by a professional to make them road-safe once again. Category S vehicles need to be re-registered with the DVLA before they can be put back on the road.
A Category N write-off is the most common type of insurance write-off, and it applies to vehicles that have suffered non-structural damage. For example, there may be an issue with the electrics that doesn’t make financial sense to repair or there might be a fault with the steering that needs addressing. In these instances, the car will be written off as a Category N.
The status of the vehicle can give you more information about the history of the car and helps you to make an informed decision before you sign on the dotted line and hand over your money. Insurance write-off checks offer complete peace of mind, because while a Category S or N write-off can be repaired, it’s worth knowing whether it’s been written off in the past.
The law in the UK states that a dealer or trade seller needs to inform potential buyers if the vehicle they’re selling has been previously written off, but private sellers aren’t legally obliged to do so. An unexpected insurance write-off check result could show that you’re buying from a dishonest person who hasn’t been completely clear about the vehicle’s history, so it’s worth doing your research so you have the right information that you can trust.
The level of detail shared with the DVLA and other sources used to obtain our data can vary. Most often, these sources will show the date of when the vehicle was written-off, the Category and it may in some cases include other information. But write-off checks are NOT as detailed as other checks, such as an MOT history check. If you want a full run-down of the damage incurred, you are unlikely to get it from a write-off check as this information isn’t always recorded.
Category N vehicles are typically repaired to a high standard. But if you’re buying from a deceitful seller, they may have skimped on some of the more expensive components, such as airbags, and this can be hard to check as a buyer. It’s always worthwhile having the vehicle checked by a professional to ensure that it’s safe to drive.
Sadly, there’s no easy answer to this question. Providing you go into a purchase with as much information as possible, and view it objectively, it can be a positive move. As with any vehicle purchase, buyers beware. Cars that have been written off are almost always worth less than their undamaged counterparts, so while this should be reflected in the price of the vehicle, it might be hard to sell a Cat N or Cat S car, as many buyers won’t even consider them. Insurance companies may also be wary about insuring a formerly written-off vehicle or might charge more for the privilege of doing so.
If you would like to check the write-off status of a vehicle you’re considering purchasing, why not check it with our insurance write-off checks? We supply the latest information with detailed reports that give you all the data you’ll need to make an informed decision. Need more information? Please feel free to get in touch with us.
Conduct a car history check to find out whether a vehicle has been in any accidents or if it has been written off at any point. A comprehensive car check will also reveal other important information about a car, such as its ownership history.
When a car is written off, its value is reduced, meaning it will be significantly cheaper to purchase compared to other vehicles of the same make and model; however, you must conduct thorough research before buying a cheap, previously written-off car, no matter how good the bargain is.
Check a car's history to reveal its write-off status as well as other insightful data.
Also, we recommend you buy from a dealer as opposed to a private seller to glean as much information as possible.
Remember, never purchase a Cat A or B car, as these cannot be repaired and should have been scrapped.
To find out whether a car has been written off in the past, conduct a car history check.
A comprehensive car check will also reveal other important information about a vehicle, such as its mileage, MOT, and ownership history, providing insight into how well looked after a car has been and how many times it has changed hands.
If your car has been written off as a Cat A or Cat B, it is illegal for you to sell it. You must have a Cat A vehicle crushed with no parts reused. The same goes for a Cat B car; it must be scrapped, but some parts may be removed and used on another vehicle.
You can sell a Cat S or Cat N car, but you must be transparent about its write-off history to potential buyers when advertising.