Cat B, Cat A, Cat N or Cat S: What Does Your Car Write Off Mean?

Written by Danny Collins
Last updated: July 6, 2023

If you are a car owner, you must have heard about car write off at some point in time. When your car is involved in an accident and the cost of repairing it exceeds a certain percentage of its market value, the insurance company declares it as a write-off.

When a car is written off, it can have a big impact on your insurance. You may not know the difference between Cat A, Cat B, Cat S or Cat N write-offs and what this means for you as an owner of a car. In this blog post, we will discuss these four categories and how they might affect your car insurance rates.

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What is A Car Write-Off?

A car is written off when it has been damaged to the point that repairs are no longer economical. The damage must be estimated at more than 75% of its value before an insurance company will write your vehicle off, meaning you’ll need to pay for repairs out-of-pocket if necessary until this point (or less).

However, a vehicle does not have to be destroyed for it to be classified as a write-off. Even the most minor accident damage can be enough to declare a car write-off if the automobile has a low market value. This is only considering the vehicle’s cost of repair versus its on-the-road value. It’s not always as simple to comprehend; most people believe that if the car costs more to fix than it is worth, it will be written off.

Related Post: How to Check if a Car Has Been Scrapped

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What is the Value of a Car Write-Off?

The insurance company will assess your car’s value and whether or not it can be repaired to an operational state based on its market value. This is typically estimated at around 70% of what you might have paid for it now, rather than the current market value. A car’s age and mileage will play a factor in this as well since newer vehicles with low miles are more valuable on the used market than older cars that have been driven extensively.

That being said, it’s important to note that if your insurance company declares your vehicle a write-off after an accident or theft claim – regardless of the category – you will typically only receive the market value of the car, not what you originally paid for it.

Related Post: Insurance Write-off Check


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What are Cat A, B, N & S Car Write-Offs?

When a car got a write-off, the insurance company will categorize it into categories. This is a classification that distinguishes whether a vehicle is dangerous to drive or repairable for financial gain. Insurance companies apply four distinct categories to determine whether or not a car may be written off.

The categories are Category A, Category B, Category S and Category N. Before 2017, the categories were Cat A, Cat B, Cat C and Cat D in which then Cat C and Cat D were phased out in favour of a new system. This has caused some confusion as people are still using the old terms, so to save you from confusion, just remember that if the write-off occurred after 2017, it will utilize the new categories.

Here are the new categories:

  • Cat A – “totalled” – written off for insurance purposes and not economical to repair. This is the worst category a car could get into. Generally, only parts of cars in this category may be used again, e.g. the engine, as the car is not considered roadworthy.
  • Cat B – “structurally damaged beyond economic repair”- A write-off that cannot be repaired or can only be restored with extensive repairs which would cost more than the car is worth. It is economical to repair, but repairs will cost more than the car is worth. The car can be driven, but it is not advisable to do so.
  • Cat N – “Non-structurally damaged” – A write-off where the only damage is to the exterior or interior of the vehicle, and it is still possible to repair these parts, generally glass and light bodywork. Before 2017, this category was known as Cat D. Make sure to check the year of the write-off when researching a car as the categories have changed.
  • Cat S – “Structurally damaged, but repairable” – A write-off where the car is still driveable and the damage is only to the structure of the car e.g. bent or broken chassis, smashed suspension or collapsed roof/bodywork. It is economical to repair this damage and get onwards with your life! Before 2017, this category was known as Cat C.

If you are looking to buy a used car, you must understand these categories as they will give you an indication of how much damage has been done to the car and whether it is worth buying. It is also important to be aware that a Cat B or Cat S car may still be driveable, it just means that the car is not in the best condition and may have some issues.

How Do These Categories Affect Me?

Now that you know what each of these categories means, you’re likely wondering how this will affect your car insurance policy.

If your car is declared a write-off, the Category that it falls into will determine how much money you receive from the insurance company. If a Cat A car is written off, for example, you would only get the scrap value of the car since it’s not worth repairing. However, if a Cat B or Cat S car is written off, you’d get the full value of your car.

If a Cat A or N car is declared a write-off after an accident, the insurance company will pay for repairs that are necessary to bring it up to Category B status. If this isn’t done, the insurer may refuse to renew your policy. This could mean hefty fines and penalties if you’re caught driving an uninsured car.

Category B or Cat S write-offs are generally the best categories for drivers because the insurer will payout for the car to be repaired. It’s important to remember, however, that not all insurers offer this service; some may only payout for a Category B or Cat S car to be scrapped.

This is just the tip of the iceberg, as some insurers offer better write-off categories than others. This means that it’s important to shop around and compare policies before you decide on a policy or insurer for your car insurance needs.

Some Tip for Car Owners:

Try getting a warranty for your car

Cat N automobiles are not covered by most warranties (only). It might be a surprisingly cost-effective method of ensuring your new car and any repairs that may have been completed in the past.

Try running a car check

If you have a Cat S or Cat N car, it’s always a good idea to run a car check. This will help to catch any potential problems before they turn into bigger (and more expensive) ones. By running a car check, you’ll be able to catch problems before they become big issues. Some of the information you will get from running a car check is the car’s MOT status, its mileage history and whether it has been in any accidents. You should also do this for any car that you’re thinking of buying – even if it’s not a write-off.

Will It Be Okay To Buy a Cat N Car?

Maybe! If you’re a careful driver and don’t have any plans to get into an accident, then it’s likely that your Cat N car will be fine for you. However, if there are going to be lifestyle changes in the future or if you have a tendency of being irresponsible behind the wheel, it might not be such a good idea to buy a Cat N car. Remember that these cars are not as forgiving as other categories, so it’s important to be careful if you do choose this option.

Buying a Cat N car may appear appealing since these cars usually are more affordable, it’s critical to do your homework on any vehicle you’re considering purchasing. Our recommendation is to always run a car check on any car you’re interested in buying because the price tag isn’t always indicative of its condition.

Check out our comprehensive guide on How to Buy a Used Car


In conclusion, it’s important to know which of these categories your car falls into and how this will affect you. It may also be a good idea to run a car check before purchasing any vehicle, as the price tag isn’t always indicative of its condition.

If you’re looking for a new or used car, always make sure that you know the category that it falls into before making any purchase decisions. By knowing how much money your insurer will pay out if your car is written off, you’re already halfway there.

We hope that this blog post was helpful and provided you with all of the information that you need to know about car write-off categories. If you need help finding out more about write-off categories or would like some advice on buying a new car, give us a call today.


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