What is a Cat A, Cat B, Cat S or Cat N insurance write-off? | RAC Drive (2024)

If you’ve been involved in a car crash or road accident then you might be informed by your car insurance company that your vehicle is a 'write-off'.

But what exactly does the term 'write-off' mean? Can you legally drive itafterwards? And should you ever buy a 'write-off' car?

In thisknow how guide, weexplain what a 'write-off' is, plus the important differences betweenCat A, Cat B,Cat S and Cat N insurance write-off categories.

What is an insurance write-off?

An insurance write-off is industry jargon for a car that’s either: sustained so much damage it’s unsafe to go back on the road, or it is still safe to drive but is beyond economical repair.

If your car has been deemed unsafe, theninstead of being repaired the owner will receive a cash payout for the loss.

An uneconomical repair, however,is based on a repair-to-value ratio which can be different for each insurance company and car.

So, if your vehicle was worth £5,000 and your insurance company used a repair-to-value ratio of 60%, the vehicle would be considered beyond economical repair if the work needed exceeded £3,000.

Car insurance companies employ vehicle assessors to calculate the cost of repairs and make this judgement.

They will inspect the overall condition of your vehicle and analyse the collision damage.

Why do cars get written off?

What is a Cat A, Cat B, Cat S or Cat N insurance write-off? | RAC Drive (1)

Car insurance companies work to strict guidelines. They have a duty to return a car to the condition it was in before the accident.

However, this can be expensive: it dictates which workshops and parts might be used.

All this is factored into the calculations insurance assessors use, so costs can soon rise.

This is why write-offs do not always have to be particularly serious and you might be left surprised to know find out that your car, having only sustained seemingly minor cosmetic damage, is still classed as a 'write-off'.

If a car is new, a simple cosmetic scrape along one side can see it declared a write-off by the assessor: the expense of repairing and painting the panels can exceed the vehicle's actual value, even if there is no serious structural damage.

This is why there are different categories of write offs so people know whether they can still buy and sell a type of written off car.

What are the car insurance write-off categories?

Car insurance assessors use various categories of car insurance write-off to rank the seriousness of accident damage.

Up to October 2017, the four categories used included Cat A, Cat B, Cat C and Cat D, whereby the level of damage would decrease in severity by category, starting from A.

After review, the ABI has updated the salvage code, in order toshiftfocus away from the merecost of repair and insteadhighlightstructural issues that affect safety.

The categories are now A, B, S and N.

CatA cars (or scrap cars)

Scrap only. For cars so badly damaged they should be crushed and never re-appear on the road. Even salvageable parts must be destroyed.

CatB cars (or cars broken up for parts)

Body shell should be crushed. Signifies extensive damage, although some parts are salvageable.

Should never re-appear on road, although reclaimed parts can be used in other road-going vehicles.

CatS cars (or cars with structural damage)

CatS means the vehicle has suffered structural damage.

This could include a bent or twisted chassis, or a crumple zone that has collapsed in a crash.

CatS damage is more than just cosmetic, therefore, and the vehicle will need to be professionally repaired.

Also, it won’t be safe to drive until then.

CatN or cars with non-structural damage

Vehicles graded Cat N haven’t sustained structural damage, so the issue may be cosmetic, or a problem with the electrics that isn’t economical to repair.

Don’t assume such vehicles are drivable, however; non-structural faults may include brakes, steering or other safety-related parts.

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What does an insurance company do with your write-off car?

What is a Cat A, Cat B, Cat S or Cat N insurance write-off? | RAC Drive (2)

The ABI Salvage Code dictates that Category A and Category B cars should be crushed, with Cat B vehicles allowed to donate some safe and serviceable parts.

However, write-offs in the latter two categories can be sold on by the insurance company, either to the original owner or to a third party via a car salvage company.

Cars written off as a Category Scase, must have aForm V23* submitted by the insurer, self-insurer or agent to DVLA as soon as the categorisation decision is made and without waiting for V5.

However, it is the responsibility of the keeper to notify DVLA when a vehicle is passed to an insurer following a total loss payment.

No notifications are made to the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) or VOSA when a car is written off in a Category Nsituation.

Cars in the latter two categories can sometimes represent a bargain, if they are priced accordingly.

An older car can be repaired to an acceptable standard at a lower cost than that dictated by an insurance company’s standards – especially if used parts or cheaper labour are used.

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Should I buy a Cat S or Cat N car?

Some sellers try to pass off CatSor CatNcars as non-damaged by hiding their past.

If the buyer does not carry out avehicle history check, they might not be aware the car has previously been damaged and so could pay over the odds for an insurance write-off.

Suffering an accident that leads to a vehicle write-off is distressing, but unwittingly purchasing a written-off vehicle and paying more than market value for it is painful too.

Make sure you know how to interpret the jargon and are fully aware of a vehicle's past so you don't get caught out by an unscrupulous seller with an RAC Vehicle Check.

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I'm an automotive industry enthusiast with extensive knowledge in car insurance, salvage categories, and the intricacies of dealing with written-off vehicles. My expertise stems from a deep understanding of the insurance industry, salvage codes, and the processes involved in handling damaged cars.

Now, let's delve into the key concepts discussed in the article:

1. Insurance Write-Off:

  • An insurance write-off refers to a vehicle that has sustained significant damage, rendering it either unsafe to be back on the road or beyond economical repair.
  • If a car is deemed unsafe, the owner may receive a cash payout instead of repairing it.

2. Repair-to-Value Ratio:

  • The concept of an uneconomical repair is based on a repair-to-value ratio, which varies among insurance companies.
  • It's calculated by comparing the cost of repairs to the vehicle's value. If the repair cost exceeds a certain percentage, the car is considered beyond economical repair.

3. Reasons for Write-Offs:

  • Car insurance companies follow strict guidelines to return a damaged car to its pre-accident condition.
  • Even seemingly minor cosmetic damage can lead to a write-off, especially for new cars, where the cost of repairs may exceed the vehicle's value.

4. Insurance Write-Off Categories:

  • Previously, the categories were Cat A, Cat B, Cat C, and Cat D. Now, they are A, B, S, and N.
  • Categories include:
    • Cat A (Scrap cars): Should be crushed and never reappear on the road.
    • Cat B (Cars broken up for parts): Body shell should be crushed, but salvageable parts can be used elsewhere.
    • Cat S (Cars with structural damage): Requires professional repair; unsafe to drive until repaired.
    • Cat N (Cars with non-structural damage): Issues may be cosmetic or related to non-structural components.

5. Disposal of Write-Off Cars:

  • Cat A and Cat B cars are usually crushed, with Cat B vehicles allowed to donate salvageable parts.
  • Cars in Cat S and Cat N categories can be sold by the insurance company, either back to the original owner or to a third party through a salvage company.

6. Buying a Written-Off Car:

  • Cars in Cat S and Cat N categories may represent a bargain if priced accordingly.
  • Buyers should conduct a vehicle history check to avoid purchasing a damaged vehicle without awareness.

7. Seller Transparency:

  • Some sellers may attempt to hide a vehicle's past by not disclosing its Cat S or Cat N status.
  • Conducting a thorough vehicle history check is crucial to avoid overpaying for an insurance write-off.

In conclusion, understanding the terminology, categories, and processes related to insurance write-offs is crucial for anyone involved in a car accident or considering purchasing a salvaged vehicle. Always be diligent in assessing a vehicle's history to make informed decisions.

What is a Cat A, Cat B, Cat S or Cat N insurance write-off? | RAC Drive (2024)


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