Is my car a write-off?

Last updated January 20, 2022

Having your car written off isn’t ideal. Not only can it leave you without a car, but it can also cost you money. Whether this is due to an increase in your insurance premium, the cost of buying a new car or the devaluing of your written-off car when it comes to reselling it.

We have looked at what a car write-off means and how it works in case you ever find yourself in this situation.

Value your car in under 30 seconds

When is a car a write-off?

It is the insurance company that decides if your car is a write-off but there are different categories that the vehicle will be classified as, depending on how badly damaged it is. Which category your car falls into will determine whether your car is scrapped or if it can be repaired and get back on the road.

Take a look below at the write-off categories to see which one your car may come under.

  • Category A:

    Your car is beyond repair; it is either too damaged or too old. The parts aren’t suitable to be reused on another car and the car is to be scrapped.

  • Category B:

    Too damaged or old to be repaired, however, some of the salvageable parts can be sold to be used second-hand.

  • Category S (formerly Category C):

    The structure of the car’s chassis is damaged but is repairable. Cat S cars will need to be re-registered before they are allowed back on the road.

  • Category N (formerly category D):

    The damage to the car is non-structural and can include superficial, electrical and safety issues including faults in the brakes and steering. These can be repaired but must not be driven until done so. Cat N cars do not need to be re-registered but the DVLA need to be made aware that the car was written off.

What happens if your car is written-off?

If your car is involved in an accident and you put a claim into your insurance provider, the vehicle will be inspected to assess whether the damage is worth repairing. If the damage is so severe and the cost of repair is more than the value of the vehicle, then the insurer will write the car off and claim repairing it to be uneconomical.

The insurer will then offer a payout based on the market value of the car before the incident happened, minus the compulsory and voluntary excess you agreed to in your policy.

What can I do if I don’t agree with the written off decision?

You have the right to contest whether your car is written off. Keep in mind that your insurance company will be basing their decision on the car’s current value and not the price you paid when you purchased it.

If you think the vehicle is worth keeping, you can ask to keep it and get your settlement fee, but the salvage value will be taken off your pay-out. The settlement amount is the most important thing, it is crucial that you understand and agree with the amount that is stated on your policy documentation. It will be difficult to dispute this amount after you have agreed to it.

If you’re unhappy with the valuation provided by your insurance company, you can file a complaint with the Financial Ombudsman Service who will help handle your appeal. There are no guarantees that this will work, but it is a free and independent service, so if you feel like you have a good case then it could be worth a try.

What to do if the insurer's valuation doesn’t cover your finance

When you buy a car on finance you may not be the legal owner of the vehicle. If you write off a car that is on Personal Contract Purchase, Hire Purchase or Personal Contract Hire, you could find that the settlement figure offered by the insurance company is lower than the amount owed on the car. This means that you could be paying for a car that you no longer drive for the remainder of your finance agreement, or that the finance company asks that the outstanding payments are made in full.

If you have been offered a settlement figure that is deemed to be below the market value of the car, you could go back to the insurance company with evidence that the offer is unfair and below what you would expect to receive with supporting evidence. It may be the case that due to a car finance agreement having high interest payments the amount owed may be more than the value of the car (known as negative equity) - where this is the case you will need to contact the finance company to come to an agreement.

What does the insurance company do with written-off cars?

What happens with your car will depend on the write-off category. If your car has been deemed a ‘Category A’ or ‘Category B’, the car will be crushed, although the latter allows salvageable parts to be saved to use on other vehicles.

If your car is a Category S or N, the car can be sold by the insurance company, either to the original owner or a third party. Cars in these categories may be repaired and sold on to a new owner once repairs have been made, and the price may be less than the equivalent car that hasn’t been written off.

Frequently asked questions

There are six write-off categories; A being the most severe (the car needs to be crushed) and S the least (you can drive the car again if it’s repaired to roadworthy condition). If you’ve been in a road traffic incident and your car’s been damaged, your insurer should come out to inspect the damage and tell you what category it falls into. Alternatively, you can consult the official write-off categories to get an idea of your car’s status.

If your car is written off, your insurance provider will generally retain it and pay you its current value. However, if the car fits into Category S or N (formerly Category C or D), you can usually choose to repurchase it from them after receiving your settlement, if you want. Remember though, that if you buy it back, you’ll have to have it repaired to roadworthy condition before you can drive it again.

Whether you can sell your write off-car depends on what category it falls into. Category A and B cars generally can’t be sold as these categories indicate significant damage that can’t feasibly be repaired. However, cars in Category S and Category N can be sold, either privately under the condition that they’re suitably repaired before being driven or to us for a hassle-free sale.

Car’s that have been deemed a write-off by the insurance company can be repaired and sold, but you should consider having the car professionally inspected before purchasing. If a vehicle is designated as a Category A or B write off, it should be scrapped and avoided. Category B write-offs may be worth buying for parts, but only for parts. Once the necessary repairs have been completed, Category S and N vehicles should be safe to drive. After the vehicle has been fixed, it’ll need to pass a MOT and be re-registered with the DVLA to guarantee it’s safe to drive on public roads.

For some people, buying a written off car can allow them to purchase a car for less than a car that hasn’t been involved in an accident, but keep in mind the impact it will have on the resale value and desirability of a vehicle that has been deemed a write-off.