Cat D cars: A complete guide

After a car has been damaged in an accident, an insurance provider will often mark it as a ‘write-off’. They will assign it into one of four write-off categories, depending on how badly the car has been damaged.

Cat A and B cars are severely damaged and cannot be returned to the road. (Whilst certain parts can be salvaged from Cat B cars, if you have a Cat A, your only option is to scrap your car).

Cat S cars (formerly Cat C) have sustained some structural damage but can be repaired for use on the road. Cat D (more recently known as ‘Cat N’) cars have non-structural damage and their resale value is affected the least out of all the insurance write-off categories.

In this guide, we will explain the criteria for a Cat D car. We’ll also cover what to consider before buying one (including the advantages and disadvantages of Cat D cars and your rights as a buyer). Finally, we'll highlight your options for repairing a Cat D write-off.

What is a ‘Cat D’ car?

‘Cat D’ refers to a car that has been deemed beyond economical repair by an insurance provider. This usually means that the total repair costs would be more than 50% of the car’s value. Cat D cars have been written off due to repair costs rather than how much damage they have sustained.

Car crashed illustration

Should I buy a Cat D car?

  • Before buying a Cat D car, you should carefully inspect the vehicle’s bodywork and interior for damage. If there are any concerning problems that would be expensive to rectify, think carefully about whether you’re getting a good deal.

  • You should always request a test drive before buying a Cat D car. (This will allow you to assess the car’s handling and performance and decide whether it meets your day-to-day driving requirements.)

  • Some older cars that run perfectly may be deemed ‘Cat D’ due to sustaining cosmetic damage such as scratches and dents, which would be prohibitively expensive to repair considering their market value.

  • Cat Ds can make great cars. However, they may have faults that you would rarely encounter with a new car. Some issues won’t be immediately noticeable – but may require expensive repairs at some point in the future.

Pros of buying a Cat D

  • A Cat D car will be considerably cheaper than an undamaged car of the same model and trim level.

  • If you are skilled mechanic, you may be able to repair a Cat D car and sell it on at a profit.

  • When repaired to a high standard, Cat D cars are usually perfectly safe to drive. As such, there are many Cat D cars on the road today.

  • If you spot a few minor issues but are otherwise happy with a Cat D car, you may be able to negotiate a discount.

Cons of buying a Cat D

  • Buying a Cat D car will always be a gamble, no matter how scrupulously you check it.

  • Paying for a professional inspection can provide additional peace of mind, although this service typically costs £200 or more.

  • Rectifying substandard repair work could be expensive.

  • Buying a car privately carries extra risk when it is a ‘Cat D’ write-off. Whilst trade dealers must disclose comprehensive information for every car they sell, private sellers only need to ensure the car is ‘as described’.

  • Therefore, we would recommend buying from a trade dealer, so that you have the option to return the car if there are issues with any repair work.

  • You will likely need to pay a higher insurance premium for a Cat D car than you would for an undamaged car of the same model and specification.

Selling a Cat D car

  • Selling your car privately - Listing your car on various car advertising websites is a great way to attract prospective buyers. Just make sure you disclose the car’s Cat D status in your ads.

  • Selling to a car dealership - A local dealership may provide a convenient channel to sell your car. However, some dealers may not accept a Cat D car – and a car that has previously been written off will be ineligible for approved used schemes.

  • Selling to a car buying service - Many car buying services, such as webuyanycar will buy Cat D cars. If you sell your car to webuyanycar, you can benefit from a guaranteed sale, saving you the hassle of meeting traders and enthusiasts who might not be serious about buying your motor.

Sell my Cat D car with webuyanycar

Get a free car valuation and find out how much your Cat D car is worth in less than 30 seconds.

I bought a Cat D car by mistake. What should I do?

If you unknowingly bought a Cat D car from a dealer

You should return to the dealership with the car. If you wish to keep the car, you can negotiate a partial refund to account for the vehicle’s reduced market value.

You can also request a full refund (with a deduction for any usage of the car) if you do not wish to own a Cat D car. If the dealer refuses to honour your request, you will need to take legal action. (You should also consider reporting the dealership to Trading Standards.)

Car showroom illustration

If you bought from a private seller

You have fewer legal protections when buying a car from a private seller.

Whilst car dealers must disclose a car’s category status when advertising and selling it, there is no legal obligation for a private seller to do so. The only requirements they must meet are as follows:

  • They must have the legal right to sell the car.

  • The car must match their description.

  • The car must be roadworthy (or, if it is not, the buyer must be made fully aware of its condition).

  • A private seller must reveal any issues that they are aware of when asked by a prospective buyer.

If you buy a car from a private seller but later discover that it is a Cat D write-off, you could make a county court claim against the seller. However, this is not always a straightforward process, as you’ll have to be able to prove that they were aware of the car’s hidden history.

Insuring a Cat D car

You will usually need to pay a higher premium to insure a car that has been recorded as a Cat D write-off. Whilst some insurance providers will refuse to cover Cat D cars, most will simply charge slightly more.

Repairing a Cat D car

  • If you claim on your car insurance for repairs after your car is marked Cat D, you have a legal right to choose where the repairs are carried out.

  • Your insurance provider may suggest that you use one of their approved providers (but you are under no obligation to do so).

  • An independent garage may be able to repair a Cat D car at a lower cost than an approved repair provider.

  • However, any work that is not carried out through an approved repairer won’t be guaranteed through your car insurance.

  • Repair costs are often lower at independent garages due to the use of aftermarket or second-hand parts and lower overhead costs.

  • Whilst a competent garage should make a Cat D car safe and roadworthy, there are no specific checks in place to ensure that repairs are carried out safely and correctly.

How to check if a car is a Cat D?

The easiest way to check a car’s category status is to run a HPI check. This will reveal important information about the car, such as whether it has ever been written off or stolen.

Although you will be charged a fee for a HPI check (or a similar premium car check service), this is a small price to pay for your peace of mind.

Do webuyanycar buy Cat D cars?

Yes, webuyanycar buy Cat D cars. Want to sell yours? Just follow these three simple steps:

Get your free valuation

Enter your reg number and mileage into our free car valuation tool. (To ensure your valuation is as comprehensive as possible, we recommend disclosing its category status, along with any faults and damage.)

Book an appointment

Choose a convenient date and time, then book your appointment at any of our 500+ UK branches.

Sell your car

Drive to your chosen branch for your appointment and our buyer will confirm your valuation. If you decide to sell your car, they will assist with the paperwork and send the money to your bank.

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