What are the categories for damaged cars?
The Association of British Insurers (ABI) and Lloyd’s Market Association (LMA) updated their codes and practices on the 1st of October 2017, making it easier for buyers to see why the vehicle was written off. Categories A and B remained the same. Categories C and D changed and was replaced with two new categories, S and N.
What are the four main salvage categories?
A written-off car or vehicle must be scrapped and cannot return to the road, meaning the damage to your vehicle is so extreme that no part can be salvaged.
A written-off car or vehicle must have its chassis destroyed and not return to the road. Still, parts can be re-sold, meaning the damage to your vehicle is extensive (i.e. the vehicle’s body, frame, or chassis could not be used again), and the car will be scrapped.
Category S (formerly C)
A written-off car or vehicle that has chassis or structural damage but is repairable, meaning there is structural damage to your vehicle (i.e. the wheel axis is bent, a part of the chassis deemed unsafe) and is uneconomical to repair. This means that the car will avoid being scrapped but professionally repaired before being driven on the road.
Category N (formerly D)
A written-off car or vehicle with non-structural damage or stolen-recovered means your vehicle has no structural damage. Still, it has an issue that makes it uneconomical to repair.
Other categories are:
These vehicles are not classed as salvage, but there still is a chance that they’re damaged.
Category X – Stolen/Recovered
These vehicles have been subject to an insurance claim but more than often have received minimal or no damage.
You might hear the terms ‘actual loss’ describes categories A and B, and ‘constructive loss’ represents categories S and N.
How to deal with a car that's damaged
How do insurers decide that your vehicle is a ‘write-off’?
Your insurer will ‘write off’ your vehicle if the damage is so extreme that it can’t be repaired or if the cost of fixing it is uneconomical. They won’t just calculate whether the repair cost exceeds the car’s market value (the price it is likely to fetch if sold). The insurer also needs to consider providing a courtesy vehicle and any admin costs – for example, sending an inspection engineer.
In most cases, any repairs that exceed around half to two-thirds of the vehicle’s value will lead to the insurer considering the car not worth repairing and a write-off. Meaning an insurer will not repair a vehicle if it is uneconomical or unsafe to do so.
Can I keep the damaged car and have it repaired?
If the vehicle is a Category A or B write-off, then you can’t keep your car to be repaired. The Association of British Insurers (ABI) Salvage Code states that these cars should be destroyed and crushed. Vehicle parts from Category B cars that are considered safe can be sold.
If the vehicle is a Category S or N, you should be able to keep it, although the costs to fix it may be more than the car’s value. These vehicles may also be sold for repair after your insurer compensates you. You will need to seek advice from your insurer.
Do insurance companies report the status of a vehicle to the DVLA?
It’s entirely up to the vehicle’s registered owner to notify the DVLA when a written-off car or vehicle is passed onto an insurer.
The car owner can give permission to the insurer to act on their behalf when telling the DVLA about a car’s condition. In this case, the insurer must notify the DVLA using the appropriate section of the car’s V5C logbook. If an insurer doesn’t complete this, the registered owner will still be legally responsible and liable for the vehicle.
What happens if a vehicle is stolen but comes back a write-off?
While vehicle security is constantly improving, an estimated 89,400 vehicle’s were stolen in the UK in 2020/2021. Around half are recovered by the police, but cars don’t always return to their owner’s in tip-top shape.
Recovered stolen vehicles written-off will also be categorised as A, B, S or N.
If the recovered vehicle has minor damage or is undamaged, the Motor Insurance Anti Fraud and Theft Register (MIAFTR) must be notified, so they can mark the car as recovered.
Insurance for Category S and N cars
Can I get insurance for a Cat S car?
Yes, some companies will insure a Category S car. They will almost certainly ask for the vehicle to undergo a new MOT test and may ask for an engineer’s report for the car in question.
Can I insure a Cat N car?
It’s possible to ensure a Category N car. Similarly to Cat S, the insurer may require a new MOT and engineer’s report.
What happens to a Cat S insurance write-off?
Once the insurance claim has been paid out to the owner, Cat S vehicles can be sold for repair or are commonly sold at auctions to car traders or garages by an insurer. This way, the insurer recoups some of the cost.
Cat S cars can be made as safe as a new car and driven again. If you’re considering buying a Cat S car, it may be worth checking any repair to ensure it’s been done to the correct standard.
What happens to a Cat N insurance write-off?
Like Cat S write-offs, Cat N vehicles can also be sold or repaired by an insurer after the claim has been paid out to the owner.
As Cat N cars are lightly damaged, some businesses and garages specialise in repairing them back to a roadworthy condition to sell on.
Car safety and costs
Are Cat S cars less safe than regular cars?
Category S cars should be just as safe and legal to drive like a new car when properly repaired. Have an independent inspector check it if you’re thinking of buying a Cat S car but are unsure about its condition.
Are Cat N cars less safe than regular cars?
Category N cars are written-off because they are uneconomical to repair, meaning the extent of their damage may be minor. Still, the insurer may determine it is too expensive to repair or replace a vehicle part.
So even though the vehicle’s safety wasn’t compromised, it becomes a Cat N write-off for purely economic reasons. However, it can be straightforward to restore the car to a safe, working condition.
If you think that a Cat N car is not up to roadworthy status, you can hire an independent inspector to check it.
Are Cat S and N cars cheaper to buy?
Yes, Category S and N cars are usually available to buy at a lower price because of their damage history.
Do Cat S and N cars have higher insurance premiums?
Some insurance companies might not insure Category S and N cars, and others may charge more. Insurance companies often require an engineer’s report before offering insurance for Cat S cars. The same goes for Cat N.
Can I check if a vehicle has ever been damaged to a Category S and N level?
Yes, you can, and at Reclamet Limited, we always ensure any buyers are aware of all the facts about a vehicle before buying. Professional car traders and vendors must state whether a car has been previously written off.