Changes to car insurance write-off categories


As the UK’s used car market is about to enter its peak period (following an influx of part exchanges against new 18-plate models), a survey of consumers by vehicle history checker My Car Check has found that 89% were unaware of the recent write-off category changes.

In October 2017, the old A, B, C and D categories were replaced with new codes, which focus on safety rather than the cost of repair:

  • A – car must be scrapped in its entirety
  • B – car must be scrapped, but may be broken up for parts
  • S – car has suffered structural damage, but may be repaired and returned to the road
  • N – car has suffered non-structural damage, but may be repaired and returned to the road

Mark Bailey, head of CDL Vehicle Information Systems, which owns My Car Check, said: “We are checking new category write-offs almost daily now, so the fact that 9 out of 10 people are unaware of them is a worry, especially when you consider that four of those who did know were motor traders.

“It shows that more must be done to educate buyers about write-offs, so they can either decide they want nothing to do with them, or they go into it with their eyes open, fully aware of the risks.

“Safety is paramount and written-off vehicles have to be properly repaired in order to perform as they should in the event of a second crash. There might be things the seller doesn’t know, or things they’d rather not tell you, so do your own history check to find out exactly what you’re getting into.”

A write-off is an accident-damaged vehicle that an insurer decides is either beyond repair or too expensive to fix. Category A (e.g. burnt-out by fire) and B (e.g. major rear-end shunt) write-offs should never return to the road.

Categories S and N replace the old Categories C and D. Category S write-offs have suffered some sort of structural damage (e.g. collapsed crumple zone), and will be unsafe until they have been professionally repaired. Category N write-offs have suffered non-structural damage (e.g. cosmetic damage or electrical issues), but are simply uneconomical to repair based on the car’s market value.

MINI Cooper Category N insurance write-off
It might look like very minor damage, but it was enough for the insurance company to write this MINI off (Category N).

Leaving the safety aspect aside, there’s the impact on desirability and value to consider with S and N (and the old C and D) grade write-offs. A category N write-off that has had minor damage repaired will generally be worth about 25% less than a similar vehicle with clear history.

Some insurers will check the history of vehicles and can refuse to cover them or charge higher premiums. In the event of a claim, if it is discovered the vehicle has been previously written-off, they might offer a smaller amount to reflect the market value.

Michael Dalton
Michael Dalton
Michael graduated from university in 2016 with a degree in Human, Social, and Political Sciences. He contributes to both The Executivecondominium and The Van Expert.

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