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A guide to write offs

You may have always wondered what a write off is and whether it is safe to drive. In this guide, we aim to reveal all.

What is a write off?

A car classed as an insurance write off is a car that has suffered damage that the insurer deems to be uneconomical to repair or unsafe to drive. Rather than paying to repair the car, the insurer will give the owner a cash pay-out. The owner will then need to buy a replacement vehicle.

Before a car is written off, it will be given the once-over by a repair engineer. They will confirm how much it would cost to repair the vehicle and, whether it becomes a write off depends on the repair-to-value parameters set by the insurer. For instance, some insurers set it at 50%, while others choose 60%[1].

How much does it cost to insure a write off?

Not all insurers will insure cars that have been written off, so it’s always best to get some quotes before you purchase a car. You need to check that you’d be able to not only insure it, but also to tax it and pay for all the other costs of owning a car.

If you buy your car from a dealer, you’ll receive more protection, as they’re legally required to declare all the information they have on a car, whereas private sellers aren’t.[2]

Some insurers will offer discounted rates for cars that have been written off and repaired[3], so you may be able to get a good deal, if you shop around.

When deciding how much your premium should be, insurers consider several factors, including your age, where you live, the type of cover you want, how many years no claims discount you have, if you have any points on your licence and the car insurance group[4] of your vehicle.

It’s worth bearing in mind that some people are wary of cars that have been written off, so, if you try to sell your car in the future, you may find you have to accept a lower price than you’d like[5].

What are the write off categories?

Any car that has been written off will have its V5C document marked to indicate this, clearly stating the category it falls under. In October 2017, the way insurers could classify write offs changed, with new categories being introduced. This was done to make write off damage easier to understand, as the focus was placed on the damage and not the repair cost.

The Association of British Insurers (ABI) said this was to “reflect the increasing complexity of newer vehicles, which can make it harder for damaged cars to be safely repaired.”[6]

Here is a breakdown of each write off category[7]:

Category A – ‘Scrap’ cars. The most severe type of write off, where no part of the car can be used again and everything must be scrapped and destroyed. 

Category B – ‘Break’ cars. These are cars with extensive damage that can’t be driven, but can be broken down to use the parts for salvage or recycling.  The body shell of the vehicle must be destroyed.

Category S (formerly C) – ‘Structural’ cars. Cars in this category have suffered structural damage but it is repairable. Once fixed, you can drive the car safely, but it’s a good idea to get a mechanic to confirm it’s roadworthy. 

Category N (formerly D) – ‘Non-structural’ cars. This is the least serious category, with cars having sustained damage that isn’t structural. The car may be drivable even before the repairs, although this isn’t always the case. It’s always advisable to get a mechanic to check the car over, even if the damage seems to be cosmetic.

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