What is an insurance write-off?
If you’ve been involved in a car crash then you might be informed by your car insurance company that your vehicle is what’s known as a ‘write-off’
But what exactly does the term ‘write-off mean? can you legally drive it afterwards? and should you ever buy a ‘write-off’ car?
Our advice page addresses all of the above and more, with up to date info on the latest change to the insurance write off categories.
What is an insurance write-off?
An insurance write-off is industry jargon for a car that’s either: sustained so much damage it’s unsafe to go back on the road, or it is still safe to drive but is beyond economical repair.
If your car has been deemed unsafe, then instead of being repaired the owner will receive a cash payout for the loss.
An uneconomical repair, however, is based on a repair-to-value ratio which can be different for each insurance company and car.
So, if your vehicle was worth £5,000 and your insurance company used a repair-to-value ratio of 60%, the vehicle would be considered beyond economical repair if the work needed to exceed £3,000.
Car insurance companies employ vehicle assessors to calculate the cost of repairs and make the judgment.
They will inspect the overall condition of your vehicle and analyze the collision damage.
Why do cars get written off?
Car insurance companies work to strict guidelines. they a have a duty to return a car to the condition it was in before the accident.
However, this can be expensive: it dictates which workshops and parts might be used.
All this is factored into the calculations insurance assessors use, so costs can soon rise.
This is why write-offs do not always have to be particularly serious and you might be left surprised to know to find out that your car, having only sustained seemingly minor cosmetic damage, is still classed as a write-off.
If a car is new, a simple cosmetic scrape along one side can see it declared a write-off by the assessor: the expense of repairing and painting the panels can exceed the vehicle’s actual value, even if there is no serious structural damage.
This is why there are different categories of write-offs so people know whether they can still buy and sell a type of written off car.
Car insurance write-off categories explained
Car insurance assessors use various categories of car insurance write-off to rank the seriousness of accident damage.
Up to 1 October 2017, the four categories used included A, B, C, D, whereby the level of damage would be decreased in severity by category, starting from A After review, ABI has updated the salvage code, in order to shift focus away the mere cost of repair and instead highlight structural issues that affect safety.
The categories are now A, B, S, and N.
Scrap only, For cars so badly damaged, they should be crushed and never re-appear on the road. Even salvageable parts must be destroyed.
Category ( unchanged)
Body shell should be crushed. Signifies extensive damage, although some parts are salvageable. Should never re-appear on road, although reclaimed parts can be used in other road-going vehicles.
Category (formerly Category)
The new Category S means the vehicle has suffered structural damage. This could include a bent or twisted chassis or a crumple zone that has collapsed in a crash.
Category S damage is more than just cosmetic, therefore and the vehicle will need to be professionally repaired. Also, it won’t be safe to drive until then.
Category( formerly Category )
Vehicles graded accordingly haven’t sustained structural damage, so the issue may b cosmetic, or a problem with the electrics that aren’t economical to repair.
Don’t assume such vehicles are drivable, however; non-structural faults may include brakes, steering or other safety-related parts.