Should you buy an insurance write off car?

Charlotte Miller

Updated on:

So you’re in the market for a second-hand car, and you’ve come across a number of  significantly cheaper cars that are advertised as CAT N, CAT S, CAT C or CAT D. What  does that all mean and should they be avoided? 

The vehicle’s category designation tells you that the vehicle has been involved in a  collision at some point in its life. The different designations corresponds with how  severe the damage sustained is. Read on for a full explanation. 

Typically, insurers will declare a vehicle a write-off if the estimated cost of repairs  exceeds 50 to 60% of the pre-accident value of that vehicle. If that’s the case, the vehicle  will be categorised by an engineer, according to how severe the sustained damage  was. This does mean that sometimes, a car can be written-off, even if the damage was  relatively minor, particularly for low value vehicles. 

If you’re going through an insurance claim yourself, it helps to use an insurance write off calculator that tells you if your vehicle is likely to be written-off. 

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What do the different categories mean? 

There are currently 4 different category designations used, and they are ranked below  in order of most to least severe: 

CAT A: Vehicle must be crushed, parts cannot be sold 

CAT B: Vehicle must be scrapped, parts can be sold 

CAT S: Structural damage, vehicle can be repaired 

CAT N: Non-structural damage, vehicle can be repaired 

There are also 2 CAT designations that are no longer used: 

CAT C: Now considered CAT S 

CAT D: Now considered CAT N

Once a vehicle has been branded with a title, it stays with the vehicle forever, and does  affect its resale price. How much should you be paying for a CAT listed vehicle? Read on  to find out. 

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What does this mean for buying one? 

Legally speaking, it is acceptable for a CAT S, CAT N, CAT C or CAT D vehicle to be  repaired and returned to the road, but you need to do your research and be careful, as  there are a few lemons out there. 

The most important thing to understand is how severe the damage really was. If the  car sustained a high speed impact, particularly if the airbags deployed, there can be a  huge number of issues that arise as a consequence, from a bent chassis, to doors not  sealing properly and letting rain water in. 

The second thing is to check the repairs have been done by a licensed professional.  There are many handy do-it-yourselfers out there who might be perfectly capable of  fixing a vehicle, but there are also many who are not! Beware of purchasing a CAT titled  vehicle that doesn’t have any documentation of repair work having been done, as this  may be an indicator that the repair work hasn’t been completed professionally. 

If the seller has any photos of the damage, it can give you an idea of how significantly  the vehicles integrity was compromised. Knowing where the damage was sustained on  the vehicle can also help you to look for imperfections in the specific areas that repair  work has been done. 

If you don’t have much experience with cars, and don’t know what to look for, it’s a  good idea to bring a bodywork specialist with you. They’ll be able to tell you in seconds  whether a car has been repaired to a suitable standard, and will give you peace of mind  that you aren’t buying a dodgy car! 

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So Should I Buy One? 

If you’ve done your homework, and you’re confident that the car has been repaired to a  suitable standard, then there’s no reason why you shouldn’t. Insurance write-off car’s  can be a great way to drive a higher value car than you thought your budget could  afford. Just remember that when it comes to reselling a CAT listed vehicle, you won’t be  able to achieve the same price as a clean titled example.