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.
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.
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.