What is an car insurance write-off? Guide to CAT A, B, C, D, N

December 14, 2020 by Zoe Hicks – 3 mins read

In this guide we will explain everything you need to know about written off cars

In this guide we will explain everything you need to know about written off cars, should you buy one and also how can you find out if a car has been written off.

A written-off vehicle refers to a vehicle that has been damaged in an accident and is either beyond repair or is not economical to repair (the cost to repair outweighs the cost of the vehicle).

What are the different types of ‘write offs’?

When it comes to vehicle write-offs you may have heard of a variety of different categories, below we’ve listed the various categories and a brief explanation of each:

Category A: This is the worst category, if your vehicle falls into Category A it means the entire vehicle must be crushed as it’s so far beyond repair there’s nothing worth saving.

Category B: Unlike category A, just the body of the car needs to be crushed, you will be able to salvage some of the other parts from it.

Category C: This category is most common for old retro cars, it means you could repair the car but it’ll cost more than the vehicle’s worth to do so.

Category D: Your vehicle falls into this category when the repair work costs less than the vehicle cost, but additional fees (such as recovering your vehicle) make the over costs more than the vehicle.

Category N: The most common category, if you fall into N then it means your total vehicle cost to repair is less than the vehicle cost and there’s been no structural damage to the vehicle.

Category S: Similar to category N with regards to the total cost being less than the vehicle’s worth, however, the key difference is that the vehicle has received structural damage.

Category X: This category relates to vehicles that have been stolen, recovered but have already been paid out for on the insurance, in most cases they can be repaired for less than the vehicles cost.

What happens when a car is written off?

In the case that your insurance company decides to write off your car (it’s completely their decision) they will pay you the current cost of the vehicle.

In the event that your vehicle falls into category C, D, N or S you’ll be given the option to buy the vehicle back from the insurance company after the repairs. If you don’t take them up on the offer they will sell the vehicle to anyone willing to buy it.

How can you check if a car has been written off?

If you’re buying a vehicle and the price seems too good to be true, then it’s always worth double-checking to see if it’s been written off especially since it may impact your insurance premiums.

The easiest way to check if a vehicle has been written off is to use our website to generate a free vehicle check. All you need to know is what the vehicle registration is and you’ll find out:

  • Has the vehicle been stolen?
  • Has it been scrapped or written off?
  • Has it been imported?
  • Does it have a valid MOT?
  • Is it on finance?
  • When does the road tax expire?
  • Is there any mileage issues?

Along with a full specification break down and running cost estimations, previous MOT results, plate changes, ownership history and much much more!

Why you shouldn’t buy a write-off

When it comes to buying a written-off car, there’s definitely a lot of financial incentive as the initial price tag is a lot lower than regular pre-owned vehicles.

However, if you’re looking to buy a Category C or D it’s going to cost you more than the vehicle’s worth to repair it in the first place, so it’s probably not the best idea. You’ve also got your Category N and S, which are affordable to repair but don’t be fooled, especially if you’re looking to buy a Category S.

With the alterations to the vehicle’s structure, you’ll often find yourself paying a much higher insurance premium as the risk of issues is much higher than a non-modified vehicle.

You’re much better off buying a second-hand car with a good MOT history and mileage, as it’ll save you on your insurance premiums, and typically has a longer lifetime.


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A guide to the MOT Test
If you own and use a vehicle on the road it is your responsibility to ensure this vehicle is maintained and kept in a condition that deems it roadworthy at all times.
MOT History Checker
MOT History Checker
View your MOT history for free along with complimentary running costs and a mileage timeline. Find out when your next is MOT is due.