Car insurance write-offs: everything you need to know

Car insurance write-offs: everything you need to know

What happens after a write-off?

When an insurer is notified that a vehicle has been damaged, it will assess the damage to determine whether it should be written off, and to what extent. 

An insurer will offer the owner an agreed market value for the damaged vehicle and take legal possession of it until it is sold or scrapped. If the owner wishes to keep the vehicle – whether because it is only a Category N write-off and it can still be driven, or because they are able to repair the damage for less than the cost of a replacement – they can refuse the offer and keep the car. 

In all cases, the DVLA must be notified of the write-off, and will need to assess any repairs made to a Category S car before it returns to the road. Given the usually superficial nature of Category N damage, it does not require further assessment, but must still be kept in a roadworthy condition. 

Should you buy a written-off car?

Category A write-offs go straight to the crusher, and cannot be purchased or put back on the road, but you will often find Category B cars being ‘broken’ for parts in the classifieds. You are unable to buy the whole vehicle (the shell must be scrapped) but can purchase individual components if they are still in a serviceable condition.

As for Category N and Category S cars, buyers must thoroughly inspect the standards of any repair work carried out, and take the time to ensure that they know exactly how the damage occurred.