It’s every motorist’s worst nightmare: you get into a bit of a scrape, call your insurance company and within days you’re told the car is not economically viable to repair, and has been written off.
This can be especially frustrating when the damage caused has no bearing on the car’s roadworthiness, nor on its resale value. If a car is worth £500 and you so much as crack the front bumper, chances are the insurance provider won’t pay out for a repair or replacement part. A rule of thumb is that if the cost of professional repair is more than half the value of the car, it is likely to be written off.
All is not lost - there are different grades of write-off, and you don’t always have to say goodbye to your pride and joy after a bump. But should you be put off a second-hand car with a write-off on the books, and what can you do if you disagree with the damage assessor?
Car insurance write-off categories
It all comes down to which ‘category’ of write-off a damaged car has been labelled. There are four levels, and understanding what they mean is crucial to knowing what to do with a written-off car.
The government revamped the write-off system in October 2017, giving new names to the categories at the lower end of the scale. This can be intimidating if you’re not familiar with what the letters mean, so let’s start by explaining the scale.
Formerly called Category C, this tier is for vehicles that have received structural bodywork damage - a bent chassis or creased door frame, for example - but that can be repaired and put back on the road.
It’s important to note that, although a Category S write-off is among the least severe, the vehicle will be deemed unsafe for use until it has been professionally repaired.