What do car insurance write-off categories mean? From Cat A to Cat S

SOMETIMES a car advertised as a Category A, B, S or N “write-off” will show up on classified listings for an attractive price.

But there can be issues with these bargain bangers, and buyers should think twice before paying for a motor with a murky past.

 Category A and B write offs should be avoided when buying a second-hand car


Category A and B write offs should be avoided when buying a second-hand carCredit: Alamy

If you’re in the market for a new car, it’s not uncommon to come across a second-hand motor which has previously been written off by an insurer.

Many repairers will often spend quite a lot of time and money getting a car back into a roadworthy state before selling it onto another driver.

And lots of cars get written off for relatively minor bumps and scrapes.

But some vehicles may still be in a dangerous condition, despite being repaired.

Others might never be quite right after being involved in a smash.

So here’s how you can protect yourself against buying a dodgy motor.

What do A, B, S and N write-off categories mean?

A vehicle can fall under four different write-off categories, depending on the severity of the damage.

Category A write-offs are vehicles which can never be legally used on the road and must be crushed.

The whole vehicle is condemned.

Even if certain parts appear to be in a decent condition, they cannot be removed and used on another motor.

Category B write-offs are cars which been inspected and declared as unsuitable and beyond repair.

But unlike category A, parts from cars listed as B can be salvaged, repaired and reused.

Category S write-offs are vehicles which have suffered structural damage that is too expensive for insurers to pay to repair.

If repaired by a professional though, it can be returned to the road.

Category N write-offs are motors which have suffered non-structural damage to features such as the brakes or steering.

These cars can be safely driven again, but not until they’ve been correctly repaired.

How to avoid buying a dodgy motor

Before purchasing a new car, even from a reliable dealership, it can worthwhile to do your own research on the vehicle in question.

Background checks are commonly used by drivers to alert them of any concerning history when buying a second-hand car – such as if it has been stolen, damaged or has outstanding finance.

If you’re looking for some extra reassurance though, you can get your local mechanic to check the car and make sure it can pass a MOT.

And it may also prove handy to check with your insurer to see if they’ll cover the vehicle.

You can also check the salvage records of your vehicle for free at for that extra peace of mind.

Under the Consumer Rights Act 2015, you can reject the car within the first 30 days of purchase and claim a refund as long as you weren’t made aware of the issue beforehand and the problem is not general wear and tear.

However, the person who sold you the car doesn’t have to accept this, meaning you would have to take them to court.

If you’re buying a car privately, you’re only protected if the seller doesn’t accurately describe the car before purchase.

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