Why are cars written off?
An insurer will write off a vehicle if it can’t be repaired to roadworthy condition – either because the damage is too severe, or the cost of repairs outweigh what the car is worth.
If a car is written off, it’ll be assigned to one of the four UK vehicle write-off categories. What happens to the car depends on which category it’s assigned to.
What are the UK write-off categories?
Here are the four UK write-off categories, and what they mean for your vehicle if it’s assigned to them:
Category N: Non-Structural Damage
Category N means the car has sustained non-structural damage, and the insurer has decided that repair isn’t economical.
‘Non-structural damage’ could apply to anything from dents or scrapes on cosmetic panels, to mechanical damage affecting integral components.
Cars assigned to Category N can usually be repaired with the right parts, but it might cost more than the vehicle’s market value.
Category S: Structural Damage
Category S means the car has sustained structural damage, and the insurer has decided that repair isn’t economical.
This usually means the main chassis or framework have been damaged, and the car would require extensive repairs for it to be roadworthy.
However, Category S cars can often still be repaired with the right methods, but the cost of these repairs may exceed what the car is worth.
Category B: Beyond Repair
A category B write-off means the car has been damaged beyond repair. The car can’t be returned to roadworthy condition, and can’t be re-registered for on-road use.
The car will be sent for salvage by a licensed agent, who will reclaim any reusable parts (like mirrors, intact glass, and panels) before the shell is crushed. These parts can be recycled, and used by repairers as a sustainable alternative to new components.
Category A: Beyond Salvage
Category A means the vehicle and all of its components are beyond salvage. The damage is too extensive to safely remove/reuse any parts – so the shell, all parts and components must be crushed.
The car will be sent to a licensed professional, who will ensure the shell and all of components are safely disposed of. Many of the metals and plastics used in cars can be recycled through industrial processing, and turned into raw materials for use in future products.
Which category means ‘beyond economical repair’?
If a car is deemed ‘beyond economical repair’ (usually meaning the cost of its repair would outweigh its market value) it will either be assigned to category N or S, depending on whether the damage is structural (S), or non-structural (N).