The Types of Car Write-Offs

By: Motor Easy
Car Write-Offs

What Is a Cat A, Cat B, Cat S, Or Cat N Write-Off?

You may have not been aware that there are various types of car write-offs. They are the dreaded words no motorist wants to hear. However, while a written-off car means something has gone badly wrong, it can make all the difference when deciding what the damage is, particularly to your wallet. Today, we will discuss car write-offs and each category under which your vehicle may be assigned.


What is a Write-Off?

Essentially, a write-off is very bad news. The simplest possible answer is that a vehicle has been damaged or degraded to the point that it would cost more to repair than the car is worth. Also, it isn’t just related to ‘old bangers’ and bad smashes either.

Why is this?

Many insurers will only pay up to the current market value of your car. We are all too familiar with a brand-new car instantly losing value the second it moves off the dealer’s forecourt. Potentially you could drive your car a mile, be involved in a bad smash, and find yourself in a tricky position financially as a result.

The answer?

Well, it all depends on how bad the damage is. Insurers assign a different code that explains how ‘written off’ the car actually is. Today we will look at these different categories and what they might mean for you as a motorist.

Write off Categories | The Easy Explanation

OK, so there’s damage, but how bad is it really? Here are the specific codes that your insurance company will designate and communicate to you when they determine that a vehicle is declared a write-off, indicating the vehicle's condition and the extent of damage it has sustained.

Category A

Bad news, it’s terminal. Cat A cars are those that have had the most severe damage. These are cars that simply can not be fixed. 

They are not allowed to be sold or repaired, instead, they are sentenced to be crushed. Therefore, you should never see a Cat A car from any second-hand car dealership. This is also known as a ‘total write-off’, you would never see the car on the road again.


Category B

This category is a little better than category A write-offs, but not by much. Cars placed in this category are still damaged beyond repair.

 The small saving grace is that some parts may be reused or salvaged, but only if they are in a usable condition. 

Category S

These cars are a write-off in the traditional sense. The ‘S’ stands for ‘structural’. However, the good news is that they can be repaired and even sold on. This comes with caveats, though. 

To make a sale, it is highly recommended that the vehicle is thoroughly inspected by a qualified mechanic before it is deemed ‘roadworthy’. Be sure to choose a good quality provider that offers car health checks.

Category N

Back in the day, this used to be known as a ‘D’ category write-off. This is applied to vehicles that have been involved in an accident, but the structural frame remains intact. There may still be damage to some vital components such as the engine, the steering, the brakes, or the wheels.

With some vehicles, you’ll find that these components account for the bulk of the cost of repairing them, even if the car doesn’t look especially damaged. This can be a bitter pill to swallow when you are told your new car is a ‘write-off’ and can’t be used, even though the damage is repairable. This is often up to the discretion of your insurance company and their policies.


What Should I Do If My Car Has Been Written Off?

The first thing is to report your car as written off to both your insurer and the DVLA. Your insurance company will guide you through the process. 

To inform the DVLA of your car write-off you would need to send them:

  1. Your insurance company's details (name and postcode).
  2. Your car’s logbook, including the eleven-digit reference number (you can find this in the sell, transfer, part-exchange section).
  3. Your car's registration number.

 In addition to this, if you decide to keep the car for any reason, you would need to register this with the DVLA after reporting the initial write-off.

My Car is Written-Off, But It’s OK as I’m Insured, Right?

Well, yes and no. Take, for instance, a category B write-off as mentioned above.

You’ve had a bad smash and been left without a car and your insurance may go up in the future. If you think that the insurers will replace it like-for-like, you may be in for a shock. Why?

 Remember, we said most insurers will only pay up to the current value of the car. This could mean that you have finance based on the vehicle's new value but are only going to receive a payout up to the current value. That could be a significant  ‘gap’.

 So, what is the answer? 


GAP insurance. GAP insurance covers you if the worst happens.

What is GAP Insurance?

In the simplest terms, GAP insurance covers the difference between what you paid for the vehicle and what the insurer is willing to pay you for the vehicle. Or the amount you need to pay off the finance, making you debt-free regarding your car payments.

Or, to put it another way. If your vehicle is declared written off, you don’t need to worry about paying any potential shortfall.

Having an incident that leads to a vehicle being written off is bad enough without worrying about being financially compromised too! GAP insurance is one of those things that people don’t tend to think about. As far as they are concerned, their insurance will pay. Sadly this is not the case. 

Do you want to find out more about GAP insurance? Take a look at our guide answering all questions surrounding GAP insurance.

Where to Find GAP Insurance?

It couldn’t be easier to get GAP insurance. MotorEasy offers a free GAP insurance quote, needing nothing more than a registration number. If you aren’t sure how much damage your vehicle has sustained, you can always ask for a vehicle inspection!


If you have questions about GAP Insurance, extended warranty, or vehicle maintenance, MotorEasy can offer expert advice. 

Why not contact us today and see what we can do for you?


Related Reading:

car depreciation

GAP insurance guide

what should i do after a car accident

View all articles