Purchasing a second-hand vehicle can be a difficult process but one vital thing to consider is whether the car has been written off. Most people assume that a vehicle can’t be sold once it’s been written off or that the owner has to declare a write off, but this isn’t always the case.

By conducting a car write off check before you purchase a vehicle, you can determine whether the car has been subject to damage and make your purchasing decision accordingly.

If you’ve already bought the vehicle, however, it’s still important to conduct an insurance write off check. This will provide you with critical information about the vehicle and allow you to find out if it’s safe to drive.

Read other guides: What is the law about selling a car at home in the UK

car write off

What Is a Write Off?

If a vehicle is damaged, it can be considered a write off if it cannot be made roadworthy again or if the cost of repairing the vehicle outweighs its worth. If a car has a market value of £5,000 but would cost £7,000 to repair, for example, the insurance company would write the car off and scrap it, rather than fund the repair costs.

However, there are different insurance write off categories and it’s important to understand the difference when you’re checking to see if your vehicle has previously been written off. Prior to 2017, car write offs were categorised as either A, B, C or D but a new system now classifies write offs as either A, B, S, or N:

Category A

A category A write off cannot be resold as it means that the vehicle has sustained too much damage to be repaired or that it’s too old to be safely fixed. Similarly, car parts from a cat A write off cannot be resold as they are considered to be obsolete (usually due to the age of the vehicle).

Category B

Category B write offs also cannot be resold due to the level of damage sustained or because the vehicle is too old. However, some cat B car parts may be able to re-used or resold, providing they are removed by a professional. A category B vehicle write off cannot, however, be repaired and resold.

Category S (Previously Cat C)

Category S write offs are known as ‘structurally damaged repairable’ because they have sustained damage only to the chassis, but they can be repaired. If a category S structurally damaged vehicle is repaired, and put back on the road, however, it must be re-registered with the DVLA first.

Category N (Previously Cat D)

Category N vehicles are considered ‘non-structurally damaged repaired’ as they have sustained some damage but their structural integrity is not affected. Category N non structurally damaged write offs can include vehicles with cosmetic damage, for example, and are repairable.

Is a Car Written Off If the Airbags Are Deployed UK?

People tend to assume that a vehicle will automatically be written off if its airbags have been deployed but this isn’t necessarily true. The vehicle will be assessed to determine if it’s repairable and, if so, how much repairs are likely to cost.

If the vehicle is repairable and the cost of repairs doesn’t exceed the market value of the car (or whatever ratio your insurance company applies), then it’s possible that a car won’t be written off, even following the airbags deploying.

Read our other guides: Why you need to notify the DVLA of scrapping your car

Is It Illegal to Sell a Written Off Car?

Sometimes. It is possible to sell a written off car in some instances, depending on what category write off it is.

Category A and category B vehicles cannot be resold, for example, but category S and category N cars can be resold.

When you’re purchasing a vehicle from a trader or car dealer, you’ll know if the vehicle has been written off as this information will be contained within the HPI check that they are required to provide you with. However, if you’re purchasing a car from a private seller, they may not disclose this information, which is why it’s important to carry out a car write off check.

Can a Car Be Written Off Twice?

Yes. If a car is written off and is classified as a category S or N write off, it could be repaired and put back on the road. Following this, another accident or further significant damage may mean that the car is written off again and assigned another write off category.

What Should You Do When Your Vehicle Has Been Written Off?

Deciding what to do if your vehicle has been written off will depend on what write off category it is given. If it is category A or B, for example, the insurance company will take ownership of the vehicle, scrap your car and offer you a financial sum in accordance with the terms of your policy.

For category N or S vehicles, you may want to purchase the vehicle back from the insurance company and fund the cost of repairs yourself, if the insurance company deemed it uneconomical to do so.

However, be aware that the resale value of a car can be negatively affected if the vehicle has been written off. For many people, this makes scrapping a car or selling it as salvage the obvious step once a vehicle has been written off, even if it’s technically repairable.

Visit Assington Autos in Suffolk and Essex for a hassle-free car scrappage experience. Our team of experts can help you with the DVLA notification process, so you can get your Certificate of Destruction (CoD) quickly and easily. Get in touch today to find out more!