What are Cat D & C Cars? Insurance & write-offs explained

Jack Dreyer | Thursday 23rd June 2022 2:43pm

Two cars crashing into each other

The world of car insurance can frequently seem like a mysterious wall that you’re either blocked by or that you have to overcome. Decisions seem to be made behind closed doors and the reasoning is not always clear – or at least clearly presented. But this isn’t usually in order to make it harder for you, it’s usually because of the complexity of vehicles, vehicle value, and situations that may require an insurance company to pay out.

If you’re looking for a quick answer: a Cat D or Cat C car is an older classification to indicate that the car has been in an accident and written off but that it is safely repairable.

To understand why, read on.

What happens when you have an accident?

As you may imagine, when an accident happens, there are a number of options to go forward depending on what has happened and what value of damage has been done.

The core point of insurance companies is to be there so that if you cause damage to another person’s vehicle then they can get reimbursed for that. Likewise, if you or somebody else causes damage to your own vehicle, you can be reimbursed. But this is where it becomes tricky.

If you have a minor accident and only you were involved

If you have a minor accident and only you were involved and no property damage ensued, then you have a choice of whether to claim from your insurance company or not. As a note, you still have to tell them that an accident has happened but you don’t have to make a claim.

For example, if you’ve lightly reversed into a tree and made a slight dent in your boot door, this is unlikely to affect the roadworthiness of your vehicle. You therefore don’t have to buy another vehicle and could instead choose to not claim from your insurance company for the cost of repairs. You can either pay to repair the damage out of pocket, or simply accept that your car will likely be worth less if you want to sell it in the future.

If you have a major accident

If you have a major accident that results in your car not being roadworthy, then you’re required to alert your insurance company and will usually want to make a claim to help with repairing or replacing your vehicle.

When the damage is assessed, compensation will then either be paid out immediately or the car will be ‘written off’.

What is a write-off car and when does it happen?

A car is a ‘write-off’ when the insurer has decided that the cost of repair is more than the value of the vehicle or, more usually, the value of the policy. If you only have 3rd party insurance, for example, then you’ll not be covered for the cost of any repairs.

When a car is established as a write-off, it’s put into one of four categories.

These used to be A, B, C, and D, but in October 2017 the C & D categories were changed to a similar N & S – though the categories aren’t identical. The difference between Cat C & D usually indicated whether the cost of repairs had exceeded the value of the vehicle or not. The new categories indicate whether the vehicle has had structural damage or not.

As they stand, the categories indicate:

  • Category A: Indicates that a car has sustained enough damage to be absolutely unsalvageable – Cat A cars are usually crushed.
  • Category B: Indicates that a car has sustained unrepairable damage such as serious structural damage but enough parts have survived to be recycled. These are also usually crushed after all viable parts are removed.
  • Category N: The first of the “repairable” categories indicates that the car hasn’t suffered structural damage and that the damage sustained is repairable.
  • Category S: Indicates that the car has suffered structural damage, but that damage is repairable.

Why are cars written off instead of repaired?

While categories N & S indicate that a car can possibly be repaired, whether it does get repaired or written off by the insurance company depends on whether the total cost required to get the car roadworthy again exceeds the value of the car.

In some cases, even if the cost of repairs is less than the value of the car, it may be written off because the cost of all the other related things (such as hire car, admin, bank fees, etc.) might make the repairs un-economical.

When a car is written off, it’s essentially the insurance company ‘buying’ the car from you – they pay out a certain amount that you’re covered for and take possession of the car. You can often have an option to buy back the car, if it’s of particular sentimental value, but a write off usually means you’re one car down and one car’s value up – so it’s not the worst situation to be in!

Should I buy a Cat D car?

After a write off, a vehicle will always carry the classification of having been a write off – and, unless you get the information directly from the previous owner, they don’t usually list why it was categorised in a particular way.

A crash, for example, could have broken both front headlights, cracked the front bumper, and dented the bonnet but caused no structural damage. Replaced headlights don’t usually cause long-lasting problems with a car (assuming they were replaced correctly), but the replacement could cost more than the car if, for example, the car is old and replacement parts are difficult to find.

You could, therefore, be getting a bargain!

But resale of the vehicle will also come with the reduced value associated with write-offs.

Need your car checked?

If you ever need any checks, services, or repairs, trust the experts at your local Kwik Fit centre to do a job properly.

Any facts, figures and prices shown in our blog articles are correct at time of publication.

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