Whenever a car is damaged beyond repair, it is often described as written-off.
This could either be because the car has been so badly damaged in an accident that it cannot be safely driven again, or just because it would cost too much to fix through the usual methods.
A car doesn’t have to be badly damaged for it to be declared as a write-off. If a car has a low value, then even the slightest accident damage can be enough to see the car written-off. When a car is written-off, insurance companies will assign it with a category. This category is used to differentiate whether a car is unsafe to drive or financially viable to repair. There are four different categories used by insurance companies to write-off a car. These are Category A, Category B, Category S and Category and they replaced the older categories – like the famous Cat D – in 2017.
- A – Scrap only
- B – Break for parts
- S – Structurally damaged but repairable
- N – Not structurally damaged, repairable
Category A is the category given to the cars which have sustained the worst type of damage. A car that has been subject to a category A write-off is thought to be unrepairable. The damage is so severe that the car cannot even be sold or broken for parts. Category A covers cars that are only fit to be crushed or scrapped, such as those that have been completely burnt out by fire.
A Category B write-off will also be so severely damaged that it won’t be seen legally driving on the roads again. There is one main difference between a Category A and a Category B write-off. A car that has been declared as a Category B write-off can still be broken or sold for parts.
Typically, a car that fits into this category will have any salvageable parts removed. The rest of it will be destroyed.
A car that has been declared as a Category S will have sustained structural damage. This could either be in the form of twisting or bending of the chassis, damage to the crumple zone, or a major problem with one or more vital parts. A car that falls under Category S will need to be professionally repaired for it to be deemed as safe to legally drive on UK roads. The Category S write-off classification replaced Category C in October 2017.
A category N grade will apply to a car that hasn’t sustained structural damage. It usually refers to a cosmetic or electronic issue that isn’t necessarily economical to repair.
Although a category N write-off will mean that the car is structurally safe, there could be non-structural faults with safety-related parts that mean that the car is unsafe to drive. Examples include damage to brakes or steering components. Prior to October 2017, Category N cars were classified as Category D.