What is a category D car insurance write-off?
29 Jul 2013 at 14:55
There are many different types of car insurance write-off – including some vehicles that can be repaired and put back on the road and some that must be destroyed and never used again.
A Category D insurance write-off falls into the former class: it can legally return to the road, so long as it complies with specific rules governing the various stages of its return to use on the public highway.
Firstly though, what causes a Cat D write-off? Quite often, nothing more than light damage. It generally means the vehicle has been lightly damaged but the financial cost of repairing the car outweighs its market value.
In short, it is not economical to repair – remember, car insurance companies look at the total cost of repair here, including hire cars, expensive-to-source parts for particular models and so on. Cat D status can sometimes be for very minor damage, if the rest of the repair process is deemed to be more than the car is worth.
This does not mean it can’t be put back on the road, however. Here’s what’s involved in using a Category D insurance write-off on the road.
Cat D insurance write-off repairs
Once a vehicle is written off and the insurance claim has been paid to the owner, the car insurance company then legally owns the vehicle.
Following this, insurers often sell these cars on to garages and motor factors that have the means to repair any damage at a reduced cost. This makes it financially viable for these businesses to repair the car to a roadworthy condition and sell it on, with the insurance company also recouping some of its costs.
Repairing a category D insurance write-off
If your car has been written off as a Category D case, the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) and the Vehicle and Operator Services Agency (VOSA) will not be informed of the situation, and the car will not be subject to a Vehicle Information Check.
The damage is deemed light enough that the car can be repaired and put back on the road following the work. Of course, the car can also be sold through a licensed salvage yard as a damaged car, or broken for spare parts.
If the Cat D car is repaired, we do highly recommend that you get a professional mechanic or vehicle engineer to assess the quality of the work and ensure it has been carried out to a high standard. This way, the repaired car will be as safe as possible.
Buying a Car D Car
It’s important to remember a Cat D car will have been written off only because it is uneconomical to fix, not because any potential damage was so great it could not be driven again.
As a result, no test is needed to validate the work, as a reputable garage should deliver the car to a roadworthy standard – if not, subsequent MOT tests should pick up any defects or faulty repairs anyway.
It’s also worth bearing in mind that while a Category D car for sale might be much cheaper than the market value – even if it is in perfect shape with the repairs being carried out to a high standard – when it comes to reselling the vehicle, it won’t be worth as much..
Traders have to declare if a car has been written off as part of a sale, but private individuals do not. To help make sure you don’t get caught out paying over the odds, a car data check will unearth if a car has been written off and into what category it was placed – and can be done for just a few pounds.
While a cat D write-off might seem cheap, don’t forget some insurers might refuse to offer you cover on a written off vehicle, too, no matter how light the damage was. If you are thinking about buying a cat D vehicle, be sure to check with your car insurance company whether they cover Category D cars.
If you are about to buy a used car and want to learn more about other factors which may influence the cost and safety of your vehicle, read our article "Do private car sales cost more?"
Have you bought a Cat D insurance write-off without knowing it, or did you discover a vehicle’s hidden past before closing the deal? Maybe you had all the information available to you and openly entered into the purchase with no complaints?
Either way, we want to know about your experiences with any cars written off as a Category D case – or any cars written off full stop for that matter. Why not let us know your stories on Twitter @RAC_Breakdown, or leave us a comment on our RAC Facebook page.