What exactly does it mean when your car is ‘written off’?

You’ve undoubtedly heard the term ‘write-off’ countless times in relation to vehicles that are no longer capable of being driven safely, but have you ever wondered what it actually means or what the repercussions tend to be once a car has been deemed to be legally written off?

In this blog, we’ll answer these key questions and take a look at what options are available when a car can no longer venture onto the road.

A write-off

The full term is ‘insurance write-off’, and what it literally means is that a car has been damaged or is in such a poor state of repair that it can no longer be driven on a road safely. Due to the fact that declaring a car a write-off is the remit of the vehicle owner’s insurance company, the definitions alter slightly from firm to firm, but the general rule of thumb is that, should your car be in an accident, and the repairs are liable to cost more than the car’s actual value – or if the car cannot be repaired at all – then your vehicle will probably be declared a write-off.

What happens afterwards?

If your vehicle is written off by your insurance provider then it will, generally speaking, become their property. The insurance provider will give the owner a pay-out in the form of compensation, and that will tend to be the end of the matter.

However, there are some stipulations and caveats that are worth highlighting. There are four categories of a car being written off (A, B, S and N) and they all have slightly different potential outcomes and consequences.

Category A: 

The car cannot be repaired, the parts cannot be reused, and the car must be scrapped.

Category B: 

Similar to Category A, but some parts are still in good enough condition that they can be sold second-hand.

Category S: 

These cars can technically be repaired and subsequently made roadworthy, but the DVLA will need to be informed should this happen.

Category N: 

The damage to such a vehicle will be predominantly superficial. These vehicles will not have to be re-registered with the DVLA, but they will have to be told that the car was written off.

If your car has been written off and been placed in categories S or N, it is very likely you will be able to buy your car back, and you will then be able to either attempt to repair it or can take it to a scrap dealer yourself to scrap your car. The latter option may well be a more financially beneficial option, and will potentially earn you more money than would have been offered by the insurance company.


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