February 26, 2021

What is an Insurance Write-Off?

If your car has been damaged in an accident and the insurance company has suddenly declared it a write-off, understanding why that decision was made can be a little confusing. In some cases, the car can still be driven but the company want to give you a cheque for it and not bother with repairs.

At White’s Bodyworks in West Sussex, we often handle the repairs for vehicles that have been involved in a collision of some sort. Here’s our quick guide to insurance write-offs and what you need to know. They’re not as complex as you might think.

What Does Writing Off a Vehicle Mean?

A vehicle that has sustained damage during an accident has to be assessed by the insurance company and whether repairs are viable. A decision to write the vehicle off is usually made for two reasons:

  • The damage is such that the vehicle will not be safe once repaired.
  • The cost of repairing the vehicle means the insurance company will be paying out more than the value of the car making it financially unviable.

For a lot of accidents, the economic reason is by far the most common – it’s simply not worth the insurance companies while to pay for expensive repairs.

Each insurance company has its way of assessing whether a car is a write-off or not but there are certain parameters they all follow. Working with a garage that can liaise directly with the insurance company can help. If they’re experienced at dealing with accident repairs and assessing damage, they can negotiate your side if you want to keep the vehicle rather than scrap it.

The truth is, even if your car doesn’t look too bad on the outside after the accident, it could be written off for a variety of reasons. This can get some car owners hot under the collar, especially if they want to keep their car and have it repaired rather than replaced. For that reason alone, it’s a good idea to have your mechanic onboard.

Write-Off Categories

There are four separate categories for a write-off. Once one has been declared, the insurance company will inform you which your car falls into:

  • Category A: Your car is either too old or too damaged to be repaired. It also means the individual car parts can’t be sold on for any purpose and the vehicle is to be sent for scrap.
  • Category B: The car again is too old or too damaged for repairs. In this case, however, some of the parts may be removed for resale and can be used in other vehicles. This needs to be done by an expert such as a breakers yard.
  • Category S: Here the car is deemed structurally repairable. This could mean there is, for example, damage to the chassis but the car can be repaired. It needs to be reregistered with the DVLA and can then be sold second hand. Basically, here the insurance company is writing-off for economic reasons.
  • Category N: The car has non-structural damage that is superficial but reparable. The car does not need to be re-registered once repaired but any new buyer does need to be notified that the vehicle was declared a write-off. Again, this is an economic decision.

Some people are surprised when their car is written off. It can, unfortunately, comes down to the age of the car or van and whether the cost of repairing is greater than the cost of the asset itself. In other words, damage to your car doesn’t necessarily have to prevent it from running for a write-off to be declared by the insurance company.

If you disagree with the write-off for your vehicle, you can go back to the insurance company and ask them to review their decision. The long and short of it is that the insurance assessors base their decision on the current value of your vehicle and not what you bought it for. That means older cars are more likely to be written off because their value has dropped so much.

Can I Buy My Car Back?

If your car is written-off in category S or N, you can buy it back but it’s important to let your insurance company know that you want to do this as soon as possible. Bear in mind, once the insurance company agrees on a settlement fee with you then they own the vehicle and not you.

If you are planning to buy back your car after a write-off, it’s also important to get a qualified mechanic to look at your vehicle first so they can assess the damage and how much it is going to cost to put right.
At White’s Bodyworks, we can handle all kinds of accident repairs, from small dings and scrapes to major collisions. We’ll also be able to liaise with your insurance company so that everything runs as smoothly as possible.

Contact our expert team in West Sussex today to find out how we can help with everything from repairs and renovations to MOTs and servicing.

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