Check If A Car Is Written Off Or In An Accident
Determining whether or not a car has been involved in an accident and been ‘wrriten off’ is a big deal. Get it wrong and you could end up forking out a lot of cash to fix some pretty serious internal defects. You may even risk not being awarded an insurance pay-out if you yourself go on to have an accident which leads to your insurance company doing a bit of digging. It’s simply not worth the risk; do your homework before you get lumbered with a ‘lemon’.
1. What does ‘written off’ mean?
It is a term used to indicate that a vehicle has been involved in a road traffic accident and is no longer roadworthy; either that, or it will need to have so much done to it to bring it up to par that it is practically going to cost more than the car is worth. The cost actually only has to be more than 60% of the car’s saleable value for this to come into effect. An insurance company will pay a vehicle assessor to arrive at this judgement or not, as the case may be.
2. What about the categories?
There are indeed different categories which can differentiate how the particular ‘write off’ is going to be classed.
- Category A (or Cat A)
This means that it is fit for the scrap yard. Every part of the vehicle must be crushed, never to re-appear!
- Category B (Cat B)
The car’s outer exterior should never again see the light of day, although certain parts of the car’s interior are salvageable.
- Category S (used to be Category C)
Structural damage has occurred but, with sufficient professional repair work, the car can be restored (as long as it doesn’t cost more than 60% of the car’s value).
- Category N (used to be Cat D)
Minor damage has occurred; could be cosmetic although an electrical problem could cost more than 60% of the car’s worth. If it’s things like steering, brakes and other smaller parts then this should be able to be fixed relatively easily.
3. What happens next?
Cat A or Cat B write-offs should both result in your car being crushed, with parts being allowed to be donated in the case of Cat B. However, Cat S cars, via a V23 Form submitted by the insurer, can be sold to a car salvage company or to a third party. It is the keeper’s responsibility to inform the DVLA if this happens. With regard to Cat N, no such notifications are necessary; there can even be an opportunity to snap up a bargain if the car has been satisfactorily restored under a tight budget.
4. What should I do?
If buying a car, you should be very aware of a potentially concealed Cat S or even Cat N car which is trying to masquerade as a clean car. You’re likely to get charged more and have problems later on down the line, if and when you sell it on or you unfortunately have an accident which involves insurance companies. Some basic things you can do are:
- Thoroughly scrutinise the bumpers for any hint of scuff and scrapes, questioning the seller intently.
- Ensure that panels fit snugly into door gap; any gaps could be sign of some form of accident.
- Take a good look down the side of a car; any unusual or irregular curves could indicate damage from an accident, which has been subsequently hammered back into line.
- Focus on the joins between panels and around windows to see if a paint job might have been done at some point.
- Cast your eye on the underbody of the car for any appearance of rust, salt accumulation or chassis distortion.
5. And then?
Take a good look at the paperwork, examining its Vehicle Registration Certificate. Run the car’s details through the DVLA’s official Write Off Vehicle Register in order to know whether or not this car has been written off in the past. There are many Car History Check websites, too, which can help you to glean lots of extra information about a specific car. You will also be able to find out about this vehicle’s MOT status and Tax status. All you need is the car registration plate – you will even be able to find out more specific technical information about the car; its last recorded mileage and its particular specification. Some websites will even offer you a multi-thousand pound guarantee if they end up not giving you all the requisite information, for whatever reason, or will offer a free vehicle check the next time you do one if you find out that your vehicle has indeed been previously written off, under Cat A or Cat B.
It’s definitely worth the peace of mind you will get, if you manage to invest a little and receive a lot of information in return. There’s simply no way of knowing all the history and incidents that a car has undergone without such a check. Visual inspections can only get you so far. You will also be able to avoid a whole load of legal entanglements, financial loss and even criminal implication – you are of course an unwitting facilitator but the police and insurance companies will have to include you in their investigations until they manage to establish all the relevant facts and rule you out of their enquiries.