When it comes to car write-offs, most people immediately assume that it means the vehicle is broken beyond repair and needs to be scrapped. But, while this is the case to a certain extent, there are actually many different write-off categories to be aware of. Each category is defined based on the severity of the damage.

Within this guide, we will be helping you to understand all about insurance write-offs and unrecorded vehicles. This information is important to know, especially if you intend on buying a used car. Without knowing this information, you may end up buying a car that is broken beyond repair or – in a worst-case scenario – stolen.

What Are The Insurance Write-Off Categories?

When a car is written-off, it will usually be placed into one of the following four categories. These categories differ depending on the severity and also determine the outcome of what should happen to the car.

Category A

The vehicles put into category A are the ones with unrepairable damage and no salvageable parts. This essentially means that the vehicle no longer has any purpose and must be scrapped. They cannot be resold.

Vehicles that have been in serious road accidents tend to get put into category A, as this type of situation is usually when the greatest amount of damage occurs.

Category B

Vehicles that have been written off into category B also have severe structural damage, however, have parts that can be salvaged. Just like cars in category A, those in category B cannot be resold.

Category S

Vehicles in category S have a fair amount of damage that insurance companies deem as uneconomical to fix. When a vehicle is placed into category S, it is up to the owner to decide what to do next. Vehicles in this category can be repaired privately, and if all goes well, can return to the road after passing various checks. It’s important to remember, however, that this can be an expensive venture that doesn’t guarantee desirable results.

Category N

Vehicles in category N have repair costs that exceed the original retail price. These salvaged vehicles can be repaired privately, but once again, this can be a costly fix. Your insurance company will not help to repair your car if it is in this category.

What Does Unrecorded Salvage (Category U) Mean?

Categories A, B, S and N are the most common categories used when writing off a car. However, there is another category to be aware of, that will make or break your purchase decision in an instant. This category is called category U.

Category U – also referred to as ‘unrecorded salvage’ – helps to define damage that hasn’t been reported to the insurance company. There are many reasons why it might not have been recorded, from the driver being uninsured right through to the vehicle being stolen.

No matter what the reason is for a vehicle being in category U, this is often a write-off category that raises more trouble than good. Due to not being reported to the insurance company, there is no telling how severe the damage truly is. This means that you may end up purchasing a vehicle that is both dangerous and illegal to drive on the roads. As soon as you are the owner of that vehicle, the inevitable problems fall onto your shoulders. The chances of this heighten if the vehicle has been stolen.

To put it simply, vehicles in category U should be avoided at all costs. They are usually a sign of foul play, hinting that you probably aren’t being told everything about the vehicle.

Unfortunately, vehicles in category U are often hard to spot, especially because they haven’t been recorded. This makes it all the more important to run a series of checks before purchasing a car, including a vehicle history check. Detailed vehicle history checks will provide you with all of the information needed about the car’s history, including its write-off status. All it takes is a few clicks to establish whether the car is worth your money or not.

As A Buyer, What Can I Learn From These Categories?

Many people don’t realise that, when it comes to purchasing a used car, it’s important to check its write-off status. Unfortunately, not all second-hand sellers will be honest about the car’s status, which can put you in a potentially expensive (and dangerous) situation further down the line.

If you like the look of a vehicle but it falls into category A or B, it’s best to cut your losses and start looking elsewhere. Vehicles within these categories are damaged beyond repair and must only be scrapped or used for spare parts.

Vehicles in categories S and N provide slightly more hope, as being in this category means that they can be repaired. However, it’s unlikely that your insurance company will cover this for you, especially if the cost of repair is higher than the car’s value. If you choose to privately repair a car in one of these categories, it must pass a MOT before going back on the roads. Buying a secondhand vehicle in these categories can sometimes cost more money than its worth.

As you can probably tell by now, vehicles in category U should be avoided at all costs. These unrecorded vehicles are not to be trusted, and are often a tell-tale sign of theft or illegal ownership. Although cars in category U may come with a cheap price tag, this certainly won’t remain the case further down the line. The car may even be damaged beyond repair!