Understanding Vehicle Damage Categories

When your car has been in an accident or has been damaged, it will be assigned a category to represent the extent of the damage that it’s received. If your car has been written off, meaning it can’t be repaired and shouldn’t be allowed back on the roads, it will be assigned either a Cat A or Cat B designation. These categories are given to cars that are so damaged that they must be destroyed, although Category B cars may have some parts that are salvageable.

The categories we want to look at in this blog are the ones used to categorise salvage cars – cars that have been damaged, but could potentially return to the roads after repairs: Categories S and N.

Updates to insurance categories

Categories S and N may seem unfamiliar, and that’s because they were only introduced in October 2017 to replace Categories C and D. As stated by the Association of British Insurers (ABI), the new categories were designed to focus more on the condition of the car following an accident or incident and the structural issues that may affect its safety, rather than the costs involved with repairing it.

One key point to note, however, is that any cars designated as either Category C or D before October 2017 will still hold that designation, instead of being transitioned over to either Category S or N. So, if you’re looking to buy a salvage car, there may still be advertisements that include the old categories.

Category S

The first category we will look at is Category S, formerly known as Category C. This category is the one used to describe cars which have suffered some kind of structural damage. This can be anything from a bent or twisted chassis from a collision, to a crumple zone that has collapsed in a crash or due to some unfortunate reversing.

These cars will have been written off by an insurer as too expensive or uneconomical to repair. This is because the damage that these cars have received will be more than simply cosmetic, meaning that the vehicle will need to be professionally repaired and won’t be safe to drive until it has been.

Category S is considered a salvage category since these cars can be repaired and returned to the roads.

Category N

A Category N car is one that would have previously been classified as Category D. Vehicles graded as Cat N are ones that haven’t sustained any structural damage but have experienced an issue of some kind that isn’t economical to repair.

These cars will be written off by insurers due to the cost of repairs, and usually because they’re not drivable, even though they haven’t received any structural damage. Non-structural faults can include problems with brakes, steering or other safety-related parts; anything that would make a car unsafe on the road.

Once any faults or cosmetic damage have been repaired – say, by a buyer who bought the vehicle as a salvage car – the car can be driven again.

Should I buy a Category S or N car?

There’s nothing wrong with buying a Category S or N car, especially since they can often be cheaper than an equivalent non written off car, but it’s important that the car has been properly repaired and that a vehicle history check is carried out.

Make sure you receive information from the seller relating to what happened to the car, what repairs were done, and how and who the repairs were done by. Having a vehicle history check carried out is especially important since some sellers could try to hide the past of the vehicle and sell the damaged car without the category attached.

At the same time, it’s also a good idea to check how much it would cost to insure the car you’re considering, since some insurance companies may charge more for Cat S/N cars, and some will not insure them at all.

If you’re looking to sell a car that has been written off with a Category S or N designation, we have a large database of buyers who would be interested in buying your car for salvage. At Scrap Car Comparison, we will match you with the perfect buyer for your vehicle, giving you the best price for your Cat S or N car.

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