What to do if I’ve just written off my car

Totaling a car is something nobody ever wants to do. It can be a heartbreaking moment as you look at your set of wheels sitting at the side of the road, knowing the chances of it ever turning a wheel again are very slim. But, once you’ve got the car off the side of the road and back to a garage, or your driveway, what exactly comes next?

What is a ‘totalled’ car?

The term totalled is a phrase more often seen on the other side of the Atlantic than here in old blighty, and can be interchanged with what we’d refer to as a written-off car. Basically, if a car has been ‘totalled’, it means that there is just no economic sense to repair it again because the costs to get it back into a working condition outweigh the actual value of the car itself.

This can be worked out by looking at your car’s age, mileage, condition and its specific make and model before the accident occurred because, naturally, a damaged car is going to have a much lower value than one in a working condition. If, as an example, your car would be sitting at a second hand price of around £1500 before you had your prang, but you’re now looking at a repair bill closer to £2000, you’re unlikely to think of that as a viable option.

Do you still have to pay insurance if your car is totalled?

This might seem harsh to some, but if your car is written off before the end of your policy and you pay for your insurance monthly, then most of the time you will still have to keep paying your monthly premiums. It’s worth checking the terms and conditions in your contract, but more often than not insurers will include a rule that states you cannot cancel a policy halfway through the term if a claim has been made. If your car is written off then that will count as your claim, and as such you’re tied into that policy for the remainder of its duration. So what if you pay annually, do you get an insurance refund if your car is written off? Again, sadly not. You won’t be entitled to any refund of the remaining time on the policy.

What do I need to do when my car is written off?

So you’ve been in a heavy accident and with just one look at the damage you know that there’s no way it’s going to be repairable, or at least it won’t be regarded as “economical to repair”. So what now? Well, first off check you’re okay and make sure anyone close to you is aware of your situation – perhaps call them to come and assist you if you need it and they’re nearby, too. But here’s what you need to do after totalling your car:

  • Your insurers will need to know as soon as possible and, if you’ve not got any nearby friends or family to help out, roadside recovery.
  • Once the car is safely off the road and has been assessed by the insurers to work out the costs of any repairs.
  • This total will then be compared to the value of your car, and if the cost of repairs outweigh its value then it will be deemed a write-off.
  • You’ll have a couple of options at this point, including simply taking the price offered by your insurer, or even buying the car back from them to repair or even scrap it yourself.

Can I sell a totalled car?

Of course you can, just don’t expect the price to be anywhere near that of a car in full working order. It’s also worth noting that it’s likely to take you a lot longer to sell the car than if you were trying to sell a ‘normal’ second-hand car. Rather than just looking for someone who’s after a quick set of wheels, you’re going to need to wait for someone who’s prepared to take the time or pay the cash required to get the car up and running again.

If you do decide to sell it, it’s worth getting a quote for the repairs first, as you can deduct this from the overall value of the car to get an idea of the figure you’re likely to receive for it. However, it’s worth noting that when it comes to damaged cars you should expect some haggling to take place. A buyer is likely to want to spend a lot less than you’re wanting to receive, so be realistic when setting your target price.

Can I repair a totalled car?

That entirely depends on the nature in which it’s been totalled. There are four categories in which a car can be written off into, all dependent on the severity of the damage suffered. Just be aware that in some cases, you cannot repair the car and it must be crushed. All four categories are detailed below:

Category A – Reserved for those that have suffered damage so bad that scrapping is the only option available to you. 

Category B – Much like Category A, Category B cars can never drive again due to the severity of the damage incurred. However, you can salvage some parts from the car to be used elsewhere.

Category S (Structural) – Category S cars are those that have suffered significant damage to the overall structure of the car, such as the chassis or body shell.

Category N (Non-structural) – Very similar to Category S, cars written off into Cat N have suffered severe damage enough to make them uneconomical to repair, but this time there is no damage to the structure, so it’s more likely to be mechanical issues such as electronics or in the engine.

If you have a Cat A or Cat B car then repairing is absolutely not an option to you, but if you have the time, skill, money, equipment and patience, then you certainly can have a crack at repairing a Cat S or N car. Be aware, though, if you don’t have just one of those things, you’re going to find it incredibly difficult, and if you get it wrong, you’re just going to be slicing more and more value off your car’s already diminishing price tag.

Can I refuse my car being written off?

You can refuse your car being written off if you feel that the offer isn’t fair or it;s a repair you’re willing to carry out yourself. For example, if your car has a low market value (that is, how much you can expect to sell it for as a used car in full working order) then it won’t take much for the car to be deemed a write-off. In some cases, even cosmetic damage could be enough to write off a car, so if you’re prepared to pay for the repairs then you could get your car back on the road. It’s worth noting that you can only keep a car on the proviso it hasn’t been written off into Category A or B.

Do you have to tell the DVLA your car has been written off?

Yes, you must tell the DVLA if your car has been written off. Luckily this is quite an easy job, so shouldn’t take too much time to complete. All you’ll need is the details of your car, your insurer’s name and postcode and the 11-digit reference number from the yellow “sell, transfer or part-exchange your vehicle to the motor trade” section of your car’s V5C. Failure to do so could result in a £1,000 fine, but on the other side of the coin you could be entitled to a tax refund.

Can I buy back my written-off car?

Providing the car has not been written off as a Category A (Scrap only) write-off, then you will be able to buy the car back from your insurers. It’s worth remembering that you will need to keep the DVLA informed, and if you do repair the car back to a safe, roadworthy standard it will forever be marked as a write-off on its V5C, so any future sales may be affected. You should also be aware that if a car has been damaged enough to warrant an insurance company writing it off, there’s a chance there could be more damage than meets the eye with some damage often going unnoticed to the untrained eye.

Who owns my car if it’s written off?

In normal circumstances, your insurers will take ownership of the car after it has been written off, however, there are of course exceptions to the rule. As previously mentioned, you have the option to buy the car back so it remains in your ownership, should you feel you are able to still get more from the car, either financially or mileage after some repair work.

What happens if a car is written off not my fault on finance?

If the car has been written off while it’s still on finance, though, the car will remain the property of the finance company until the agreement has been paid off in full. This will usually be covered by the insurer, who will likely have a liability to pay the pre-accident markup value minus any excess. This could leave a shortfall, meaning the car owner (you) will need to make up this before the write-off process is complete. From this point the car then goes into the possession of the insurer as standard.

Should I accept the first offer from car insurance company UK?

If you’re not happy with the price your insurer has given you for your written off car, then options are still open to you. If you believe you can repair the car and get it back working again (providing it’s either Category S or N) or you could even sell it on yourself if you think you could get more than the offer. If the car is beyond the realms of your own repair, then selling may be the easiest solution.

Selling a broken car is not an easy task, so why not leave it to the professionals? By contacting Scrap Car Comparison, we’ll scour the market for buyers interested in your car, and we’ll provide you with the very best offer open to you. Not only that, but with collection available all across the nation, no matter where you are we’ll be able to come and get the car direct from you, absolutely free of charge.

Rather than going backwards and forwards with potential buyers and possibly waiting weeks or months for a sale to go through, the entire process can be finished in just a matter of days with the money paid directly into your account upon collection. Get started today for the quickest, easiest and best value way to get the very best price for your totalled car.

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