Vehicle Damage Categories

After an accident, all vehicles involved will be assessed by the insurance company covering them in order to place them into one of the four currently-existing categories. These groups, known as salvage, insurance or write-off categories, broadly explain the extent of the damage that the vehicle has suffered.

You may think that the categories themselves were created to simplify the understanding of car damage levels, and you’d be right, in a sense. They allow insurers and mechanics to concisely explain how severe a vehicle’s damage is and whether or not the car is worth fixing up – if it’s even possible to do so at all. But, to the average driver, these insurance categories could seem like more technical jargon designed to confuse you, especially since the classic ‘A to D’ format was replaced with categories A, B, S & N. Don’t worry – it’s not as complicated as it sounds.

Salvage Category Updates

As we mentioned above, the insurance categories underwent an overhaul in October 2017, which meant that Cat C & Cat D instead became S & N, respectively, and their meanings were changed slightly. Whilst this may have broken up the alphabetic ordering of the categories, which on paper seems like it would complicate matters, the letters instead became abbreviations that stand for damage-related words.

Category A Explained

To put it bluntly, if your car gets given a Category A title by its insurance company, it’s game over – there are no two ways about it. Cat A cars must be scrapped in their entirety. The metal and other parts that they’re made up of could be recycled, but only after the vehicle has been crushed down to ensure that this car will never be out on the road again.

This isn’t a decision made on a whim, though. Cars that are given Category A status will have suffered extreme damage that is simply irreparable. They must be disposed of completely on safety grounds. Essentially, no amount of repairing or replacing parts could possibly make the vehicle road-safe. In fact, even parts that are still in one piece and seem like they could be reused must also be destroyed.

What Kind Of Damage Results In Category A Classification?

Category A classification is restricted to those vehicles unfortunate enough to suffer extensive damage throughout their entire body. This is most often caused by an extremely nasty crash, but damage could have been sustained in other ways, too.

Your car may have been damaged when at home, for example by another driver ploughing into it while it’s parked up on your driveway. Or, perhaps an ‘act of God’ flooded it or even dropped a sizable branch on its roof. Worse still, it might have been stolen and found in a wreck – possibly even on fire – after a short joyride.

We should mention, however, that theft could actually result in another, far rarer categorisation. If you claim on your insurance and receive a payout, only for your car to be found afterwards, the car will be given a Category X title. By this point, the car belongs to the insurance company anyway.

Category B Explained

Category B cars aren’t in a condition that’s quite as dire as Cat A vehicles. The B is sometimes said to stand for ‘break’, meaning that these cars must be broken down so that surviving parts can be salvaged. The outer shell of the vehicle will have suffered catastrophic damage similar to that of a Cat A car, but after examination, it will have been determined that internal components are safe to remove and reuse.

However, don’t forget that the car itself will still never be road legal again. No amount of tinkering with the chassis will fix it up to a reusable state like the parts inside it. Once the surviving bits and pieces are stripped, the rest of the car must go straight to the crusher and start its recycling journey.

What Kind Of Damage Results In Category B Classification?

A Cat B title is applied to cars that have been involved in serious incidents that have caused severe, irreparable damage to the car’s structure, but have left most, if not all of the internal components intact. Water or fire damage are common causes of a Cat B classification, as they can do damage to the shell of the vehicle as a whole, unlike a crash on the road which is likely to only impact (literally) one particular section of the bodywork.

How Much Is A Category A or B Car Worth As Scrap?

Of course, it’s impossible to give a specific valuation as every car will be different, even in that state. Scrap metal is mostly valued on its weight, so it’s likely that bigger, heavier vehicles will be worth more once crushed down. The key difference is that in the case of a Category B write-off, while your buyer will be getting less scrap metal from your car, they’ll be getting working parts as a bonus, which are ready to be sold on immediately.

However, Scrap Car Comparison will always track down the best quotes that we can find regardless of the size, weight or even write-off Category of your car. Get a quote today to find out how much your vehicle could be worth and to get it picked up at no extra cost from anywhere in the UK.

Category S Explained

A Category S vehicle is one that has been subjected to structural bodywork damage but is able to return to the road after the required repair work has been carried out. This can include problems such as a crushed chassis or a twisted a-post (or b-post).

Category S replaced Category C in 2017 when insurance write-off categories were rejigged to make things clearer for motorists. While a ‘Cat S’ car or van is deemed repairable, it will be considered unsafe until it has been repaired by a professional, so you can’t try and fix the issue yourself. Chances are the work will be so advanced that even the best amateur mechanic would struggle.

Category N Explained

A Category N write-off is the lowest of all write-off categories, and stands for Non-Structurally Damaged Repairable. This means that the damage sustained to write the car off is only superficial and the car does not need to be re-registered with the DVLA once it has been put right and is back on the road. This category was known as Category D before the specification changes in October 2017.

Category N vehicles, with no reported structural damage, are judged less expensive to repair than replace, taking into consideration all costs. This means the repair bill is cheaper for the insurance company allowing for an N classification. It is far more worthwhile all round to get your Category N car repaired if it is in good condition.

One of the biggest advantages, if you can call it that, of a Category N write off is that the damages might not actually cost you that much to repair yourself if you know what you’re doing and where to look. For example, if you’re driving around in a car worth £1500, repairs at a bodyshop or professional garage could set you back £1000. But with a few parts sourced second-hand from your nearest scrapyard and some time spent in the garage, you could potentially only spend in the region of £150-200, making repairing and keeping, or even reselling, your Cat N vehicle a potentially viable option.

Getting Insurance for Category N and S cars

Insuring a category S or N vehicle should be no different than that of a ‘normal’ car, and most insurers don’t ask about the repair history when they take out cover. However, if you make a claim at a later date, they are likely to ensure that any history the car has wasn’t a factor in the incident in question. Insurance guidelines state that you are expected to answer all questions fully as asked by an insurance operator – although there is no law stating you must declare whether you know the car has been categorised, if not asked. While some companies might run your vehicle’s registration against a database of written-off cars or vans when you take the policy out, as long as it has a current and valid MOT certificate, it shouldn’t cause any problems for you.

Can I Sell a Category N or S car?

Selling a car or van listed as Category S or N can feel like a task with very limited options. Despite this incredibly niche market there are potential buyers out there, it’s just a case of tracking them down and making an offer worth their consideration. Working with a nationwide network of salvage and specialist buyers, Scrap Car Comparison can secure you a quote to sell your Cat S or N vehicle in as little as 30 seconds. Find out what your write-off could be worth today.

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