Man inspecting damage on a written-off car

New insurance write-off categories aim to provide clarity for buyers

by Andrew Segal 3rd April 2018

New car insurance categories have been introduced to make it easier to identify the level of damage a vehicle has sustained in an accident and to ensure it’s tougher for vehicles that should be scrapped to reappear on the road.

The previous write-off categories, A, B, C and D and have now been replaced with A (scrap), B (break), S (structurally damaged repairable) and N (non-structurally damaged repairable). Changes have also been made to the V5C vehicle registration certificate, which will be marked with an ‘S’ to signify a car has been salvaged after an accident. This will help alert buyers to cars with a write-off history.

As so many new cars are fitted with complex technology, these new categories will help assist insurers and body shops to identify how to safely fix cars involved in accidents or decide if they’re no longer road-safe. Insurance companies will condemn a car to the crusher if the repair cost is more than half the market value, meaning modern cars would previously be written-off despite being safe to drive.

Since the change was brought in in October 2017, vehicles considered beyond safe repair will fall into either category A or B, which was the same under the previous system. Parts from B-Cat write-offs can still be reused though.

The two new codes, S and N, differentiate between structural and non-structural damage. In both instances, the vehicles are considered repairable and allowed to be sent back onto the road.

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How effective these new categories will be is still up for debate though, as the code is only a voluntary one; there is no law to support it. So, for example, a less-than-honest taxi company could put a poorly-repaired vehicle back on the road, and then sell it on without it ever being formally assessed as a potential write-off.

Vehicle Identity Checks (VIC), which Category C and D vehicles previously had to go through in order to be returned to the road, were phased out in 2015 on cost grounds, removing another safety net for customers.

Tamzen Isacsson, Director of Communications at the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) welcomes the new voluntary code: “This is a positive and significant step by industry, insurers and governing bodies to further improve safety on our roads and ensure there is clarity on whether an accident-damaged vehicle is fit for repair or should be scrapped.

“But putting a complete stop to the unscrupulous practice of repairing vehicles that should be scrapped will require legislation.”