Is my car a write-off?

We’ve covered several areas of used car buying such as how to buy a used car and even looked at the best used car of 2012.

Now it is time to look at write-offs and the dangers associated with buying a car which has previously been a write-off.

According to, the number of cars which have been written off on UK roads is one in six and it claims the incredible figure of eight million write-offs has been put forward by CDL Vehicle Information Services.

The accuracy of these numbers are always subject to scrutiny, but the prospect of buying a write-off and the associated safety issues are extremely important for a used car buyer.

What is a write-off?

When a car is in an accident, repairs and recovery are handled by the driver’s insurance company. However, it may be the case that potential repairs to the car will be too costly to justify.

This could be because the repairs will be too a high a proportion of the car’s actual value. For example, £2,000 worth of damage to a car worth little more than that figure means it does not make sense to repair the car.

In this case, it will be declared a write-off and therefore not road legal. However, the car’s future depends on which write-off category it falls in.

What are write-off categories?

The severity of the damage to a car is rating in four different categories. The first, category A, is the most servere of them all.

Cars in category A (referred to Cat A) have suffered extreme damage and should never be allowed back on the road. If you buy a category A car, it is illegal and potentially extremely dangerous.

The next level is category B, which applies to cars with ‘significant’ damage. Like category A cars, it will not be allowed on the road again but some parts may be salvaged if they are undamaged.

A category C write-off is one which has repairable damage but to fix the car would cost more than the car itself. If somebody wishes to repair it and send it for an MOT, it is allowed back onto the road – but it will mean the repairer effectively loses money.

The least severe write-off category is category D. Cars in category D will be repairable but the car will have significant repair costs and the insurance company will have decided it is not worth repairing it to its former glory.

Why are write-offs on the road?

Category C and D write-offs are legally allowed on the road if they have been repaired to a sufficient standard. However, it is important to get any used cars that fall into this category checked thoroughly for a repair history and to ensure it is not stolen or cut ‘n’ shut.

Even a repaired car can be more dangerous if the repair is not a good one and this is something which should be considered if buying a write-off.

Category A and B cars on the road are illegal and should not be sold or used on the road again. If the car is a category A or B it is unsafe should never be taken out on the road.

They appear on the roads because criminals sell them on after sprucing the car up to make it look respectable, as Nicola Johnson from vehicle information check expert HPI explains the problems with category A and B write-offs:

“It can be tempting for the criminal to gloss over the damage and try and sell on these potential death traps which have been disguised as a dream buy. Buyers need to take all precautions available to them to ensure they can identify a write-off and, importantly, what type of write-off it is.”

If you suspect a car could be a category A or category B write-off, it is important to get a full check on the car and have it overseen by an engineer. If it is a category A or B car, don’t buy it.

Why are write-off cars unsafe?

Category A and B cars are unsafe because the cars were damaged enough to be considered impossible to repair to a good enough safety standard.

A category A or B car could be anything from structurally unsound to having damage to important parts such as the engine or safety technology. In a crash, this could endanger participants and could lead to serious injury or death.

A category C and D car would offer the same concerns if not repaired properly and it is important to check these cars before purchase.

How do I check if my car is a write off?

The simplest way to check is to pay to have a history check on your car. Services such as HPI can tell you if the car is stolen, cloned, a cut ‘n’ shut or if it has been written-off in the past.

This is the safest and easiest way to check if a car is a write-off. However, always be aware this could be the case and follow our guide to buying a used car closely.

As always, if you are suspicious, or the deal seems too good to be true, walk away. It is better to be cautious than end up losing thousands of points – or worse if the car itself is unsafe.

Buy from a reputable seller

As part of the Perrys promise, all used cars bought through a Perrys dealership are extensively checked for safety, outstanding finance or adverse history and mileage.

By buying a used car from a reputable dealership such as Perrys Motors, you can avoid the hazards of buying a write-off.