Insurance write offs: accidents and thefts
Everything you need to know about dealing with insurance write offs
Insurers write offs
Insurers "write off" cars and other vehicles for two reasons:
Damage write offs: The insurer has decided the vehicle is uneconomic to repair. Some classes of damage write offs can be made safe to drive again.
Theft write offs: The vehicle was stolen and the insurance company has paid out a claim - which means the insurer is now the legal owner. It's unwise to buy a theft-related insurance write off as the insurer can repossess the car.
AutoCheck can tell you if a car is an insurance write off.
Types of write off
Insurers have several categories of write off so that subsequent purchasers know how badly the car was damaged.
- Category A: A vehicle that should have been totally crushed, including all its spare parts.
- Category B: A vehicle from which spare parts may be salvaged, but the bodyshell should have been crushed and the car should never return to the road.
- Category C: An extensively damaged vehicle that the insurer has decided not to repair, but which could be repaired and returned to the road.
- Category D: A damaged vehicle that the insurer has decided not to repair, but which could be repaired and returned to the road.
- Category F: A vehicle damaged by fire, which the insurer has decided not to repair.
Buying a write off
Whether it's wise to buy a write off depends on which category it is in:
Never drive a category A or B write off - although you could buy a category B car for spare parts.
Category C, D and F write offs can be made safe to drive again - but make sure you get the repairs professionally checked.
Theft write offs are owned by the insurance company that paid out when the vehicle was stolen from the previous owner. Don't buy theft write offs unless you have written confirmation from the insurer that they no longer own the vehicle.
Buying a damage-related insurance write off
- Tell your insurance company - if you don't, they may refuse a claim in the future. It is unlikely to affect the premium you pay, but it may reduce the amount paid out in the event of a claim.
- Have a mechanical inspection - make sure it has been repaired to a high standard. An MOT certificate is not sufficient.
- Don't pay full price - the market value will have been reduced considerably by the write-off. The price should reflect this.
- Think about the resale - You may have trouble selling the vehicle. Dealers often won't accept them in part exchange.
And private buyers will be put off.
Registering a write off
Vehicles categorised as A or B will be unlikely to be issued with a new registration document if a scrap marker or Certificate of Destruction has been issued. A Category C vehicle will require a vehicle identity check (VIC ) before the DVLA will issue a new registration document,
This will then be noted on the V5C. See www.dvla.gov.uk for more information on VIC testing.
Written off cars may also have been recorded as officially scrapped - if so, they are supposed to have been destroyed.
It's safest to avoid buying a car that's scrapped. You can read more about scrapping cars on the Direct Gov website.
If severely damaged cars aren't recorded as write offs
If a vehicle belongs to a large fleet it may be insured for the legal minimum only. This means that if it is damaged the fleet owner must either repair it themselves, or send it to salvage. This is called 'self-insured'.
Similarly some people insure their vehicle as 'third party' only. If it's damaged the insurance policy will not pay for any repairs.
In both these cases, there will be no record of the car on the insurance write-off database.
This can also happen if a vehicle has been badly damaged but the insurance company have refused to pay for repairs - for example if it was being driven by an uninsured driver, or if was stolen with the keys still in.
Any person buying a used car should also seek their own independent advice
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Help and advice
Some relevant frequently asked questions
When does the 60 days start? When I register, purchase or when I check the first vehicle?
The 60 days start from the date of purchase of the AutoCheck.
Can you buy a check over the phone?
This service is an online service only, so we are unable to carry out a check over the phone.
When do I get my check?
You report appears as soon as you have successfully made your purchase. The results are instant.
How much does the data check insurance cost?
There is no extra charge for the data insurance, it is included in the cost of your check.
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View a sample report
Here you can see an example report of an AutoCheck.
This will show you how your report will be presented to you once purchased.