Accident damaged repairable cars – a definitive guide

Damaged Repairable Cars for sale

Damaged repairable cars & insurance write offs for sale from auto salvage companies are the perfect opportunity to buy a car for a lot less money and providing you have the necessary mechanical skills and some free time, you can,  with a little tlc, end up with the car of your dreams.  Similarly, you can purchase a damaged repairable car that requires restoration and with a little love and knowledge, restore them back to their original glory.

Insurance companies assess vehicles which have been stolen or sustained damage  from fire, theft or an accident.  Each claim is investigated and estimates are made as to the cost of repair back to its original condition.  This estimate includes the cost of new parts and labour.   If the damage is considered uneconomic to repair ( The car would cost more to repair than its market value) then they are considered to be insurance “write-offs“.    The claim is settled with the owner and the vehicle is disposed of with a licensed auto salvage company.

The insurance company then classifies them into insurance categories labelled A,B,C,D,E,F and X.   These categories describe the extent of the damage to the vehicle and give a guide to how auto salvage companies should dispose of them .  There are 4 main write off categories – these are A-D.    They are often refered to as CAT. CAT A, CAT B etc….

Any car described with the ‘CAT’ moniker will have been damaged in some way, and written off by an insurance company.

Auto salvage companies then either dispose of the vehicle if necessary or sell it on as repairable salvage cars or damaged repairable cars.

In this definitive guide to buying damaged repairable cars from auto salvage companies you’ll find the following content:

What do all the different write off categories for accident damaged cars mean?

In a nutshell, there are 4 main insurance write off categories, CAT A, CAT B, CAT C and CAT D.    Insurance companies assess vehicles in a claim and put them in one of these 4 categories based on the extent of the damage that they have incurred from either an accident, fire, flood, theft or being used in a crime. The vehicles are then sold onto licensed auto salvage breakers such as AFF Vehicle Services.

CAT A vehicles are the worst of insurance write offs.  Vehicles in Cat A cannot even be used for salvage and should be crushed or sold for scrap metal.

Cat B Insurance write-offs can be sold for spare parts.  These are not sold as damaged repairable cars.

Cat C cars are damaged repairable cars, and by using a combination of new, second hand or replacement parts, and with some expert knowledge, you can put the car back on the road at relatively little cost.

Cat D cars are damaged repairable cars and the repairs will cost considerably less than its market value, with very little damage.  The insurance company’s decision to not repair it is based on more than soley the cost of the repairs.  These are almost always sold as damaged repairable cars and with the right expertise are well worth fixing up.

Here is a more comprehensive overview of the 4 main categories:

CATEGORY A Insurance write-off cars

Category A written off car

Category A write off

Cat A is the worst of insurance write offs.  Vehicles in Cat A cannot even be used for auto salvage and should be crushed or sold for scrap metal.

Category A Insurance write off vehicles are those which have sustained extensive damage and have no salvageable parts.  These cars are deemed too damaged to repair and in as much would be unsafe to drive if repairs were attempted.  This kind of written off car must be completely destroyed including all parts and must not be resold. Only Authorised Treatment Facilities (ATFs) like AFF Vehicle Services are legally permitted to do this.  It is illegal to sell a CAT A vehicle as a re-buildable repairable car.

The DVLA are notified of the vehicle destruction via an online Cerficate of Destruction and this information is also recorded with the HPI.

For more information  take a look at HPI check

Cat A vehicles could well have been in a flood or fire.

You must never drive a CAT A write off.

CATEGORY B Insurance write-off cars

Category B writen off car

CAT B write off

CAT B write off

Category B write off

Cat B Insurance write-offs can be sold for spare parts.
Category B Vehicles have sustained severe structural damage.  They are considered to be damaged beyond repair, possibly the chassis , and as such are not to be sold as a repairable salvage cars.  You must never drive a CAT B car but these cars however may be dismantled and the working spare parts can be sold individually.

The vehicle body must be destroyed for scrap.  As with Cat A vehicles only Authorised Treatment Facilities (ATFs) like AFF Vehicle Services  are legally permitted to do this.

CAT B cars are often those which have been major accidents where the main body of the car has been completely destroyed but many of the working parts are still ok.

CATEGORY C Insurance write-off cars

Category C write off

Category C write off

Cat C cars can be fixed, the insurance company has written off the car due to the cost of fixing the car with NEW parts at a main dealer. DON’T BE PUT OFF – By repairing bodywork, using after market panels or second hand parts and carrying out the repairs yourself or by a local garage, YOU CAN SAVE £££ with little effort!

Auto Salvage

CAT C damage

CAT C Vehicles could  have sustained moderate to fairly heavy damage.   These cars have been ‘written off’ because the cost of repair far outweighs the pre-accident value of the vehicle, if the vehicle was repaired by a main dealler using new genuine parts.
These vehicles can be sold by the insurance company or the salvage company as repairable salvage cars.   The buyer will require a VOSA Test before being able to tax or drive the car on the road again legally to ensure that the repairs have been carried out properly and the vehicle is safe to drive.

A good example of a ‘CAT C’ write off is the mini pictured here, this car sold for £1,700 and has a market value when repaired of at least £4,500. As you can see from the damage shown in the photos, with some cosmetic repairs and re-spray to the boot and rear bumper, the car would be back to its former glory before the incident, all for a cost of around £500. That’s a massive saving of £2,300, a saving of over 50% on the normal selling price.

As you can see, if you are looking to buy a damaged repairable car which has been classified CAT C , with a little bit of knowledge, maybe some searching for after market and second hand parts, and a little bit of work,  you could bag yourself a bargain!

CATEGORY D Insurance write-off cars

Category D write off

Catergory D insurance write off

Cat D damaged repairable cars have very light damage and will cost less than its market value.  The insurance company’s decision to not repair it is based on more than soley the cost of the repairs.

CAT D Vehicles have sustained light damage and repair costs would be less than the market value of the car.  However, the car has been been written off by the insurance company  due to other reasons.  These cars can be sold as a damaged repairable cars for sale.  Insurers tend to value cars on the lower end of their market price, in order to make as much money as they can when selling on the car – so sometimes the damage to write off a car can be very minor.  This could be a contributary factor to why some vehicle are still considered a CAT D write off rather than worthy to repair.

For Category D damaged repairable cars, the (V5) Log Book is issued upon application.  No VOSA VIC check is required.

Cat D write off

CAT D write off

An example of a CAT D write off would be a small dent in a 10-year old car. The insurer sees that some examples of the car are selling for around £1,000, but the dent would cost £800 to repair. This could result in a ‘Cat D’ write-off. However the car could be in good condition for its age and be worth more than £1,000 in reality, so the dent could be repaired and the car would be put up for sale.

If you are considering buying a CAT D damaged car which has been repaired, remember that it could very well have been in an accident.  There is no guarantee that it hasn’t incurred chassis damage.  Get it checked over and a full mechanical inspection by a qualified mechanic.   Also remember to call your insurance provider to check that they will insure it.   Not all insurers are happy to insure rebuilt or repaired CAT D cars.  It will depend on your insurer and your policy. You must declare that the vehicle is a CAT D car or you run the risk that they will not pay out in the event of you needing to make a claim.

CATEGORY X Insurance write-off cars

CAT X write off

CAT X write off

CAT X damaged repairable cars are  “not recorded” as being damaged on the HPI register. They could well have been stolen and
recovered  with minimal or no damage whatsoever.

The vehicle doesn’t need to go through any checks to get it back on the road (so long it has a valid MOT) and with a bit of TLC and some very light repairs, you have the car you really wanted.

Why wont the insurance company repair the vehicle if it is a damaged repairable car?

insurance agent assessing car damage

Insurance agent assessing damage

Insurance companies often air on the lower side of a cars market value when insuring the vehicle and when guaging the cost of a claim. Insurance companies assess each claim based on the cost of repair to the car including all new parts and labour at the appointed garage, along with all other costs invloved like a courtesy car. If the cost for the car outweighs the estimated market value allocated to the vehicle the insurance company classify the car as an “Insurance write-off”.  This is when an insurance company decides that a car is not worth repairing after a crash – because of a high cost of repair, or because the car is not worth much.

Sometimes the vehicle’s actual market value is higher than the estimated average value for a car of that make and year.  This may well be because of the way in which it has been maintained, because it has extremely little wear and low mileage or because it has been highly upgraded and these are not accounted for.  In these circumstances, provided the damage to the vehicle is deemed repairable, a mechanically minded individual could pick up a damaged repairable car for sale and with a little TLC and time have a real bargain.  These cars will always fall within the CAT C or CAT D bracket with the CAT C cars having more extensive damage.

Will I be able to insure a CAT C or CAT D repaired car which has been written off previously and will is cost any more?

Written off car insurance

Insuring a written off car

These cars are not impossible to insure. Sometimes insurers won’t want to cover a ‘CAT D’ or ‘CAT C’ damaged repaired car, you will need to check first.  It could be that your insurance company will insure a previously accident damaged car but it may well mean accepting a higher premium.

You must always ensure that your insurance company is aware of the CATC or CAT D status of your car or this could effect any pay out that you may get in the event that you need to make a claim yourself.

So long as the repairs on accident damaged repairable cars have been carried out professionally or to a high standard there is no safety reason why the car should not be insured.

Is a damage repaired written off car as safe to drive as a standard car?

Repaired accident damaged car

Repaired accident damaged car

Firstly, a damage repaired written off car is a standard car, just one that has been sold as a damaged repairable car and re-built or repaired following an accident or being stolen.

CAT C and CAT D vehicles have been fully checked by qualified assessors and deemed in a repairable re-buildable  state.  If they have been repaired by someone who has the necessary knowledge and skills then they should be as safe as any other vehicle on the road.

Unless of course this repair work has been carried out by a registered garage or dealership, then there is no way of guaranteeing however that the work has been done properly or that the vehicle didn’t sustain any damage to the chassis.  For these reasons, you should always get a qualified mechanic whom you trust to check over the car before you purchase it.  If you are looking for a bargain damaged repairable car and it seems too good to be true, the chances are that it probably is so it’s always best to get a professional opinion first.  Ask for a full mechanical assessment.

How can I tell that a car was in an accident and was written off and repaired? (pre-1st October 2015)

DVLA logo


Vehicles that have been written-off by an insurance company and classified CAT A, B or C will have a ‘VIC marker’ put against them by the DVLA.  VIC or  Vehicle Identity Check,  is a scheme designed to help stop stolen cars being passed off as repaired accident damaged cars – also known as ‘ringing’.

This scheme was abolished on 1st October 2015, please see next section for more details.

While there is a VIC marker on the car, the DVLA won’t issue a registration certificate V5C, or vehicle license reminder V11. The Vehicle and Operator Services Agency (VOSA) carries out the VIC test and it takes roughly 20 minutes. It’s designed to confirm the car’s identity and help ensure that the genuine car is returned to the road. It will also detail whether the car has sustained any accident damage .  Any vehicle that requires or has passed a VIC test will have this noted on the V5.

If you are thinking about buying a car it is always adviseable to get it looked at by a qualified technician in the first instance.  A professional mechanic who looks at vehicles every day can often tell whether a car has had any repair work done – especially if the work has been extensive.  If you are still concerned that the car is an accident damaged car then check with the DVLA.

For more information on how to recognise a write off,  take a look at HPI Check

For information on how to check if a car has a VIC marker:  Vehicle Identity Check

VIC scheme abolished, what you need to know

The VIC scheme as outlined above was abolished on 1st October 2015, originally introduced in 2003, it was intended to stop car “ringing” which reportedly cost the economy £3 billion a year. With new modern technology it has been made more difficult to “ring” cars and the VIC scheme has been reportedly uneffective with only 40 “ringers” being identified from almost 916,000 inspections since it’s implementation. So the Dft made the decision to end the scheme as the running costs to maintain such a system far outweighed the results it was obtaining.

For more information on the changes, check out our VIC Scheme abolished blog post.

So what does this mean for the buyer

The benefits are in both time and money when it comes to buying a Cat C vehicle you wish to get back on the road. There will no longer be the need to get your vehicle transported to and from the VIC testing centre and pay the £41 for the test, the VIC test could also take up to 6 weeks to get booked in some cases.

You will still need to get a replacement V5 from the DVLA as previous, but these will be free of charge for Cat C vehicles. Cat A and B vehicles will still need a VIC test up until 26th October 2015, but after that time they will be unable to obtain a V5 certificate.

Can you really save money buying a repairable car?

Save MoneyIf you have the time to spare and enough mechanical knowledge to do the repairs and rebuild yourself then you could potentially bag yourself a bargain on a CAT D write off car.  damaged repairable cars are often sold for a great deal under their current market value.

Because insurance companies often under value vehicles based on the lowest end of their market value when insuring them, a car which is relatively new, has been maintained to a very high standard or has done very little mileage could well have a market value which is higher than its average.  In these cases, the repairs to the vehicle if not too excessive and if they could be done by yourself could leave you with a car with a market value higher than you paid out for it.  Making you money, and leaving you with a rather nice car.

Where should I buy written off cars for sale?

environment agencyDamaged repairable cars, CAT C and D cars should only be purchased from a professional and accountable vehicle recycling and processing auto salvage facility such as AFF Vehicle Services.

AFF Vehicle services has attained compliance levels required to hold both Authorised Treatment Centre and recycler of End of Life Vehicles status, recognised by the Environment Agency.

If you purchase your damaged repairable cars for sale from a reputable and registered company, you can be sure that the necessary documentation has been obtained and that the vehicle has been categorised as C or D.  You should never be sold a CAT A or CAT B vehicle as a re-buildable repairable car for sale.

Useful links

UK End of life vehicle regulations

Vehicle end of life guidance notes