Car write-offs: The ultimate guide

car write off

No matter how well you care for your car, sometimes accidents happen. If an accident causes your car to be so badly damaged that it is no longer safe to drive, then your car insurance company will write it off. It’s not just road collisions that can lead to write-offs either — bad weather that leads to car flooding or a falling tree branch damaging your car can also result in a write-off.

Here’s everything you need to know about car write offs.

Is my car a write-off?

If your car has been judged as unfit to drive on the road following an accident, then it will be written off. However, even if it could be repaired, if the insurance company feels this would not be economical, then your car may also be written off.

For example, if your car is worth £6,000 and the insurance company calculated that repairs would be cost £4,000 then this may not seem a worthwhile pay out in the eyes of insurance. Even if your car hasn’t suffered a lot of damage, you may still be surprised to find your insurance company wants to write it off because it has found that the time and cost to repair it isn’t proportional to the car’s value.

How do I know if my car is a write-off?

Your insurance company will let you know if your car is a write off or not. If the car is badly damaged , they may also take care of having it scrapped as well. You can apply to keep the registration plate if you wish, for example, if you have a personalised plate. Your insurance company will need your V5C logbook and you will also need to tell the DVLA that your car has been scrapped.

It’s not all instant scrapheap, though. Depending on the write off category your insurance company places your car in, it may not actually be the end of the road for your vehicle.

car write off categories
Your car will be categorised based on how much damage it has sustained.

A quick guide to car write-offs categories

CategoryRepair possible?Future use
ANoMust be scrapped
BNoBody shell must be scrapped, other parts may be salvaged
CYes, but at more cost than the vehicle’s valueCan be driven again if it’s repaired to be roadworthy
DYes, for less than the car’s value, but costs such as transportation make it uneconomical to do soCan be driven again if it’s repaired to be roadworthy
NYes if damage is non-structuralCan be driven again if it’s repaired to be roadworthy
SYes, even if damage is structuralCan be driven again if it’s repaired to be roadworthy

So, if you are told that your car is a write-off, it may just mean that it doesn’t financially make sense for the insurance company to foot the bill for repairs. But that doesn’t mean you have to give up on your car — you can simply take it back and have it repaired anyway so long as it falls in categories C, D, N, or S. The DVLA may need to inspect your car to make sure it is roadworthy.

Can I refuse to write-off my car?

Yes. As we mentioned, the insurance company will judge your car’s damage and its repair based on value (unless your car is deemed totally unsafe). So, if your car just has a scratch along the bonnet but has a low market value, chances are insurance will be quick to write it off. If you’d rather keep your car, you can simply take it back so long as it’s within categories C, D, N, or S.

What car damage is a write-off?

Any car that falls into category A or B will be a total write-off beyond repair and no longer safe to drive. This sort of damage includes:

  • Complete burnouts
  • Extensively vandalised vehicles
  • Major collisions
  • Extensively damaged body shells

For other categories, this can all depend on your car’s value. Even minor issues can lead to a write off if your car isn’t worth much to begin with. These can include:

  • Scratches
  • Minor dents
  • Bumper dents
  • Scratches in the windscreen
car write off categories
A car that has suffered extreme damage will be unsalvageable sent for scrap.

If my car is written off am I still insured?

If your car is written off by your insurance company then you will no longer be insured on the car. There isn’t usually any allowance for insurance refunds. So, you shouldn’t expect to get part of your insurance premium back.

I purchased my car on finance — now what?

If you purchased your car on finance then you may end up in the tricky situation of your pay-out being worth less than what you owe the finance company. This will leave you out of pocket and paying for a car that is no longer even around. If this is the case, then you can attempt to negotiate with your insurance company or a larger pay-out, but you will need to provide evidence to support why you believe their pay-out was too low.

Alternatively, you can talk to your finance company and see if you can come to some sort of agreement about the remaining money you owe.

If my car is written off how much will i get?

Your car insurance pay-out should be the equivalent to your car’s market value before the accident. This is based on the calculations made by your insurance company, so if you find they are offering you a relatively low sum, and you can prove it’s not proportionate to your car’s pre-accident value, there may be some leeway to challenge their decision, but you shouldn’t assume there’ll be too much.

car write off salvage parts
Some cars may no longer be roadworthy, but can still have some parts salvaged to be reused or sold.

Can I insure a written off car?

Yes, cars that have been repaired and deemed roadworthy can be insured and driven again. In fact, buying a written off vehicle and repairing it can be a very cost effective way to purchase a car. However, all that money you saved on the initial purchase may need to go into your insurance. Insurers are, understandably, a little wary of cars that were previously written off. So long as you can prove it’s roadworthy with an MOT certificate you shouldn’t be flat-out denied cover, but you may be charged a little more than usual.

Can I buy a written off car?

Yes, depending on the category of write-off. You can either purchase parts of a car or you can buy the whole thing with the aim of repairing it and getting back on the road. A word of warning, though, especially if you’re going to private car sellers, some people may try to play off the damage that their car has sustained. Some sellers may not disclose that their car was ever written off it the damage was especially minor, leading you to pay more than its market value. Requesting a service history and running a vehicle history check can help protect you from this.

Have a car to sell?

Whatever the reason you’re looking to sell your car, our guides can help, covering all you need to know about finding a buyer for your vehicle!

How to sell a car for parts
Car scrappage schemes
WeBuyAnyCar alternatives
Auto Trader alternatives
Selling a modified car
How to become a car dealer
How to sell a car at auction
What are the best selling used cars?
Safest ways to accept payment when selling a car
How to safely sell you car online
How to sell you car: step by step guide