A guide to buying, selling and insuring a write-off

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Close up of a front-end car crash

Insurance write-offs can be confusing, so we’ve broken down what a write-off is, how to buy one, how to sell one and how to insure one. 

What is a write-off?

An insurance write-off can be for incidents that cause much less damage to the vehicle – it comes down to how expensive your insurer believes the repairs will be, compared to the total value of the vehicle. 

If the repairs come to over half the value of the vehicle (but this can be less for a newer car!) then your insurer may decide to keep the car and pay you the value instead.

How do insurers decide if my car’s a write off? 

Once you’ve reported the claim, we'll either ask for images of the damage for an expert to review or we'll send out an expert to have a look at your car.

If the repair cost is too high, your car will be written off and the market value (minus your total insurance excess) will be paid out to you. 

Your car is then evaluated by  an assessor and put into one of four categories, depending on the damage and the condition of the car. 

Which category your car falls into then decides what will happen to it in the future. The four categories are:

  • A – The vehicle isn’t suitable to be repaired or recycled in any way and must be crushed without any parts removed.
  • B – The vehicle can’t be repaired, but any usable parts of the car can be recycled. 
  • S (previously Category C) – The vehicle is repairable, but took sustained damage to the frame or chassis that the insurer has decided not to repair
  • N (previously Category D) – The vehicle is repairable and didn’t take damage to the frame or chassis, but the insurer decided not to repair the car. These vehicles may still have important safety features that need to be repaired 

Find out more about the different types of write-offs and what they could mean for you.

I’ve written off my car but it’s on finance

Cars written off while on finance can cause some complications. Your insurer will pay you the value of the car at the time of the incident but if this is less than what you borrowed you may have to pay the finance company the difference out of your own pocket. 

The finance company needs to be one of your earliest calls after a write-off happens, as the sooner they know, the sooner you know what your options are.

One way to avoid the financial stress of a write off while on finance is to buy gap insurance – this covers the difference between what your insurer pays out and what the finance company is owed if your car’s written off. 

Buying your own write off back

After the car has been declared a write-off you may choose to buy it back from your insurer. If you want to do this, tell your insurer early in the process. 

This allows you to keep the car for an agreed settlement figure, but also means you’re in charge of repairing the vehicle and getting it roadworthy. 

Category S vehicles will need to be re-registered with the DVLA. Both Category S or N vehicles will need to pass a full MOT test before they can be re-added to any insurance policy, and your insurer isn’t liable for any further damage that may be discovered in the process. 

Finally, you need to make sure it has been fully declared as a total loss, meaning it will significantly lose value if you ever sell it on.

At the point the write-off’s recorded with your insurance company, your policy is cancelled immediately. If it was a non-fault claim that caused your vehicle to be written off, you’ll be refunded for the time on cover that you didn’t use. 

However, if there’s at least 30 days left on your Admiral policy, you can re-activate it and pay for the remaining time on cover with a new vehicle.  If you choose to re-insure your recovered vehicle it must pass another MOT – this is required to protect both you and other road users. 

Should I buy a previously written-off vehicle?

Buying a previously written off vehicle can be a tempting option if you’re looking for a cheap deal. Recovered vehicles will be valued at significantly less than vehicles of the same make and model that haven’t been involved in an incident. 

A great price perhaps, but the obvious issue is that the vehicle will need to be fully inspected and repaired to get it back to being road-safe. These repairs could bring the total cost of the vehicle to more than you would’ve paid for a new car. 

Any category S or N vehicle will be marked as a previously written off vehicle before it’s sold. This marker stays on the car regardless of the condition it’s restored to and will significantly reduce the resale value of the car should you want to sell it on yourself. 

When buying a written off vehicle you should always think about the resale value as it’s very unlikely to be anywhere close to similar vehicles you might see on the market. 

Is it difficult to insure a previously written-off vehicle?

At Admiral, we don’t ask your car’s accident history whether you’re a a new or existing customer, so the fact it’s a recovered write-off won’t have an impact on the price. Although this is good news if you’ve just bought a Category S or N vehicle, in the event of a claim the vehicle history will be researched. 

Price comparison websites also don’t ask if your vehicle is a write off or what category it would be in. Re-insuring your recovered write-off via price comparison sites is totally acceptable, but be sure to contact your insurer before you buy to ensure the vehicle has been correctly identified as a recovered car.  

As always, make sure your vehicle is fully repaired and roadworthy before you look to insure the car.

Looking for insurance for your previously written off car? We’d be more than happy to give you a quote.

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