What are Category S and Category N cars?

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Find out what a Category S write-off is and how to insure a car that has been previously written off with the help of Admiral

Buying a car is no easy feat; you've got to consider the make, the model, the safety features and whether it's spacious enough for you and your needs.

So, what do you do when you find a car that looks like a great deal but you find out it's been involved in an accident?

With the help of Glyn Morgan, deputy head of engineering at Admiral, and the Association of British Insurers (ABI) guidelines, we'll tell you everything you need to know about buying and insuring cars that have been previously written off.

Car insurance categories list

There are four categories of write-off to consider: A, B, S and N. In October 2017, what was formerly known as Category C and Category D were renamed to Category S and N respectively. Their definitions remained the same.

Here are the car insurance categories explained:

What is a Category A car?

If a car is classed as category A, back away immediately. A Cat A car will have suffered extensive damage and have no economically salvageable parts. It may have been severely damaged in an accident or a total burn-out. The car – and all its spare parts – should be crushed.

What is a Category B car? 

This means the car suffered heavy damage resulting in the chassis being bent and should not be repaired. The car may be old or low value and beyond any form of economic repair. Some of the parts may be salvageable, but the body shell should be crushed and it should never return to the road.

What is a Category S car? 

This is the one you probably hear more about, as a Cat S car can be repaired. Admiral is able to insure a Category S car but other insurance companies might not be able to.

What is a Category N car? 

Like category S above, Cat N cars can be repaired and have around 60% damage. They may have been classed a write off rather than being repaired and returned to the original owner for a number of reasons – 
for example, that person may have had a 'new for old' clause in their insurance.

And finally, here are two old categories:

What is a Category C car?

A Cat C car is now known as Category S, and this category of write off can be repaired.

What is a Category D car?

A Cat D car is now known as Category N. This write-off category can also be repaired. 

Category S Car Insurance | Category N Car Insurance

The first thing you should do is get as much information as possible on the car's history to find out if a car you're looking to purchase has previously been written off. A vehicle history check will also tell you if the car is stolen or has any outstanding finance on it.

Companies like HPI and the AA can carry out history checks online or over the phone for around £30.

Glyn says: "If you're looking to purchase one of these it should only ever be a Category S or N. 'S' means that the repairable damage to the vehicle affects the main welded or otherwise permanently assembled vehicle body, while 'N' means non-structural damage.

"As of 1 October 2017 the DVLA identifies vehicles which have been subject to an S ‘Structural damaged repairable salvage’ codification. A note to this effect will be added to the vehicle’s V5C document.

"You should try to find out the extent of the damage, images of the damage, details of the repairer, what was repaired and how much it cost to repair. We would recommend an independent inspection by a professional prior to purchase to ensure that the car has been repaired correctly and safely."