What is an insurance write-off?

  • Car insurance write-offs explained
  • What are the different categories?
  • Is it safe to drive an insurance write-off vehicle?

A car insurance write-off refers to a vehicle that has sustained damage and is either deemed unsafe or uneconomical to repair.

The former usually only applies to vehicles with extensive damage that are unsafe for the road. The latter occurs when the cost of the repair work exceeds the repair-to-value threshold – i.e. if the limit is set at 50% and the car is worth £20,000, any repairs costing more than £10,000 will be considered uneconomical.

What are the different insurance write-off categories?

From 1 October 2017, new car insurance write-off categories were introduced to indicate the severity of damage on a vehicle.

What is a Category N write-off?

A Category N write-off is the least severe type, indicating that the vehicle has sustained non-structural, yet repairable damage. While this may affect the vehicle’s value, it has not been seriously damaged and, once repaired, can be safely put back on the road.

What is a Category S write-off?

More severe than a Category N write-off but still repairable, Category S indicates structural damage that can be repaired. This means that while the vehicle may have taken a heavy knock, a proper repair could see it safely back on the road.

What is a Category B write-off?

The second most severe write-off designation, Category B refers to a vehicle which cannot legally be used on the road again. However, the vehicle in question can be broken for parts which can individually be used on another road car once properly checked-over and tested.

What is a Category A write-off?

A Category A write-off means that the entire vehicle has been extensively damaged and must be scrapped, with none of its parts used on another road car. Vehicles in this condition are only worth their scrap value.

How do I know if a vehicle has been written off?

The vehicle registration document (V5C) will carry a clearly marked ‘S’ to show that the vehicle has been salvaged, with a record of the type of write-off also printed.

Is it safe to drive an insurance write-off vehicle?

If it is a Category A or B write-off then no, it is not safe (not to mention illegal) to drive the vehicle on the public road. Cars which are Category N or S write-offs however, can be made roadworthy (those which are the former may need no repairs at all to be safe on the road).

However, we’d always recommend that you get a professional mechanic to examine a previously written-off vehicle before you drive it on the public road. 

Looking for more jargon-busting motoring meanings? Head over to our Parkers Car Glossary page and take a look at our other definitions