Insurance Write-Offs

Everything you need to know about insurance write-offs. Click to be taken to the information you’re most interested in quickly.

What is a write off or total loss?

If your car has been involved in an accident, you might be told by your insurer that it’s a “write-off”. Other phrases you might hear are “total loss” or “beyond economical repair”.

They all mean basically the same. Either:

  • your car is too badly damaged to be made safe to go back on the road, or
  • the cost to repair it outweighs the vehicle’s market value or is disproportionate to its value, or
  • the vehicle has been stolen and is never recovered

How does an insurance company decide if a vehicle is worth repairing?

Car insurance companies employ vehicle assessors whose job it is to inspect vehicles which have been damaged. They have the experience to judge the overall condition of your car and assess the cost of repairing it. They’ll also assess whether your car can be made safe enough to be roadworthy again.

When judging whether repair costs are economical, insurers use a repair-to-value ratio. This could vary between different companies, and even between different cars. As an example, if an insurer’s repair-to-value ratio is 60:40, and the repairs on a car valued at £5,000 are £3,000, the vehicle would be deemd a write off.

Write-off categories

As the extent of damage to a written-off vehicle can vary from fairly minor to very serious, there are four different categories of write-off. The insurance assessor will rank your car in one of these categories.

Category A

The vehicle is so badly damaged it must never go on the road again. The last journey for a Category A write-off is to the scrapyard, where even salvageable parts will be destroyed.

Category B

A Category B write-off has suffered extensive damage and must never be driven again, but although the body shell must be crushed, some salvageable parts can be used again in other vehicles.

Category C

Cars in Category C have been written-off by the insurer as uneconomical to repair under their repair-to-value ratio, but they are not so badly damaged that they can’t go back on the road if someone else is willing to undertake repairs.

Category D

The vehicle is repairable but the costs would be significant compared to the vehicle’s value, including time delays to source parts. Category D write-offs can reappear on the road.

How is a claim settled in the case of a total loss?

If your car is deemed to be a write-off following an engineer’s inspection, you’ll be offered a settlement price by your insurance company.  The figure is based on the current market value of your car (immediately before the accident) and will take into account its general condition, age and mileage.

What is the Market Value?

Don’t make the mistake of assuming that because you bought your car for £8,000 three years ago, that your insurance company will pay out £8,000 in a total loss claim.

Most cars depreciate in value as they age. Some adjustments will be made for cars in particularly good or poor condition for their age, or for low or high mileage, but the most that your insurer will pay is the value of your car today – i.e. the current market value.

Can you dispute the settlement figure?

Insurers will do their best to make you a fair offer, but if you really feel that it’s too low, you can challenge it.  You’ll need evidence to support your claim, which might include:

  • information from reputable valuation guides such as Parkers or Glass’s Motoring Guide
  • service history records
  • evidence from an independent engineer
  • relevant facts such as particularly low mileage
  • evidence of new parts, new tyres etc.
  • Supporting information to justify the value of a rare or modified car, which is more difficult to gauge from ready-made guides.

Can I buy back my written-off car?

If your vehicle is a category C or D write-off, you may be able to buy back your car after agreeing a settlement with your insurance company. Once your claim is settled, the vehicle becomes the property of the insurance company, an asset which they can choose to dispose of in whatever way they choose.

You should express your interest in buying back the vehicle at the earliest opportunity, then keep in close contact with your insurer to negotiate a deal. Unless you’re acting purely on an emotional attachment to the vehicle, make sure you are fully informed of the cost of repairs before buying back your written-off car.

Call us on 0333 400 7365 to talk about a claim.