What is a category A write-off?

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Sometimes insurers say a damaged car is a "write-off". This means they don't think it's worth fixing because repairs would be too expensive compared with what the actual car is worth.

All cars that are written off are put into one of four categories: A, B, S or N. (PS - we've also got guides about category B, category N, and category S write-offs!)

Here's everything you need to know about category A write-offs 👇

Category A write-offs are badly damaged and can't be salvaged

Category A is the worst category of car write-off. It means the car's extremely damaged, to the point where it's unsalvageable and the parts aren't safe to use.

A car may be considered a category A write-off if it has:

  • Extreme fire damage
  • Serious damage from a crash

Category A write-offs are no longer roadworthy and must be destroyed

If a car is put into category A it means it's unsafe and can't be made safe again - even its parts. So it has to be crushed by law. This means that your insurer isn't legally allowed to give it back to you, even if it has sentimental value.

You also can't save any parts before it's crushed, unlike category B, category S and category N write-offs.

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Insurers usually offer you a payout for category A write-offs

Most insurers offer a lump sum payment for category A write-offs but the amount you get can vary depending on the type of policy you have.

To work out an offer, your insurer will value your car to see how much it was worth just before it was damaged. This is called its "market value."

Insurers don't use the value of the car when it's new to calculate your payout. Usually, insurers take off an excess from the final payout as well. The excess is a sum of money you have to pay when you make an insurance claim.

If you think the valuation is too low, you can challenge your insurer and negotiate a better price. You'll need lots of evidence to prove that their valuation isn't right, though. Try to get as many quotes from different sources and make note of any changes you made that could increase the car's value, such as a new set of tyres.

If your case doesn't get anywhere you can also get in touch with the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS) who will review your claim and make a final decision about the valuation.

Cars can be written off for serious damage, or if an insurer doesn't think repairing it is value for money.
Cars can be written off for serious damage, or if an insurer doesn't think repairing it is value for money.

Your write-off payout depends on your insurance type

There are three different types of car insurance policy and some don't include a payout if your car is written-off as category A.

Fully comprehensive

Insurers will pay out if you have a fully comprehensive policy and your car is written-off.

Third party, fire and theft

If you have third party, fire and theft cover, your insurer will only pay out if:

  • the damage happens because of a fire
  • someone steals your car and they damage it beyond repair.

If another driver causes the damage, you'll get a payout from their insurer (not yours).

Third party

Third party cover is very limited and only pays out for damage you cause to other people's cars.

This means that your insurer won't pay out if your car is written-off.

If another driver causes the damage, you'll get a payout from their insurer (not yours).

You have to pay off your insurance even if your car is written off as category A

Even if your car is scrapped, you'll need to keep making your payments until your cover ends. If you've paid for your policy upfront, you won't get a refund for any of this either.

This is because most car standard policies are yearly contracts where you agree to pay a certain amount over 12 months. So you'll have to pay out your contract even if your car isn't on the road anymore.

Most traditional insurers won't let you cancel a car policy, after you've made a claim. Or if they do, you'll have to pay for the rest of your policy up front, and you won't get a refund. So once you've claimed for your category A car, there's no way for you to get out of your contract.

If your car's not worth much and you know you'd get a measly payout if it was written off by your insurer, you could be better off not making a claim. That way, you could still cancel your policy (if you haven't made a claim already).

If you did this, you'd need to arrange for your car to be scrapped yourself and tell the DVLA too.

Insurance may cover payments for car finance if your car is written-off as category A

If you bought your car on finance and it's written off as category A, there's a chance your insurance payout money might cover the rest of your payments.

But there's also a chance that this won't be enough to cover them. If it's not, you have a few options:

Check that your insurer's valuation is fair

Look at what similar cars are currently being sold for to check if your insurer's valuation is fair. Make sure the cars you're looking at are about the same age and mileage as yours was before the write-off.

If you need help finding details about your car - like its previous owners and MOT status - you can use our free car checker tool. If you don't think your insurer's valuation is fair, you can try to negotiate a bigger payout.

Double check to see if you have gap insurance

Gap insurance covers you for the "gap" between your insurer's payout and the amount you still owe on your finance agreement. Some finance deals include gap insurance as a perk, so it's worth checking.

Speak with the company you financed the car with

Your car finance company can help you decide the best option based on your circumstances.

They may suggest a different payment plan or offer you a new car under a new finance agreement.

There are four types of written-off cars: A, B, N and S
There are four types of written-off cars: A, B, N and S
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Updated on 30th March 2023