What is a category N write-off?

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Category N cars
Category D cars
Types of insurance
Insurance payouts
Buying back your car
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Buying a category N car

All cars that are written-off by an insurer get put into one of four categories:

Each category shows how damaged the car is and whether it is legally roadworthy.

The categories were changed a few years ago. They used to be A, B, C and D. Category N has replaced category D.

Here's everything you need to know about category N cars (and the difference between these and category D cars) 👇

Category N write-offs have "non-structural" damage that can be repaired

A category N vehicle is a car that's been written off because of non-structural damage. That's what the 'N' stands for.

Non-structural damage includes damage to things like the car's:

  • paintwork (for example, graffiti or scratches)
  • breaks
  • seating
  • electrics
  • safety features
  • bodywork (like dents)

Damage to a category N car can usually be repaired. After repairs, the car can legally be put back on the road, unlike cars in category A and category B.

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The difference between category N and category D

Category N has replaced the old category D group of car write-offs.

There isn't much difference between the two, except that category N makes a point of calling out "non-structural" damage.

Category D included cars with less serious damage compared with the other categories.

Cars in category N and category D are treated the same. The categories were just updated to stay in line with newer cars, and their modern technology.

No cars will be put into category D these days. But there are still some cars around that were put in category D before the categories were updated. These are still called category D cars.

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.

Whether or not your insurer pays out for your category N car depends on the type of cover you have

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

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 only pays out for the 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.

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When your car is put in category N, your insurer may offer you a payout

To work out how much to offer you, your insurer requests a valuation of your car done to see how much it was worth just before it was damaged. This is called its "market value."

Insurers don't use the original value of the car when calculating your payout.

Usually, insurers minus an insurance 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 try to negotiate a better price. You'll need lots of evidence to prove that their valuation isn't right. 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.

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

When your car is put in category N, you still have to keep paying your insurance until your cover ends. This is because most car standard policies are yearly contracts where you agree to pay a certain amount over 12 months.

Some insurers minus the remaining money you need to pay from your car payout to make sure your policy is paid for. If you paid for your cover in a lump sum, it's unlikely that you'll get a refund.

If you decide to buy back your category N car, your insurer might let you use your existing cover to insure it. The price of your car insurance may get more expensive because written-off cars are more likely to have accidents.

Many insurers refuse to cover written off cars at all. If yours does, you'll need to find another company to insure your category N car.

Most insurers won't let you cancel a car policy, after you've made a claim. So you could end up doubling up on car insurance payments for a while.

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You can buy your category N car back from your insurer if you want to

When your insurer puts your vehicle into category N, you can sometimes buy back your car (so you can keep it).

Technically, your insurer own your car once they give you a payout for it. If you want to buy the car back, you'll get a chance to negotiate a price you feel happy with. 🤝

Just remember that category N cars will always be worth less than a car that's never been written off.

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

Legally, you need to tell the DVLA about your category N write off (but you don't need to re-register it)

Like with all written off cars, you have to tell the DVLA about your category N car. Otherwise, you could face a fine of up to £1000 🚫

You tell them online or by post. Unlike category S write-offs, you don't need to re-register your category N car with the DVLA. This means you keep the same logbook for it.

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Is it worth it to buy a category N car?

Usually, when an insurer puts a car in category N and the owner doesn't want to buy it back, they'll sell it on to a salvage firm who will repair it and sell it.

While category N cars can be cheaper than cars of the same model and age that haven't been written off, they do come with additional costs and fees that can add up over time.

Finding a good insurance deal for a written-off car can be tricky. Most insurers see write-offs as higher risk and may refuse to cover cars that have been.

Insurers that do offer insurance for write-offs tend to charge more for policies.

Repairs done to category N cars don't have to be inspected. So you'll have to hire a qualified mechanic to inspect the car to check if it's safe to drive. This can cost around £200.

If you ever want to sell the car, you'll also have to tell the buyer that it was written off as category N or you'll be breaking the law. 🚫

If you buy a car and the seller didn't tell you it was a write-off, you can report it

It's illegal for any seller - whether that's a private seller or car dealership - to lie about a car's write-off history.

If you've bought a car that's been written off in the past, but the seller lied to you about this, you should tell Trading Standards as soon as possible.

To avoid this happening, you should always do your own checks when you're buying a used car. You can use our free car checker tool to check a car's write-off history.

Updated on 30th March 2023