A simple guide to car write-off categories: A, B, S, N

Crashed car

Insurance write-off categories for cars were changed in October 2017. The old A, B, C & D codes were replaced with four new codes, A, B, S & N. Here’s what each of these means:

  • A: This means that the damage is so bad the entire car must be crushed. No parts should be reused. It’s the same as the old write-off code A.
  • B: The body shell should be crushed but some undamaged parts can be salvaged and reused. This is the same as the old write-off code B.
  • S: The car has had structural damage, but it can be repaired and returned to the road.
  • N: The car has had non-structural damage. It can be repaired and returned to the road.

The write-off category isn’t the only factor that decides whether a car will return to the road. Even if it’s repairable (code S or N under the new system), your insurance company might decide that it’s too expensive to repair. This normally means that repairs would cost more than the car’s market value. For older cars this is quite common.

Should I buy a car that’s been written-off?

Obviously you can’t and should never buy a car with an ‘A’ or ‘B’ write-off code.

You can choose to buy a category ‘S’ or ‘N’ write off, if it’s repaired to a correct standard to repair to the road.

Personally, I’d never do this. Although the car may be cheap to buy, many insurance companies are reluctant to cover cars that have been written off. If they do offer you cover, you may have to pay a higher premium than you would for an undamaged example of the same car.

Finally, it’s very difficult to be certain that the previous damage to the car has been correctly and safely repaired. You could end up with a car that has future problems as a result of the damage and repairs. Worse still, you might end up with a car that’s not quite as safe as it should be.

Buying a car that’s been written off just doesn’t seem worth the risk to me.

Further information

If you want to know more about write-off categories and the law, the gov.uk website is a good place to start:

https://www.gov.uk/scrapped-and-written-off-vehicles/insurance-writeoffs

The RAC also has some good information:

https://www.rac.co.uk/drive/advice/know-how/what-is-an-insurance-write-off/

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