My car has been written off – what should I do now?

Having your car written off is never good news, and it can initially be quite overwhelming. Understandably, therefore, some drivers can find themselves confused about what to do next. If you ever find yourself in the same position, it’s worth knowing that while your car insurers will handle most of the key steps involved, there are still a few key decisions you can make to determine the final fate of your car. But you have to decide them quickly!

Who decides if a car is a write-off?

This falls to a trained assessor employed by your insurance company. Most car insurance policies say that it’s their responsibility to conduct a detailed examination of your car, and then decide whether to pay you to get it repaired, repair it themselves, or simply declare it a write-off.

A car might be written off for several reasons, but they all fall into the same two broad categories. Either it’s so badly damaged that it’s unsafe to drive, or the potential costs of getting it repaired are greater than the current value of the vehicle, making it uneconomical for them to put it back on the roads.

If your car is declared a write-off, your insurer will then assign it a salvage category (sometimes known as a salvage title).

What are the different salvage categories?

There are four main salvage categories: A, B, N and S. They’ve been established by the Association of British Insurers, and are designed to indicate the general condition of a vehicle at a glance.

  • Category A: Vehicles in this category are strictly scrap only, as they’re too badly damaged to put back on the roads.
  • Category B: The vehicle cannot be repaired, and the body shell must be scrapped. Parts can feasibly be removed from it for salvage, however.
  • Category S: The vehicle has suffered serious structural damage to its chassis, and requires extensive repair that would outweigh the vehicle’s value.
  • Category N: The vehicle has non-structural damage, and can’t be driven unless professionally repaired – the costs of which, again, would outweigh its value.

What you can do when your vehicle is designated as written off

Challenge the decision

When your insurer informs you your car is written off and provides you with a settlement figure, you can challenge their decision, but your window for doing so is very brief. Your insurer has to notify the Motor Insurance Fraud and Theft Register (MIAFTR) within 7 days of the declaration, and once that happens, it becomes a lot more difficult to reverse. To successfully challenge the decision, you need solid evidence to prove your car is worth more than their valuation of it. This includes quotes from mechanics to show differing repair costs, quotes from scrap yards which offer an alternative view on the true salvage value of your car, and reliable evidence of its market value.

Buy the car back from your insurer

If your car has been designated as an S or N (structural or non-structural) faults, you can sometimes apply to buy it back from your insurer and subsequently have it re-registered. If this is an action you’d like to pursue, you have to let your insurer know as soon as you can. (However, it’s worth getting an independent mechanic to give you their professional valuation of the car, just to be on the safe side.)

If you’re successful, your insurer will then give you your payout and sell the car back to you. However, it’s worth bearing in mind that if you do this, your car will still be on the MIAFTR, be worth far less when you come to sell it on later. This is by design – it’s intended to protect consumers from unknowingly buying “new” cars which have been previously written off.

Scrap your car

If your car has been designated as a Category A or B write off, you can’t repair or resell it. Instead, you’ll need to scrap it and reclaim or sell any parts that can be salvaged. Potentially, your insurance company can do this for you. However, if you’re doing it yourself using services like Scrap Car Network, it’s worth knowing that removing any parts from your car can have a significant effects on its resale value, so unless you’re an experienced mechanic or automotive professional yourself, it’s rarely worth doing.

If it does come to that, organisations like Scrap Car Network can provide a quick and easy way to scrap your car. Paperwork is kept to a minimum, and it takes as little as 10 seconds to get an online valuation of your car. What’s more, choosing them enables you to directly contribute to their social and charitable causes, at no extra cost.


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