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Insurance write off categories set to change

Published 21 June 2017

The categories for written off vehicles are set to change later this year. The new system is designed to take dangerous vehicles off the road and make buying used vehicles more transparent for consumers.

The Association of British Insurers's (ABI) insurance code of practice for dealing with motor salvage is being updated 10 years after it was last reviewed.

The new code will come into force on 1 October 2017, after two years of discussion with insurers, vehicle manufacturers, police and the salvage industry over the way vehicles are categorised for total loss.

What's changing?

The categories will be changing from the old Category A, B, C and D. These will be replaced by:

  • A: Scrap
  • B: Break
  • S: Structurally damaged repairable
  • N: Non-structurally damaged repairable

The new categories reflect the complexity of total loss vehicles more clearly, with the focus on structural damage rather than cost of repair.

Cat A (scrap) and B (break) will be staying the same, while S (structural damage) and N (non-structural damage) will replace C and D.

Guidance on salvaging motorcycles and quadricycles has been introduced and minimum qualifications are now required for all individuals who grade vehicle salvage.

How will the changes affect drivers?

Consumers should have a better indication as to why an insurer has written a vehicle off. Whether it was cosmetic, light damage or structural.

However, classic and special interest vehicles may be repaired irrespective of how badly damaged they are, providing it is safe to do so. In these cases, the Code of Practice will not apply.

Why is it changing?

Modern cars are becoming more complex to repair and the cost of electronic parts on a vehicle can easily make the car uneconomical to fix. Insurers want prospective purchasers of repaired salvage to be aware of whether the vehicle has structural damage or not.

"Crude repair techniques from 20 to 30 years ago are being used to repair modern cars unsafely. They appear to have been repaired safely, but are in fact death traps," says Tim Kelly, a council member of the The Institute of Automotive Engineer Assessors.

Will the changes help consumers?

Hopefully. People buying second-hand cars will have a better indication of what damage a car has sustained in the past. However - as with everything - it isn't a perfect fix. The code is just as it is says - a code.

It is not bound by legislation. There is nothing mandatory to enforce anyone, let alone insurers, to comply with it.

This leaves the code open to dangerous issues. Companies that self insure, like car hire companies, have no reason or duty to apply a categorisation to a damaged vehicle. In these instances, vehicles which are only fit to be crushed can end up on the road again with no history of damage.

"Putting a complete stop to the unscrupulous activity of repairing vehicles that should be scrapped will require legislation," says Tamzen Isacsson, SMMT Director of Communications.

What should I look out for when buying second-hand?

Some sellers try to pass off Category C or Category D cars as non-damaged motors by hiding their past. A vehicle history check, like HPI or Experian, is always advisable so that you don't pay more than you should for a previously written-off vehicle.


oldroverboy.    on 22 June 2017

Why will Consumers not be protected?
Because the insurance industry still need to make their profits selling damaged vehicles to the "salvage trade"

999pez    on 23 June 2017

'Companies that self insure, like car hire companies, have no reason or duty to apply a categorisation to a damaged vehicle. In these instances, vehicles which are only fit to be crushed can end up on the road again with no history of damage'.
I wasn't aware of this. My reading of the article is that this update won't change this, which seems to be a major issue!

technispark    on 26 June 2017

Anything that can be done to keep a vehicle on the road safely should be done. Scrapping a repairable vehicle is madness from an environmental point of view.

Graham Greenwood    on 26 June 2017

If a vehicle is safely repairable it should never be classed as a write off, the cost of repair based on insurance estimates is immaterial.
The quality and standard of repairs should be the only consideration, inspection must be required for the new S class of accident damage, to verify safety of the repaired vehicle.
N should be ok, with no necessity to record as anything!
Many cars on the road would fit the N class, it could be a simple as a dented wing or bumper replacement!

Grumpy2    on 27 June 2017

Lynbrook Insurance have always gone a step further with their Classic Car insurance and allowed the owner to "self repair" (and be paid the material costs - with a contribution to ones own labour) if requested. However, they then take steps to validate the quality of the repair before permitting the insurance cover to be reinstated. Apparently, they have never had an issue with this popular feature. "Self repair" does not mean that the owner has to do the work himself (or herself as apparently the fair sex have also used this feature), but they can oversea the work that they require using professionals.

Bronan the Brobarian    on 27 June 2017

This is essentially what I'm currently doing at my insistence.

Bronan the Brobarian    on 27 June 2017

I would insist that my vehicle was repaired if the accident was not my fault. I would go all the way to court. Sadly, insurance companies will write cars off for next to nothing. My passenger door was recently bashed by a muppet who didn't stop for a roundabout. There was no contest, they completely admitted fault, and it was only the door panel which was damaged. Yet, had I not gone to the trouble of sourcing a specialist to repair it the insurance co would've written it off, mere weeks after it had several hundred £ work done to it and was running perfectly. Insurance cos should be mandated to repair Cat D at the very least (Cat N now).

Edited by Bronan the Brobarian on 27/06/2017 at 15:02

MikeatS41    on 27 June 2017

Sounds like it is too dangerous to buy an ex-Car Hire vehicle!

Shaz {p}    on 1 July 2017

Sounded like a good idea until...
"It is not bound by legislation. There is nothing mandatory to enforce anyone, let alone insurers, to comply with it."

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