Cat A Cars Explained

When a car is written off due to sustaining too much damage, it’s given one out of four categories so that people know the severity and type of damage that has been done to it. The insurance provider issues these categories for the car, ranging from Cat A, Cat B, Cat S, and Cat N. 

The damage category that a vehicle is given will influence a lot about what can be done to it and with it, as each class will have its own rules and guidelines. For example, only Cat S and Cat N cars can be repaired and resold with the intention of it being driven on the roads. All the other categories need to be either scrapped or partially scrapped. 

When searching for used cars, knowing these different classifications of damage can be extremely helpful, as it can help you fully understand a vehicle’s history and determine if it’s right for you and even if it’s legal. 

Cat A is the most severe of the different categories given to a written-off vehicle. Here’s more information on everything you need to know about this and what you need to do so that you can search for used parts and cars more confidently. If you’re looking for more information on how to buy a used car, you can find some great resources on Car Adviser.

In this guide

What are Cat A Cars?

A Cat A car is where the vehicle has been damaged badly. This is the highest grade that a damaged car can be given and indicates a vehicle that has been deemed irreparable and that can’t be driven ever again. 

In addition, the damage is usually so severe on Cat A cars that even the parts within them are not allowed to be sold, as they may not be reliable and could break or be faulty when used to repair another vehicle. This makes Cat A different from Cat B – another category where the car can’t be sold. With Cat B cars, the parts can be removed and sold, providing that those parts aren’t part of the car’s structural frame. 

Most of the time, a Category A car will be crushed and destroyed, and you shouldn’t be able to find or purchase a Cat A car in a dealership or through a private seller. Instead, these cars must be scrapped, and each Cat A car must get a certificate of destruction to prove it’s been destroyed. 

If you’re the owner of a written-off Cat A car, then you may be able to receive the value of the scrap metal, but none of the items from the car must be sold on. Once destroyed, there’s not much else that you can do as the owner. 

All you can do is send your logbook to your insurance company and inform the DVLA that your car has been written off. Once you’ve done that, your insurance company will manage the process, allowing you to start your search for a new car.

Because all you can do with Category A cars are scrap and destroy them, they’re also commonly known as scrap cars within the industry.

What is Common Damage On A Cat A car?

The damage on a Cat A car is usually severe, meaning there’s nothing redeemable about the vehicle, and the entire vehicle needs to be destroyed. This means that it’s likely been involved in a bad accident, which can cause serious damage to the cosmetics, car frame, chassis, electrical components, and even vital parts like the engine and brakes. 

For there to have been widespread damage to the car, cars considered Cat A are also more likely to have been set on fire, flooded, or potentially seriously mistreated by their previous owners. Anything that has ruined the car’s structure beyond repair will give a car a Cat A rating.

Why shouldn't I buy a Cat A used car?

There are many reasons why buying a Cat A car isn’t a good idea. The main issue is that they’re illegal to own and drive because they’re not deemed roadworthy. Even if you weren’t aware of a car’s Cat A status when you bought it, having one can get you in serious trouble. 

Another reason buying a Cat A car is a bad idea is because they’re impossible to get insurance for. Because they’re not allowed on the road, no insurance company will offer you a policy. 

Finally, another big reason Cat A cars should be avoided is that they’re unsafe. They’ve been given Cat A because mechanics thought they were too difficult to repair. This means that if you have a Cat A car, even if it looks like it’s been fixed, there are likely some issues that could become apparent once you own it. Being Cat A makes it more likely that it will break down, meaning that you’ll have to pay more for repairs, and it could also put you in danger.

What can I do to stop myself from being sold a Cat A used car?

Under no circumstances should you knowingly buy a Cat A car, as they’ll be illegal to sell and need to be crushed. Despite this, there is a chance that some dealerships out there and private sellers are offering Cat A cars to try to scam people.

Thankfully, there are a few things that you can do to help minimise your chances of being sold a Cat A car without you knowing. 

The first thing you should do is to find out as much about the car’s history as you can. You can do this by either speaking to the seller and asking this question directly or by looking at the logbook or other documentation that the car has. It’s illegal for dealers to withhold any information about a vehicle, so if you’re buying from a legitimate seller, you should get all the information you request. 

However, if the seller is keeping things from you or doesn’t know much about the car’s history, it may be sensible to walk away from the deal, as they could be keeping things from you for a reason. If they admit that the car is a write-off, but don’t give you the specific category, then it likely means that it’s a Cat A or Cat B car, which both are not allowed to be sold. 

If you have further suspicions, it’s also a good idea to get an independent check done on the vehicle. You can get this done by the AA or the RAC, and they’ll provide an engineer who can review the car and determine if there are any issues and if it needs repairs. A mechanic can determine if a part has been damaged beyond repair, indicating that it’s a Cat A car. You should do this if you’re buying any type of used car, as it can give you peace of mind that the car is in good condition before you purchase it.

Finally, one of the best ways to ensure that you never unwillingly buy a Cat A car is to buy off trusted websites and dealerships. Those with good reviews and that appear legitimate businesses will do what they can to avoid Cat A cars, so they don’t get in trouble. 

It’s good practice to avoid solo sellers listing cars on Facebook Marketplace or locally, especially if they’re not offering much information about the car. 

Cat A Used Cars FAQs

Even if you're the owner of a Cat A car, you're not allowed to keep the wreckage. This is because it's illegal to sell or even use any of the car's parts and must be destroyed to prevent any criminal activity. 

There is no benefit in keeping a wrecked car, as you won't be able to sell any of the parts or repair it so that you can drive it again. It's best to hand it over to the authorities and to have it crushed.

When your car is written off, that doesn't mean your insurance policy is over. Even if you don't get a replacement car, you will still need to make your monthly repayments for the duration of your policy. 

This is even the case if you've paid for your insurance in full when you first took out the policy. You won't be entitled to any money back. This means that you could end up paying for a car you can no longer drive.

Insurance companies don't want to write off every car that's been in an accident because that involves a lot of admin and can also be expensive. 

The truth is that many insurance companies will have strict criteria to determine if a car is indeed eligible to be written off. They will first evaluate the current value of the car and see how it compares against the cost of getting it repaired. If it's over half of the car's total value, then they'll likely write it off, as they'll consider it too expensive. 

Insurance companies will also have to consider the costs of giving you a hire car and other additional extras. If they deem repairing the car too economically challenging, they'll write it off. 

When written off, you'll receive the car's current market value so you can purchase a new model. Be aware that you're unlikely to get an amount matching the car's value when you first bought it. Instead, you should expect to get a little less as the car's value depreciates over time. 

No, buying a car advertised as Cat A is a terrible idea, and you should walk away from any seller offering you a car that's been given this classification. 

This is because this car has been deemed irreparable, meaning that it's very likely that the car will have a fault or major issue with it. In addition, it's illegal to sell Cat A cars, meaning that if you come across one and buy one, you'll be engaging in criminal activity. 

Even if someone is selling a Cat A car for parts, this is still illegal and unsafe, as there could be major issues with those parts, which could jeopardise your car if you use them to replace any broken components in your current vehicle. 

Cat A cars should never be bought or sold; instead, they must be crushed and destroyed to prevent criminal activity. 

You need to factor many things into your decision-making process when deciding if you want to buy a written-off car. Although you cannot buy a Cat A to drive, you can still buy other types of written-off cars that have been given less severe categories. 

If you're looking for car parts, you can buy them off of a Cat B car, as although these can't be sold as a whole due to the level of damage they've sustained, you can use their parts, providing that they're in good condition. This can be a much cheaper way of getting parts, and buying Cat B cars via an auction is a great way for breakers to salvage parts and resell them to make a profit. 

Cat S and Cat N cars are allowed to be sold, and they could be a good option for you to buy if you're looking for a good deal on a new car. These cars are typically much cheaper than similar models that haven't been written off, and if you can get assurances that the repairs made to them were good quality, then there's no reason you shouldn't buy a written-off car. 

Just remember that there's always risk involved, as the repairs could have been poor quality, and you may be getting sold a car that isn't what the seller tells you. You can learn more about buying Cat S and Cat N used cars here on Car Adviser.

We use cookies to personalise content and ads, to provide social media features and to analyse our traffic. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners.
Cookies settings
I agree
Privacy & Cookie policy
Privacy & Cookies policy
Cookie name Active

Privacy Policy

What information do we collect?

We collect information from you when you register on our site or place an order. When ordering or registering on our site, as appropriate, you may be asked to enter your: name, e-mail address or mailing address.

What do we use your information for?

Any of the information we collect from you may be used in one of the following ways: To personalize your experience (your information helps us to better respond to your individual needs) To improve our website (we continually strive to improve our website offerings based on the information and feedback we receive from you) To improve customer service (your information helps us to more effectively respond to your customer service requests and support needs) To process transactions Your information, whether public or private, will not be sold, exchanged, transferred, or given to any other company for any reason whatsoever, without your consent, other than for the express purpose of delivering the purchased product or service requested. To administer a contest, promotion, survey or other site feature To send periodic emails The email address you provide for order processing, will only be used to send you information and updates pertaining to your order.

How do we protect your information?

We implement a variety of security measures to maintain the safety of your personal information when you place an order or enter, submit, or access your personal information. We offer the use of a secure server. All supplied sensitive/credit information is transmitted via Secure Socket Layer (SSL) technology and then encrypted into our Payment gateway providers database only to be accessible by those authorized with special access rights to such systems, and are required to?keep the information confidential. After a transaction, your private information (credit cards, social security numbers, financials, etc.) will not be kept on file for more than 60 days.

Do we use cookies?

Yes (Cookies are small files that a site or its service provider transfers to your computers hard drive through your Web browser (if you allow) that enables the sites or service providers systems to recognize your browser and capture and remember certain information We use cookies to help us remember and process the items in your shopping cart, understand and save your preferences for future visits, keep track of advertisements and compile aggregate data about site traffic and site interaction so that we can offer better site experiences and tools in the future. We may contract with third-party service providers to assist us in better understanding our site visitors. These service providers are not permitted to use the information collected on our behalf except to help us conduct and improve our business. If you prefer, you can choose to have your computer warn you each time a cookie is being sent, or you can choose to turn off all cookies via your browser settings. Like most websites, if you turn your cookies off, some of our services may not function properly. However, you can still place orders by contacting customer service. Visit Google's Privacy & Terms site to learn more: Google Analytics We use Google Analytics on our sites for anonymous reporting of site usage and for advertising on the site. If you would like to opt-out of Google Analytics monitoring your behaviour on our sites please use this link (

Do we disclose any information to outside parties?

We do not sell, trade, or otherwise transfer to outside parties your personally identifiable information. This does not include trusted third parties who assist us in operating our website, conducting our business, or servicing you, so long as those parties agree to keep this information confidential. We may also release your information when we believe release is appropriate to comply with the law, enforce our site policies, or protect ours or others rights, property, or safety. However, non-personally identifiable visitor information may be provided to other parties for marketing, advertising, or other uses.


The minimum information we need to register you is your name, email address and a password. We will ask you more questions for different services, including sales promotions. Unless we say otherwise, you have to answer all the registration questions. We may also ask some other, voluntary questions during registration for certain services (for example, professional networks) so we can gain a clearer understanding of who you are. This also allows us to personalise services for you. To assist us in our marketing, in addition to the data that you provide to us if you register, we may also obtain data from trusted third parties to help us understand what you might be interested in. This ‘profiling’ information is produced from a variety of sources, including publicly available data (such as the electoral roll) or from sources such as surveys and polls where you have given your permission for your data to be shared. You can choose not to have such data shared with the Guardian from these sources by logging into your account and changing the settings in the privacy section. After you have registered, and with your permission, we may send you emails we think may interest you. Newsletters may be personalised based on what you have been reading on At any time you can decide not to receive these emails and will be able to ‘unsubscribe’. Logging in using social networking credentials If you log-in to our sites using a Facebook log-in, you are granting permission to Facebook to share your user details with us. This will include your name, email address, date of birth and location which will then be used to form a Guardian identity. You can also use your picture from Facebook as part of your profile. This will also allow us and Facebook to share your, networks, user ID and any other information you choose to share according to your Facebook account settings. If you remove the Guardian app from your Facebook settings, we will no longer have access to this information. If you log-in to our sites using a Google log-in, you grant permission to Google to share your user details with us. This will include your name, email address, date of birth, sex and location which we will then use to form a Guardian identity. You may use your picture from Google as part of your profile. This also allows us to share your networks, user ID and any other information you choose to share according to your Google account settings. If you remove the Guardian from your Google settings, we will no longer have access to this information. If you log-in to our sites using a twitter log-in, we receive your avatar (the small picture that appears next to your tweets) and twitter username.

Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act Compliance

We are in compliance with the requirements of COPPA (Childrens Online Privacy Protection Act), we do not collect any information from anyone under 13 years of age. Our website, products and services are all directed to people who are at least 13 years old or older.

Updating your personal information

We offer a ‘My details’ page (also known as Dashboard), where you can update your personal information at any time, and change your marketing preferences. You can get to this page from most pages on the site – simply click on the ‘My details’ link at the top of the screen when you are signed in.

Online Privacy Policy Only

This online privacy policy applies only to information collected through our website and not to information collected offline.

Your Consent

By using our site, you consent to our privacy policy.

Changes to our Privacy Policy

If we decide to change our privacy policy, we will post those changes on this page.
Save settings
Cookies settings