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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.