When a car is damaged in a crash or collision, there’s a chance it’ll be written off by the insurance company with which the owner holds a policy. When this happens, the owner usually gets a new car, and the damaged car is taken off them. A car is written off when the value of fixing it is more than half of the car’s total value.
What’s done with that car will depend on the damage category that it’s been given. In the UK, there are four categories that a written-off car can be given: Cat A, Cat B, Cat S, and Cat N.
Think of these categories as the severity of the damages. A Cat A car is in a much worse state of disrepair than a Cat N. These classifications then give potential buyers and mechanics more information about a car’s history, allowing them to make better decisions about it.
A Cat B car is one of the most common types of written-off vehicles, and it’s important that you understand what it means and what you can and can’t do with these vehicles, both for safety and legal reasons.
Here’s a quick overview of this type of insurance write-off category so that you can better understand how to navigate around this type of written-off vehicle when looking for either used cars or car parts. If you want to find out more about buying use cars, there are plenty of guides on Car Adviser.
A Cat B car is one that an insurance company has written off because it’s sustained too much damage for it to be economically sensible for it to be repaired. There are a few reasons why this may be the case, but the main reason will be because the car is old and may not be that valuable in the first place.
When a car is given a Cat B classification, it has been damaged beyond repair. This means the vehicle is not allowed to be driven again, even if it is repaired, because it’s deemed too dangerous. This is very similar to a Cat A classification. The critical difference is that some of the parts within a Cat B can be sold off and reused, such as the engine and the gearbox.
That said, the body shell needs to be destroyed and can’t be reused in any way.
This means that buying a Cat B used car with the intention of driving it isn’t legal, and you’ll struggle to find a car that’s been given this classification available from a dealership. You should avoid any car being sold under this classification, and you should also be wary of any dealer refusing to give you any information about the history of their used cars if you’re a regular consumer.
It’s the law for dealerships to give you documentation that details the history of a used car. This means that if you’re unable to find a vehicle’s history, you should do the sensible thing and walk away from the deal, as you may be getting sold something that’s not allowed.
With that said, you can buy cars that have been repaired with parts from a Cat B car. However, it needs to be clear in the car’s history log that a repair has been made and that the new component has come from a Cat B write-off.
If you’re the owner of a Cat B car, you will be given a certificate of destruction once the car’s shell has been stripped and crushed to prove that the car does not exist.
For people who know more about cars, or those who are mechanics or run a business supplying parts for cars, you can buy Cat B cars to dismantle. If you have the required knowledge, buying a used Cat B car can be profitable, as you can make some decent money on the value of the parts, not to mention the scrap value of the car’s shell as well.
There are a lot of different parts of a Cat B car that can be salvaged and used as replacement or spare parts for other cars and vehicles. Almost anything can be taken off the car and reused or sold, as long as it’s in good condition and not considered a structural component of the vehicle.
When salvaging parts from a Cat B car, do pay close attention to the condition of the part, as this can determine its value and how easy it will be to sell. You should also ensure that you fully understand how to remove the components properly, as doing things wrong can cause damage and impact your potential profit. Removing a tyre is easy and may not require much mechanical knowledge; however, a professional should handle big items like an engine.
Some of the most common parts that you can salvage off a Cat B car and reuse or sell include:
There are many great reasons why you should consider buying a Cat B car at an auction, as it can be a great investment, particularly if you’re well-skilled with repairs. With that said, there are also a few counterpoints that you need to consider to make sure that it’s a viable option for you.
Here are a couple of pros and cons:
Perhaps one of the most alluring aspects of buying parts from a Cat B used car is that you can get a fair amount of cash from it if you decide to re-sell the items. You’ll likely earn more through selling each individual part than you would if you were allowed to sell the entire car as a whole.
This is what has led to vehicle breaking being such a lucrative activity for mechanics. Plus, if you’re not looking to sell the items and are instead trying to gather parts to make your own repairs, buying them from a Cat B used car auction can save you a lot more money than buying them individually.
Another great benefit of buying and salvaging parts from a Cat B car is that it’s really good for the environment. It encourages a reuse mentality within the automotive industry, reducing the waste left behind. Salvaing and selling parts also reduce the demand for newly manufactured parts, saving energy, raw materials, and more.
Environmental factors may not drive people to buy Cat B used cars, but it’s definitely a nice bonus.
Finally, getting a lot of different parts from a single Cat B car is very time-efficient and can stop you from wasting time having to search the internet for various pieces of equipment.
From just a single Cat B car, you can get everything you need to fully repair another vehicle, making them seriously useful for mechanics or hobbyists.
Although getting the parts from Cat B car can provide great profits, one of the biggest issues is that you’re going to need a lot of specialist skills to succeed. If you’re not a mechanic or don’t have the appropriate knowledge or skills to remove parts from a Cat B car properly, you risk damaging components that can harm your profit.
Plus, if you don’t have much experience with cars, you may not also know the signs that determine if a part is worth salvaging or not. For example, you could waste a lot of time and money removing an engine, only to be informed later when trying to sell it that there’s an issue that you didn’t have the skills or know-how to identify.
You can, of course, employ a mechanic to look over the car and help you with your salvage, but the cost of this will eat into any profits you can make.
Plus, there’s still risk involved in buying Cat B cars, especially if you don’t know the nature of the accident that caused it to get this classification. For example, if a car was rear-ended, parts at the front of the car such as the windshield and steering are likely to be okay and salvageable. However, if the car was flood damaged, then it’s likely that more parts were affected, meaning that you can’t salvage as many items. Not knowing the extent of the damages makes buying Cat B cars risky, especially if you haven’t got any guaranteed buyers for the parts you’ve salvaged.
Most of the time, the general public won't have a reason to buy a Cat B car, as they'll instead be after a car that's legal to drive. Most often, the people buying Cat B cars are vehicle breakers. These are individuals with the skills and expertise that know how to take these cars apart to sell some of their parts. This mainly includes mechanics, but people looking to earn a second income can also build a profit by buying, breaking, and then scrapping Cat B used cars.
You're not allowed to repair a Cat B car with the intention of driving it. This is because the chassis and body of the car need to be crushed by law. This is the case even if you want to drive the vehicle on private land or a race track.
You can remove all the working parts from a Cat B car that isn't part of the structural body and then use those parts to repair another vehicle. This is typically why Cat B cars are bought in the first place so that their working components can be salvaged and reused.
Cat B used cars can not be sold as whole vehicles. Instead, the car's chassis and frame must be removed and destroyed by law.
However, once this has occurred, you can sell the rest of the car, which can be a great way to make a profit, especially if you can remove and sell some valuable parts like the engine and the catalytic converter.
You should never come across a working and fully functional Cat B car. Instead, you may be able to buy all the parts that came out of a single vehicle as a lot or buy a Cat N or Cat S car that has been repaired with Cat B parts.
If you do find a Cat B car that's being sold with the intention for it to be driven, then you should report it to the police immediately.
No, getting a Cat B car insured by any provider is impossible. This is because these types of cars are illegal to drive. Even if you had a written-off car that was one of the legal categories, you might find it a lot harder to get insured anyway.
If you did find someone to insure it, you'll also likely have to pay more than usual as the car will be at greater risk of breaking down and needing frequent repairs.