Cat N Cars Explained

When a car is written off because it sustained damage after a crash or breakdown, it’s given one out of four categories so that people know the type and extent of the damage that it’s had. 

When buying one of these cars after it’s been repaired, these categories can help consumers better understand a vehicle’s history and make more informed choices about the car to see if it’s right for them. 

Cat N is one major category a car can be given after it’s written off. This is because category N damage is one of the most common types a car gets, and this type of damage can also be compromising too. Cat N means “non-structurally damaged cars”.

Here’s a quick overview of this type of insurance write-off category to better understand the risks and benefits of buying second-hand and used cars with this classification. If you’re considering buying a used car, you can learn more about the process with Car Adviser.

In this guide

What is Cat N?

Cat N cars are used cars that have been written off in the past. When a car is written off, the insurance company with which the vehicle had a policy isn’t willing to pay for repairs. There are a few reasons why this can be the case, but the main one is that they consider the repair cost too expensive for what the car is worth. Instead of fixing it, they get rid of it and offer the driver a replacement. 

When a vehicle is written off, it’s given a category by the insurance company so that people know what damage it sustained in the past. This classification stays with the car for its entire lifetime, even if it’s been fully repaired since the damage occurred. Once given a category, the vehicle can then be auctioned or given away to dealers who specialised in previously damaged cars, mechanics who could choose to use the car for parts, or hobbyists who plan to fix the vehicle at home. 

Written-off cars are usually much cheaper to buy but can become expensive when you factor in the costs of repairs. 

When a car is given a Cat N, it has been seriously damaged. However, Cat N cars are unique, as this classification also indicates that no damage has occurred to the structural frame or chassis of the car. This means that Cat N are most suited for repairs and that there’s much less risk involved in buying a vehicle that has had Cat N damage in the past. 

Before October 2017, Cat N cars were instead called Cat D cars. This classification still meant the same thing, but the names were changed to better reflect the specifics of the damage that’s been done to the car. Another Category, called Cat S, was another classification changed from Cat C. 

Cat S cars are similar to Cat N cars, as they, too, have been severely damaged, with the key difference being that damage has been done to the structural frame and chassis of the car. Both Cat N and Cat S cars are suitable for repair. 

However, you may find that Cat N cars are a bit more expensive to buy because they were likely in better condition after they were damaged. You can find out more about Cat S cars here on Car Adviser. 

As a result of Cat N cars being written off, before these cars and vehicles are sold and returned to the road, they need to be re-registered by the DVLA, the governing body for motoring in the UK. You need to look out for this and ensure it has been done when buying a Cat N car, as you may get in trouble if you become the owner. 

It’s the law for dealerships to be as open about the car’s history as possible. They’re not allowed to conceal any information. If a used car has been written off and given a Cat N, you should know about it. To protect your investment and to help you get a good car, you should always seek out this information and paperwork so that you’re fully aware of the car’s history. If you feel that information is being kept from you when buying a used car, walk away from the deal. 

Although Cat N cars haven’t had any significant damage to the structure of the vehicle and are considered suitable for repair, it’s always wise to get a mechanic to inspect the quality of the repair before buying a Cat N used car. This is because the work done on a Cat N car to get it into driving condition doesn’t need to be inspected or approved by an independent body. Although most garages and mechanics are quality, there is a chance that the work done on a Cat N used car was sub-par, putting the driver at risk. 

Buying a Cat N car is done at your own risk, and you can never guarantee it’s been safely repaired until you get it checked. 

What are some typical Cat N damages?

As stated before, a Cat N used car’s damage will not be structural. This means that parts such as the chassis and frame of the car will be free of damage, and other areas of the car will need repairing. 

For most Cat N cars, the damage will be purely cosmetic, and none of the vehicle’s inner workings will have been harmed. This is the best-case scenario for buyers of Cat N used cars, as it’s likely safe to drive after it’s been repaired. 

Cosmetic damages include: 

  • Dents
  • Bent fender
  • Broken wing-mirrors
  • Heavy and deep scratches

However, just because the damage that a Cat N car isn’t structural doesn’t mean that it’s not a significant issue. A Cat N car could also be subject to tricky and complicated electrical issues, which can seriously harm a vehicle’s performance. These issues are much harder to fix because they’re not visible to the naked eye and will be much tougher to identify. 

Another major type of damage that a Cat N car could have received is damage to some major components that aren’t considered part of its structure. This includes things like: 

  • Damage to the brakes and brake pads, making them unresponsive
  • Issues with the steering wheel, making it tougher to control the vehicle
  • Problems with the engine, making it difficult for the car to start
  • Broken components within the suspension, making the car unstable

Because some of these issues can be complicated and seriously affect the performance and safety of the car, you need to ensure that these cars have been repaired safely and effectively. It can jeopardise your safety and cost you a lot of money by having to pay for repair after repair if things start failing and breaking regularly.

What are the pros and cons of buying a Cat N used car?

Buying a Cat N used car has both positives and negatives, and you’ll have to consider both to see if this option is right for you. 


The most significant advantage of buying a Cat N used car is that it can be cheaper than other types of cars. Many people find cars that have been written off to be undesirable due to their history. Many dealers struggle to sell them, making them have to sell them at super low prices. 

This means it’s possible to find a bargain Cat N vehicle, helping you get your hands on a great car for a fraction of the price. 

In addition, Cat N cars are typically the safest type of written-off used car to buy. This is because the damage that’s occurred isn’t structural, meaning there’s less risk for the car to break and become undrivable. In fact, the most common type of damage a Cat N car has sustained is cosmetic, meaning there was likely no damage to the car’s components in the first place. 

With that said, it’s always important to check the car’s history to see the specific damages that have occurred and what’s been done to fix them. 


Despite some good benefits, there are some major drawbacks that you’ll need to weigh up to ensure that a Cat N used car is right for you. 

The first issue is that, although the car itself can be cheap, additional costs can increase how much you pay for the car. The main one is insurance. Because the car has been damaged in the past and is thus more likely to break down in the future, many insurance companies will charge you a lot to get it insured. 

Cat N cars are deemed so risky that many insurance companies will refuse to offer a policy, meaning that these types of cars can be tough to get insurance for in general. 

You may also have to pay more for repairs when getting a Cat N car. Although it should have been fixed and repaired to a high standard, there’s still a chance that a Cat N car will have persistent issues that you’ll have to get repaired regularly once you own it. The cost of these repairs could start to add up, meaning that the car is more expensive in the long run. 

Finally, because the value of a Cat N used car is so low when you first buy it, it will be worth even less when you try and sell it in the future. It can be tough for you to get rid of it once it’s served its purpose, and you’re unlikely to get a return on your investment. 

There may appear to be many negatives about Cat N used cars. Although there are a lot of risks involved and potential extra expenses, as long as the total costs are less than buying a different type of car, it can still be a good option. Just ensure it’s been repaired well to ensure its quality to drive. 

Cat N Used Cars FAQs

One of the best things you can do to ensure that you're being cautious when buying a Cat N used car is to inspect the history of a Cat N car deeply. If you're not given a full account of its history, or if there's no documentation present, that information is likely being withheld from you, which is a bad sign. 

It's the law that dealerships need to be as open about a car as possible, meaning it's a lot safer to buy a Cat N used car from a dealership than an individual. 

If it's possible, another great thing to do to ensure that you're safe when buying a used car is to have it independently reviewed. Organisations like the AA or RAC can give you an unbiased report of a used car, letting you know if there are any lingering issues and if it's been repaired well in the past. This can give you better peace of mind and more information to help you decide if the car is the right option for you.

To skip this step entirely, you can also choose to buy from 'used and approved' dealers who have had their cars inspected. This may make the cars a bit more expensive, but it helps protect you and ensures that you can get a great quality Cat N used car. 

When a vehicle is damaged, an insurance provider usually pays to fix the car. However, sometimes the damages that a vehicle sustains are so bad that it will cost more to fix the car than the vehicle's worth. 

In this situation, many insurance providers write off the vehicle, meaning that it's replaced by another model instead of fixing it. 

After a car is written off, it's given one of the many categories that determine the type of damage and severity it receives, ranging from Cat A, B, S, or N. 

Not all written-off cars can be resold. Only Cat S and N cars can be repaired and resold. A Cat A or Cat B car needs to be scrapped and isn't deemed safe enough to be road worthy.

A Cat N used car is typically far cheaper than cars that haven't been involved in a collision or accident, so they can be very good value options for those looking to get a good deal.

There's potential to save thousands compared to getting the same model of car that hasn't needed repairs. Still, be aware that insurance and future maintenance can make the car more expensive in the long run. 

That's why it's vital to ensure that the car has been fully repaired to a good standard and to find an insurance company willing to provide cover for it.

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