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.
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.
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:
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:
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.
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.
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.