If you’ve been involved in a car crash then you might be informed by your car insurance company that your vehicle is what’s known as a 'write-off'. This usually means the vehicle will be retained by the insurance firm, instead of being repaired, with the owner receiving a cash payout for the loss. But what exactly does the term 'write-off' actually mean? Well, it is industry jargon for a vehicle that’s beyond economical repair. An uneconomical repair is based on a repair-to-value ratio which can be different for each insurance company and car.
Your car insurance company should able to tell you this figure, but here’s an example: if your vehicle was worth £5,000 and your insurance company used a repair-to-value ratio of 60%, the vehicle would be considered beyond economical repair if the work needed exceeded £3,000.
Car insurance companies employ vehicle assessors to calculate the cost of repairs and make this judgment. They will inspect the overall condition of your vehicle and analyse the collision damage.
Why do cars get written off?
Car insurance companies work to strict guidelines. They have a duty to return a vehicle to the condition it was in before the accident. However, this can be expensive: especialy with motorcycle fairing etc and it dictates which workshops and parts might be used.
All this is factored into the calculations insurance assessors use, so costs can soon rise. This is why write-offs do not always have to be particularly serious. If a vehicle is new, a simple cosmetic scrape along one side can see it declared a write-off by the assessor: the expense of repairing and painting the panels can exceed the vehicle's actual value, even if there is no serious structural damage.
Car insurance write-off categories explained
Car insurance assessors use various categories of car insurance write-off to rank the seriousness of accident damage. Two categories represent very serious damage, but the remaining two categories are for 'economic write-offs' – where damage is expensive to fix but not necessarily dangerous.
Scrap only. For cars so badly damaged they should be crushed and never re-appear on the road. Even salvageable parts must be destroyed.
Body shell should be crushed. Signifies extensive damage, although some parts are salvageable. Should never re-appear on road, although reclaimed parts can be used in other road-going vehicles.
The vehicle is repairable but the costs exceed the vehicle’s value. Can re-appear on road. Read more.
The vehicle is repairable but repair costs are significant compared to the vehicle value – including time delays to source parts. Can re-appear on road.
What does an insurance company do with your write-off?
The ABI Salvage Code dictates that Category A and Category B cars should be crushed, with Cat B vehicles allowed to donate some safe and serviceable parts. However, write-offs in the latter two categories can be sold on by the insurance company, either to the original owner or to a third party via a car salvage company like GTS Motorcycles. At GTS we deal with mainly Cat D vehicles with minimal cosmetic damage such as cracked fairings etc. We occasionally sell on Cat C vehicles with minimal damage (Easy repairs)