What is Cat D damage?
There are 4 levels of insurance write-off when it comes to cars; Category D was one of them.
Up until October of 2017, the 4 write-off categories have been ranked from A to D.
So, what is Cat D in the new system?
Category N is the new name for all Category D insurance write-offs.
The new system ranks the categories in order of severity as Category A, B, S and N.
More commonly abbreviated to Cat D (now Cat N) these are the cars that have been written off by insurers with the least amount of damage. With appropriate repairs, they can be legally driven again and will often offer years more happy driving.
What is Cat D damage typically associated with?
Cat D’s new label of Category N stands for ‘Non-structurally damaged repairable’.
The damage is very often superficial, as you’d expect from anything non-structural. This can include dents, scratches, broken windows, electric wing mirrors, and much more besides.
The reason these repairable vehicles become insurance write-offs is that the repair cost exceeds the considered value of the car. In many cases, the cost of the repairs is less than half the value of the car and yet, is still written off.
The Association of British Insurers (ABI)
The ABI has this to say about what is a Cat D on a car:
“Repairable total loss vehicles where repair costs, including VAT do not exceed the vehicle’s pre-accident value.”
With any low-value car, it wouldn’t take much given today’s repair prices to exceed the car’s worth. It’s not that the car has suffered damage to the point that it’s not worth repairing, only that for the insurers, it would be more expensive to fix than to write off and pay the suggested book price.
What does Cat D mean to car buyers?
A Category D (Category N) car can be repaired and be legally safe to drive. This offers car enthusiasts, mechanics and garages alike, an excellent opportunity to acquire written-off vehicles for a fraction of their real value.
Category D project cars
Given that you can acquire a Cat D (N) vehicle for less than it’s worth, it’s great news for project car enthusiasts. They can easily buy a suitable car for much less than its usual market price. With a little work and some simple repairs, they’ll have a car they wouldn’t usually have been able to buy for their total spend.
A word of warning to Cat D car buyers
What does the Cat D mean on a car that you’re considering buying? Make sure you find out all of the details, as you could be getting a much worse deal than you’re expecting. A Cat D is not always cheap or straightforward to repair.
Repairing a Cat D (or Cat N) write-off
When an insurer decides to write off a vehicle as a Category D case, they aren’t required to alert the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) or the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA).
This dictates that the car isn’t required to go through a Vehicle Information Check, and can be back on the road with minimal effort.
How do Cat D (N) cars end up back on the market?
When a car is written off, the payment the insurance company makes to the owner acts as the purchase of the vehicle. What’s a Cat D car got that an insurance company needs? Not much, all things considered.
Insurers don’t need the added hassles of disposing of written-off vehicles, so they utilise the simplest ways of getting rid of them—hopefully with some financial return to help cover their costs.
They do this by selling them to scrap merchants, garages, breakers yards or other appropriate motor factors.
Then, those businesses look for the ways they can make a profit from their acquisition. In many cases, where the repairs are simple, or the vehicle damage is slight, the cars are fixed (or not) and introduced back into the motoring marketplace.
What does Cat D mean in car sales?
When you see a car labelled as Cat D or Cat N in the classifieds, or on a dealer’s website, it means that the vehicle for sale is either in need of a few necessary repairs or has been acquired as a write-off and has had the required repairs already carried out.
It’s vital to check the documentation in write-off cases. Given Cat D damage is considered minor, it shouldn’t necessarily impact the structural quality of the vehicle. However, that doesn’t mean the car will be good to go with minimum effort. Some of the work required to make these cars roadworthy can be extensive and expensive. Do your homework. Make sure you’re not buying into more problems than its worth.
If a dealer or seller seems unclear about the details, doesn’t have the correct paperwork, or tries to avoid the topic altogether, you should ask yourself why.
They should have all the documents outlining the precise damage and the reasons for the write-off to apply. They should also have documentation for any repairs that have subsequently been carried out.
Be safe—not sorry. It’s always worth having the car checked out by a mechanic or a professional who can make an accurate decision about its health and true value.
The new write-off categories in a nutshell
What is Category A?
Scrap. Category A is the most severe insurance write-off. Category A cars are declared unrepairable by the insurer. Nobody should drive these cars under any circumstance. The damage is so severe that it cannot be sold off as individual parts.
What is Category B?
Break. Category B write-offs are also severely damaged vehicles that are never to be driven again. The body shell is banned from further use, but other parts, including the engine and mechanical components, can be sold on individually.
What is Category S? (Previously Category C)
Structurally damaged repairable. Examples of this type of breakage include twisted chassis, collapsed crumple zones and damaged bumpers. A Category S car is repairable for further road use. Unfortunately, the repairs to such structural damages are often expensive and are rarely worth undertaking.
What is Category N? (Previously Category D)
Non-structurally damaged repairable. As outlined, the types of damage included can relate to cosmetic, minor or electrical damage. They can also, however, cover damage to essential parts of the vehicle’s operation including the steering, brakes or engine.
A Category N isn’t always a simple and straightforward cheap repair. Category N damage can also include expensive and problematic breakages, so be sure you understand precisely what has happened and why.