What does cat D and cat C mean when buying a car


Pro Tuner
Staff member
2002 Clio 172
I'm seeing some car for sale ads for cars which seem pretty cheap but they are listed as Cat D and Cat C.

From what I can make out this means the car has been written off by an insurance company.

What is the difference between a category C and category D car?

Is it worth buying a car that has been written off?

How much should the value decrease by to make it viable?

Why don't you see Cat A and B cars for sale, can you buy these?
A= most serious damage to D least serious. Often paint stripper damage to panels will render a car uneconomical to repair but the car is still solid and you could get a cheap respray done so would be a Cat D.

For most accident damage where the structure of the vehicle needs repairing you'd get a Cat C listing on V-Car.

Cat A you will never see as its straight to the crushers
Cat B is parts only will never go back on the road
Cat C has to have a vic check from vosa and a new mot
Cat D just needs a new mot
If you were thinking of buying one ask to see the engineers report. Panel damage is fine but personally I'd steer clear of anything that's needed major suspension or chassis work. It's been my experience that it's never as good as it was.

I had a company car once that was involved in a side swipe that bent the front suspension. It was fully repaired by the main dealer and to drive felt just as it always had, didnt pull on braking, didn't have drift to one side or anything like that. But from then on it would warp the front discs every 10k. I ended up having to get the car swapped after 3 times of having to take it in for new discs.

I'd avoid anything that's had fire damage too.
From a person who works in car insurance (ie me):
Cat D means the cost of the repair was getting close to the value of the car, exceeding 66% but less than 100% of the value. Once all claim costs are added it is invariably cheaper to write it off. Cat D's will mostly be fine, but as noted above always ask to see the engineer's report.

Cat C meant the cost exceeded the value but it could still be repaired and safe to use. To get these back on the road a VIC test was needed, but not anymore (since Oct 2015). Generally if these are back on the road it means someone really loved that car and was prepared to pay more than it was worth to keep it going (have seen on rare occasions) or, much more likely, the parts used were not OE, maybe second hand, and the mechanics may not have charged so much (or maybe done by an amatuer). Either way I would want to see the engineer's report and ALL the paperwork related to the subsequent repair. Mostly I would never consider a Cat C, which is why they are cheap.

Cat B - that car was stripped of all usable parts and the chassis scrapped. You shouldn't see one of these for sale to the general public as the scrap is sold by auction by scrap yards like Co-Part.

Cat A - car is crushed completely. Nothing from this car will be used again. This will happen in extreme accidents, anytime a car is contaminated by biological material (ie blood), or it was burnt.
Thanks @Lunchmoney for the clarification. I've had a cat c car from a specialist garage and felt reassured but I always felt there was something not quite right and 3 years down the road it did indeed spin me off the road for no apparent reason. Personally I won't risk it again
From a person who works in car insurance (ie me):
Several things have changed. The ABI (Association of British Insurers) have spent the last couple of years reviewing the total loss salvage categories. This is in response to newer cars being more complex and harder for damaged vehicles to be safely repaired. The new categories have a greater focus on the condition of the vehicle rather than the repair costs.

From 1st Oct 2017 the following codes will be used instead (note this is UK based, I've no idea how it works in other countries):
Category A & B - No changes, see my above run down.

Category S (Structural) - The vehicle has sustained damage to any part of the structural frame or chassis which requires realignment to its original dimensions or replacement of these parts. Other costs associated with the repair would also significantly exceed the value of the vehicle. A minor, localised repair on a panel that been identified as structural would necessarily be considered realignment of a structural panel. The vehicle can return to the road if repaired.

Category N (Non Structural) - The vehicle has not sustained damage to the structural frame or chassis. While the damage to the vehicle has been noted as non-structural, there may still be some safety critical items that require replacement (EG steering and suspension parts) and other costs associated with the repair exceed the value of the vehicle. The vehicle can return to the road if repaired.

Category S or N will not be determined by cost, both are uneconomical to repair, the category is in relation to the damage the vehicle has sustained.

That's the official announcement we received in my business.
From a general public point of view we would still only see the repairable cars back on the market (if not scrapped and stripped). It is still advisable to get the inspecting engineer's report (if possible) and all the paperwork regarding any subsequent repairs.
If I was buying a car that I wasn't keeping for long I wouldn't touch a cat c or d as they are hard to sell, but if I was going to keep it for many years I would.

Always see the report though. You can get cars that are written off from purely panel damage, they can be absolute bargains.

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