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Buying a write-off car

Published 21 May 2016 by

When you’re in the market for a new car, whether you opt for a new or used one will depend on what you can afford to spend. If your budget will only stretch as far as a used car, you could save even further by considering a write-off.

A write-off can be good value depending on its history and the repairs it’s had done. To give you a better understanding of write-off cars, we’re going to take you through what to look out for and the risks involved.

What is a write-off?

Before we do that, let’s first make sure you know what a write-off is. A write-off car is one that’s been damaged to the point where an insurance company has decided that it’s not worth spending the money to repair it.

All write-off cars are categorised based on the extent of the damage. The categories are part of a code of practice signed by various organisations including insurance companies, salvage and repair agencies and the police.

A write-off can fall into one of four categories: A, B, C or D.


The worst write-offs fall into category A. These cars are not allowed back on the road and can only be used for scrap. A good example of a category A car would be one that’s been burnt out in a fire.

Category B cars are not allowed back on the road either but can be broken up for spare parts. Cars that fit into category C and D are roadworthy as long as the necessary repairs are carried out. If you’re looking to purchase a write-off it should only ever be a category C or D.

The cost of repairs for a category C car could be more than the value of the car before its accident. Category D cars usually cost less to repair than the car’s value – this is because they’re the least damaged.

Based on this, category D cars can be the most appealing to buy when on a budget.

To consider

When considering buying a write-off car, you should try to get as much information out of the seller as possible. Ask questions about the damage sustained and the type of work the car has had.

If you want to check if a car is a write-off, you can conduct a history check. This will tell you information such as if the car is stolen, a write-off or has any outstanding finance left on it. You can do this with such companies as Total Car Check and HPI.

To check that the car has been repaired correctly and safely, you could organise an independent inspection. Companies like RAC and the AA offer these services. However, prices can vary so make sure you compare prices beforehand.

Happy to proceed with the sale? Bear in mind that some buyers can be completely put off by a category C or D car so it might take you longer to sell this car in the future.