In the UK, a damaged car must legally be declared as such, and depending on the severity of the damage, the vehicle falls into a particular category. It is absolutely fine if you are still a little confused about the various classifications and categories, especially given that Category N had a different name until a few years ago
That’s why we are going to take a look at modern Cat N cars in the article below, what exactly these cars are, and whether they are worth buying. We’ll also provide you with our tips on how to make the most of Category N cars.
A Cat N car, short for Category N car, is a term used by car insurance companies to describe ‘non-structural’ damage to a vehicle. ‘Non-structural’ means that a car’s structural frame or chassis have not been damaged in an accident.
However, the insurance provider has decided that it is not worth fixing the car and that getting a new one would be less expensive. But it doesn’t mean that Cat N vehicles cannot be returned to the road. In fact, many insurers do have them repaired and sell such cars for salvage.
If you’re an experienced driver, you should remember that the category ‘N’ did not exist until Autumn 2007, when the ABI (Association of British Insurers) introduced new vehicle insurance write-off categories Cat N and Cat S, replacing Cat D and Cat C respectively, to focus more on the condition of the car than the cost.
A car is classified as a Cat S vehicle if it has suffered structural damage but still can be repaired. In order to drive a vehicle like this safely, one will need a professional repair.
When it comes to classic cars or models of special interest, the vehicle is usually allowed to be repaired regardless of the severity of damage – as long as it is safe to drive.
Basically, Category N has replaced Category D. But a vehicle that’s already been classified as Cat D will not be valued by a car insurance provider.
Just like the modern Cat N classification, the term ‘Cat D’ was used to describe a write-off car that didn’t have significant damage and could be repaired and restored. ‘Cat N’ was only introduced to emphasise that cars like that suffered non-structural damage.
Because insurers will not reassess a car that’s previously been classified as Cat D, an insurance write-off code stays with a vehicle for life. With that said, you will see a lot of Cat D cars for sale on the market for a long time.
Although a Cat N vehicle hasn’t suffered any serious damage, it will still need to be repaired. Even if the damage is too small to be seen, it doesn’t mean that it’s not going to affect the car’s viability one day. Such essential parts as the engine, steering, or brakes can become damaged if not fixed in time.
While a slightly damaged car may seem like a great deal, you ought to have it repaired correctly and safely. Keep in mind that the repair cost may exceed the price you initially paid for the Cat N vehicle.
When purchasing a Cat N car, you should make sure that its write-off code reflects in its history. Avoid buying damaged vehicles from sketchy sellers, as they may not inform you of the full extent of the damage or not tell you that the car is a write-off at all.
Whatever car you’re purchasing, it is recommended to run an HPI vehicle history check on the vehicle and check with the DVLA (Driver and Vehicle Licencing Agency) for more info.
As of today, there are four car insurance categories:
A Cat N car is a great deal for those who want to save money and get a vehicle that they wouldn’t be able to afford otherwise.
For inexperienced mechanics, purchasing a Category N vehicle might be a good way to practice their repair skills.
Even if you have a Cat N car completely fixed and repaired, its sale price will never be as high as it used to be due to the fact that its write-off code will be recorded in its history for the rest of time.
Such cars also come with very limited insurance options.
Strictly speaking, getting a Category N vehicle is a gamble. Without doing research, running its history check, and investing in repair, a car like this is just not worth it. So, if you’re planning on buying one, be prepared to keep investing your time and money in the vehicle.
It is legal to buy or sell Cat N cars as long as they are classified as such. If you’ve decided to sell your written-off vehicle, here is some information that might be helpful for you to sell the car quickly and for a higher price.
There are no specific groups of people willing to purchase Category N cars. Both private buyers and professional dealers might be interested in getting a slightly damaged vehicle to have it repaired and, possibly, resell later.
Obviously, a car that’s been written off is less expensive than a car that hasn’t, even though they might be of the exact same age, mileage, and condition. That’s why getting a Cat N car for resale may be a little tricky: no matter how much you invest in it, it still will cost around 20% to 40% less than normal. But if you’re not going to resell the car later, this might be an ideal option for you.
Be honest and open about your car and its condition. Do not try to hide any details. Whether you’ve repaired the vehicle in your garage or hired a professional mechanic to fix it for you, provide as many documents, details, receipts, and other info as you can.
When it comes to Cat N cars, insuring works a little differently. To avoid any frustration, we are going to discuss everything you need to know about insuring a Cat N vehicle.
There is no general rule, but yes, you might find out that a written-off vehicle is sometimes more expensive to insure than one that hasn’t had any damage so far.
In addition, some insurance companies will refuse to provide a car like that with coverage. Insurers rely on a special algorithm that takes into account you, your vehicle, your address, the type of driving you do, and many other details. If the numbers don’t look too good, the insurer will decide how likely it is that they will need to payout. Typically, a vehicle that’s been damaged and written off in the past is more likely to get into an accident, which lowers your chances of getting insurance for it.
But even if one has refused to provide insurance for your car, it doesn’t mean that the next company won’t either. Insurance providers use different algorithms, so try as many companies as you can – if your Cat N car is safe to drive, you certainly will find an insurer to cover all risks.
You definitely don’t want to have your Cat N vehicle insurance invalidated by not having declared your car correctly. So, if you want to avoid such risks, do insure your car. Even with the higher insurance costs for Cat N cars, you will still save money as such vehicles cost up to 40% less than non-written-off cars.
Sometimes Cat N vehicles are less expensive to insure compared to non-written-off cars. At the end of the day, it’s the overall value of the vehicle that matters.
It’s hard to find a Cat N vehicle worth more than the same model that’s never been written off. It means that you will enter a way lower estimated market value when comparing quotes. This market value will be used by an insurance company to pay you out in case an accident happens. Of course, the lower the market value is, the lower the compensation will be.
A car is not classed as Cat N until you contact an insurance company and declare your vehicle as such. The majority of the biggest online comparison sites will not ask you to declare a Cat N car, so it’s up to you to reach out to an insurer and check regarding your coverage.
Many insurance companies offer online car history checks, which may cost anywhere between £7 and £21. All you need is the registration number.
Finding out that you’ve purchased a written-off car recorded as Can-N will clearly upset you. You might discover that your vehicle isn’t completely covered by your car insurance provider if an accident occurs.
Additionally, you may find that payments are based on a way lower vehicle value than you thought. Now you see why it’s so important to invest in and run a car history check.
As we’ve already discussed, a Cat N car can be repaired just fine and put back on the road; otherwise, it would have gained another write-off code. However, it is up to the insurance providers to decide if repairing the vehicle is worthwhile economically, and they base their decision on having the work carried out by an authorised repair centre.
In the United Kingdom, your car policy provider should return your vehicle to the same condition it was before the accident, which means that, for instance, some parts might need to be officially replaced by the manufacturer themselves.
Nevertheless, you don’t have to have your car fixed at an authorised centre – there are many local mechanics that could carry the same standard of work in their garages for a much lower price. So even if your insurer has stated that a car is deemed not economical to fix, you can still have it repaired by a local maintenance and repair provider.
It depends on how damaged your car is, the manufacturer, whether you can do the work – or at least part of it – on your own, and other things. If some parts need to be replaced, it may add a high cost to your price, which is especially true for some particular manufacturers.
If you’re looking to purchase a Cat N car, do try to estimate how much you’ll have to invest in the car afterwards, and allow for the price to potentially creep up as you might find out there are more issues that need to be dealt with.
Again, decide what you need the car for. If it’s for your own needs, and you are willing to dedicate some time and money to your written-off vehicle, then why not? The most important thing is to check the car thoroughly before buying it.
If you are planning to resell the vehicle later, you may want to take several things into consideration – for instance, will you actually make money off that? If you find out that there’s not much to fix, and it’s not going to be too costly, sure, go ahead. But you can’t assess the amount of money you’ll need to invest in the car unless you ask a professional mechanic to evaluate the vehicle or are a mechanic yourself.
In short, people have had good and bad experiences with different vehicles and manufacturers. Carefully weigh all the risks before purchasing a damaged car, be realistic about it, and it’ll all work out.
Rest assured that declaring a Cat N car does not mean that it is no longer drivable. You might be surprised to know that you don’t even have to do anything to keep using the vehicle, as this category implies that the car has only suffered cosmetic damage.
So no, the DVLS does not require having a new MOT for a car that’s just been classified as Cat N.
Any write-off code received by a vehicle stays with it forever, so there is absolutely no way to remove a Cat N classification from a car’s history, at least within the bounds of UK law. This might seem unfair, but our yourself in the shoes of a buyer – you don’t want to risk your life getting a car that’s been written off without even knowing it.
Like any other type of car, Cat N vehicles have their benefits and drawbacks. Generally speaking, getting a Category N car might be a good idea, but it is essential to make sure that the car is 100% safe. Here are our tips on how to pick a written-off car.
It is better not to buy a car from a private seller unless you don’t know them well. When you get a vehicle from a dealer, you have more rights as a consumer. Besides, a dealer has to declare every single thing they know about the car, which a private seller doesn’t need to do.
Ask as many questions as you can. If you’re not experienced enough, search the net to find out what questions should be asked, like what damage the car suffered, if there are any pictures of the damage, what parts were replaced, etc. Although, the insurance company may not share the information as to how the vehicle became a write-off.
Investing in inspection services is absolutely essential if you want your car to be safe to drive. Hiring an inspector may cost around £150-250, but it’s well worth the money as they may find issues you never spotted.
When you’re purchasing a Cat N car, it’s not just the damage you need to be worried about. We recommend running a history check to make sure that the vehicle has not been stolen or doesn’t remain at large.
Hopefully, you do not fall for the offers that look too good to be true. As attractive as a low price might be, it means that the repair work was done to a budget, most likely, and doesn’t meet safety requirements.
Typically, bodywork damage is not too difficult or expensive to fix. However, if the chassis has been damaged, you will go through all the rigmarole of repairs and fixes until it’s been dealt with. Not to mention that a Cat N car does not imply any chassis damage.
Contact your car insurance provider to let them know that the car is Category N, as it may have to be marked on your policy.
Some used warranty suppliers will provide coverage for Cat N cars.
Let us answer the most popular questions on selling a car with outstanding finance.