Write Off Categories Explained
The term “write-off” sounds alarm bells for most people but while many write-off vehicles are only suitable for scrappage, many others can be repaired and safely driven on the road again.
What is a write-off?
A write-off is a vehicle that’s either sustained so much damage that it’s unsafe to go back on the road or damaged to an extent that the cost of repairs is more than the vehicle is worth.
When an insured vehicle is damaged through a collision, fire or theft, an insurance engineer assesses the condition of the vehicle as part of the insurance claim. Vehicles that are deemed written-off will fall into one of the following write-off categories:
A vehicle which is damaged to such an extent that it is not legally allowed to be driven on the road and is only suitable for scrappage. Furthermore, no parts of the vehicle can be recovered for reuse in another vehicle. Examples of Category A write-offs include vehicles that have sustained extensive fire damage or irreparable water damage.
A vehicle which is structurally unsafe and uneconomical to repair. While the vehicle is not legally allowed to be driven on public roads, salvageable parts of the vehicle can be recovered for use in another vehicle. Examples of Category B write-offs include vehicles that have sustained partial fire damage, repairable water damage or structural damage.
A vehicle which is capable of being repaired but the repair cost exceeds the pre-accident vehicle value. This category is referred to as category S in the UK. Examples of Category C write-offs include vehicles involved in minor to moderate collisions and vehicles with minor water or fire damage.
A vehicle which is structurally safe with superficial damage. However, the vehicle is deemed a write-off as the cost of repair exceeds the pre-accident vehicle value. This category is referred to as category N in the UK. Examples of Category D write-offs include vehicles with cosmetic damage such as dents and scrapes.
Does a vehicle history check include write-off status?
In Ireland, a history check will show whether a vehicle is a Category A or B write-off. As there is no official record of Category C or D write-offs maintained in Ireland, Category C or D write-off status is not included in any Irish history check report.
For UK imported vehicles, a UK vehicle history report will identify whether a vehicle has been categorised as A, B, C or D.
What does each write-off category mean for me?
Category A and B vehicles, also referred to as End of Life vehicles, must be reported to the Department of Transport and should be disposed of in an ATF (authorised treatment facility). Category A and B write-off vehicles are deemed unroadworthy and should not be purchased for use on public roads.
While it is legal to sell Category C and D write-off vehicles, in Ireland there are no mandatory checks to ensure a vehicle is roadworthy after being classed as a write-off. For peace of mind, we recommend the vehicle is checked by a certified mechanic before purchase.
If you do decide to purchase a Category C or D write-off vehicle, the fact that the car is a repaired write-off must be declared to your insurance provider – failure to do so can affect your insurance contract. In addition, some insurance providers will require an independent motor assessor’s report deeming the vehicle roadworthy before covering the vehicle.
As always when purchasing a used vehicle, if you feel in any way unsure about your purchase don’t be afraid to walk away.
Outstanding Vehicle Finance: What You Need To Know
While it’s not unusual for a vehicle to have outstanding finance, we recommend that you only purchase a vehicle once the outstanding finance is cleared.
It’s important that you are aware of a vehicle’s finance status before making a purchase. In the case where a vehicle has outstanding finance and the person responsible for the debt defaults on their loan after you’ve bought the vehicle, the finance provider can seek to repossess it from you.
Although you can’t inherit the loan of the debtor, you would risk being at the total loss of the money paid for the vehicle.
Dealerships will generally not sell vehicles without first settling any outstanding finance owed, but this cannot be guaranteed in all cases. For this reason whether you are buying from a private seller or a dealership, it’s important to check a vehicle’s finance status.
If your Finance Report confirms that the vehicle is still subject to a finance agreement, we recommend that the seller settles the finance in full before you agree to purchase the vehicle. In some cases the seller may try to sell the car in order to pay the outstanding finance but it is important to note here that until the debt is settled, the ownership of the vehicle remains with the finance provider and is not transferred to you. Unless you know and trust the seller, it’s a risky process to agree to buy a vehicle with finance outstanding.
We would also recommend that you ask the seller for written confirmation from the finance provider once the debt is settled. Due to data protection, the finance provider will only provide this information to the seller. Once you confirm the finance has been cleared, you can purchase the vehicle outright or enter into your own finance agreement.
Our final piece of advice when considering buying a car with outstanding finance is that if you’re not happy with the arrangement or feel in any way unsure about your purchase, don’t be afraid to walk away.
Check list for car buyers
Does the name and address of the seller match the details on the VRC? Yes/No
When viewing, is the car located at the address on the VRC? Yes/No
Do the VRC details match the vehicle’s physical description? Yes/No
Does the VIN on the vehicle match the VRC details? Yes/No
Does the registration number on the vehicle correspond to details on the tax/insurance/NCT discs? Yes/No
Is the seller going to register the change of ownership? Yes/No
Research before you buy
Look online at makes and models you like that will suit your needs.
Talk to family and friends about the make of car you want. They may own something similar.
There is a greater risk of problems, breakdowns, or wear and tear with a used car.
All cars over four years old must undergo their first NCT. It’s the law.
Your consumer rights are stronger if you buy a used car from a trader or dealer than from a private seller or at an auction.
Buying from a dealer
When you buy from a dealer you are protected by the 1980 Sale of Goods and Supply of Services Act. You have the same consumer rights whether you’re buying brand new or second hand.
If you find a fault with the car after you buy it the dealer is responsible for repairs.
There is no regulation of motor dealers or garages in Ireland, but the Society of the Irish Motor Industry (SIMI) represents motor dealers throughout the country.
Members of SIMI have a set of ethical standards when dealing with customers.
SIMI members display their logo at their premises.
SIMI runs a free Consumer Complaints Service.
Visit the auction house. See how the process works. You can’t test drive a car that is about to be auctioned.
You will generally not get a guarantee or warranty like you would from a dealer (unless the manufacturer warranty period is still valid).
You should at least have the right to reject a car if you find a major fault within a short period after the sale.
Bidding at auction means you comply with the auctioneer’s terms and conditions. Find out what they are.
Be diligent and vigilant. Check the car over.
Private seller or rogue trader?
Some unscrupulous traders use classified ads to sell cars – often ‘problem cars’. They know you have no redress or comeback by private sale.
Catch these rogue traders out by asking them about ‘the car for sale’.
If they have to ask which car you’re talking about, then chances are they are traders.
Private seller obligations
It is illegal to sell a car which is not roadworthy.
Private sellers must give accurate and truthful answers to any questions asked of them.
A private seller does not have to provide information that is not requested.
See if the car’s registration number is on the picture in the ad. If you can’t see it, ask the seller for it.
The motortax.ie website has a service that can show you if the car has changed hands in the last three months.
There may be a genuine reason for owning a car for such a short period of time, but there’s also a chance that the car has faults.
Do a car history check, using an online service such as mywheels.ie.
You can do a free check that gives you a basic description of the car, or pay for a complete check.
Car history checks can tell if the car’s registration number matches the chassis number, or if there’s outstanding finance on it.
Check with the Hire Purchase Register (Tel: 01 2600905) that the car is not under a Hire Purchase agreement.
If there is outstanding finance on a car, it could be repossessed by the lending company.
You can also ask the Gardaí to carry out a Stolen Car check.
Car history checks can also indicate if a car has been crashed or written-off, is taxed, has a valid NCT, or has been used as a taxi.
Private sellers often describe their cars poorly. Think about what you need to know.
Ask the questions that will tell you everything you need to know about the car.
Ask the seller
Is he/she the registered owner of the car?
Is his/her name on the vehicle registration document? If not, why not?
For details such as the number of previous owners, mileage, reasons for selling, if it’s insured/taxed/and NCT certified.
For a documented service history.
Always do your own car history check before viewing the vehicle.
If what the seller tells you is different from the car history check, be wary.
Never hand over any money before doing a background check.