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Everything You Need to Know About Car Write Offs

Having your car written off is one of the worst things to happen to a driver.

A write off, or total loss, means there’s little chance of getting the car fixed, as any repairs are likely to be disproportionately expensive compared to the value of the car, meaning it is unlikely to be driven on the road again. There are many reasons an insurance company might write off a car and our guide explains everything including the write off procedure and how to protect your vehicle against total loss.

When and Why Are Cars Written Off?

Cars are classed as a write off for two reasons. Either the vehicle has suffered so much damage that it is unsafe to be driven on the roads again, or it can be repaired but the insurer considers it too costly to do so. When an insurer deems a car to be a total loss it is usually because the repair costs will be more than half of the car’s market value. There are different factors that can result in a car being written off. The main ones are accident, fire or flood damage, and theft.

What is the Car Insurance Write Off Procedure?

When you make a claim with your insurer for a potential write off, whether your car has been damaged or stolen, someone will assess the vehicle on their behalf (or verify that it has indeed been stolen). Your insurer will then decide whether it should be classed as a write off or not. This will involve following a set of strict criteria as to how safe and economical it will be to repair the car. If the car is not repairable, or is not recovered after being stolen, and your insurer writes off your car, you will receive a market value pay out, which is the value of the car at the time it is written off. The car itself, depending on the severity of the damage, will be crushed by the insurance company (with some parts potentially salvaged). Alternatively it may be able to be sold on, though the buyer will need to be made aware that it has been written off and repairs willl be expensive.

Car Write Off Categories Explained

From 1st October 2017 the previous four car write off categories of A, B, C and D have been replaced with four new categories of A, B, S and N.
  • A: Scrap. This means the car and all its parts must be scrapped as the damage is so severe that reusing any of it on the roads would be unsafe.
  • B: Break. The shell of the vehicle must be crushed and never appear on the road again, though a few parts may be salvaged and reused.
  • S: Structurally damaged repairable. These vehicles can reappear on the roads if they undergo the necessary repairs, although these will cost far more than the car’s value.
  • N: Non-structurally damaged repairable. Also repairable, with most of the damage cosmetic, though it will still cost more than the vehicle’s value.

Protect Against Financial Loss

If your car is a total loss the payment you receive from your insurer will almost always be less than you originally paid for your car, due to the effect of depreciation. This can be covered with ALA GAP Insurance so whether you’ve bought your car outright, on finance or if it has been leased, you won’t be left out of pocket after a write off. In the first three years a new car can lose up to 70% of its value, so it is well worth protecting your investment. You can also take steps to help reduce the chance of a write off happening to you:
  • Always park in a garage or a well lit spot, securing your car when you leave it unattended
  • Drive carefully, especially in wet weather and in the dark
  • Park away from areas that are known for flooding
  • Purchase GAP insurance when you buy your car
Even doing all of these things can’t guarantee that your vehicle won’t be written off, but should the worst happen you can ensure you’re fully protected with GAP insurance from ALA.