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What Does Cat D Mean?

Cat D Refers To A Classification Of A Car 'Write Off' In The UK. Cat D Refers To The Least Amount Of Damage A Car Can Sustain And Still Be Written Off.

Oct 27, 2014

What Does Cat D Mean?

If you’re looking for a good-value second hand car then it is possible that you may have come across a ‘Category D’ or ‘Cat D’ car. These vehicles are often for sale at a low price and may seem to be a better deal than other similar models.

However, buying a Cat D car means that you are buying a vehicle that has previously been ‘written off’ by an insurance company. These cars can be more difficult to insure and can have a chequered past. Keep reading for more information about the insurance write-off process and what Cat D means. We’ll also provide you with advice on how to spot a Cat D car and what to consider if you’re buying a second-hand vehicle.

Insurance write-offs explained

In 2010, vehicle information firm HPI reported that 4 in 100 cars were declared insurance write-offs. This means that these cars were 'beyond economical repair', namely that the insurance company believed it would cost too much to carry out repair work.

The ‘repair to value’ ratio figure differs from insurer to insurer. Here’s an example. Let’s assume that your vehicle is worth £5,000 and your insurance company uses a ‘repair to value’ ratio of 65 per cent. In this instance your vehicle would be considered to be ‘beyond economical repair’ if the repair costs exceeded £3,250.

Specialist claims assessors will look at your vehicle and work out the cost of repairs. These assessors work to strict guidelines as your insurer has a responsibility to return your car to the condition it was in before an accident. The assessor will make a judgement based on the estimated cost of repairs taking into account all collision damage. They will also consider factors such as airbag replacement, bodywork repair and the cost of mechanics and parts.

All these factors mean that damage does not have to be particularly serious for your car to be a ‘write-off’. If your car is a few years old, cosmetic damage to the paintwork can result in your car being beyond economical repair. This is because the cost of repairing and painting the various panels can exceed the car’s value even if there is no other damage.

When looking at your car, insurance assessors use various categories of car insurance write-off to rank the seriousness of the damage. Categories A and B represent very serious damage while Category C is for more serious economic write-offs. We will look at these categories next before we look at Category D/Cat D where damage is expensive but not necessarily dangerous.

Categories A to C explained

There are four main categories of vehicle write-off. We’ll look in some detail at Category D shortly but the other three categories are:

Cat A

This category is for cars that are seriously damaged. Here, the damage is so bad that there are few or no parts that can be salvaged. Cat A cars are for scrap only and the body shell should be crushed. They should never again appear on the road.

Cat B

This category is for cars which have been extensively damaged but some parts can be salvaged. While the body shell should be crushed, parts can be salvaged for spare. A Cat B car should never re-appear on the road. 

Cat C

This category is for cars that can be repaired but where the costs of repair exceed the vehicle’s value. Cat C car write-offs are often sold at special auctions to garages and traders that can fix the vehicles at trade prices. Cat C cars can re-appear on the road. 

What Does Cat D Mean?

One of the more common categories of insurance write-off is Category D or ‘Cat D’. A Cat D car is one that has been written-off by the insurer but the damage it has suffered may be relatively light.

While the insurer says that it is not economical for them to repair it (using their ‘repair to value’ ratio) the cost of actual repair may not be high. Additionally, the car may not have suffered any structural damage.

Cat D cars often re-appear on the roads because they can be repaired to an acceptable standard for less money than it would cost an insurance company.

How Do You Check If a Car Is a 'Cat D'?

When you buy a Cat D car you’re buying a vehicle that is an insurance write-off. This means that you have to take a lot of additional care when considering any second-hand car where the price looks too good to be true.

The Association of British Insurers says that the average age of a Cat D car is between eight and nine years. You should take particular care if you are buying a car of this age.

According to the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) guidelines, a dealer should take ‘all reasonable steps’ to check a car’s history before putting it on sale. This includes obtaining a vehicle history check and asking the seller to declare any damage.

Vehicle history check experts, HPI, advise that you should not rely on information from a seller declaring whether a car is a total loss. HPI spokesman, Kristian Welch, says: "When buying a used car, it’s always advisable to arm yourself with all the facts by conducting a vehicle history check on that car.

"Without a history check, even if the buyer purchases a car knowing it has been declared a total loss and repaired, they should ask their insurer to confirm that the vehicle will be covered."

Some unscrupulous sellers try to pass off Category D cars as normal second-hand motors by hiding their past. You should therefore always get a history check before you agree to a purchase. If you don’t, you may not know that the car has previously been damaged. In addition, your insurer may refuse to pay out a claim if you have failed to declare to them that the car was once a write-off.

Getting insurance on a Cat D car can also be tricky. According to the OFT, some insurance companies which sell Category D cars out subsequently refuse to cover them when they have been repaired.

One straightforward way to avoid being caught out is to buy a used car from a franchised dealer. These dealers offer guarantees on all their used cars and so you will always know the history of the car. You don’t run the risk of buying a Cat D car and having to deal with the consequences of unwittingly buying a vehicle that has been previously written-off.

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