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Buyers must be made more aware of the pitfalls behind Category D carsBack

Prospective buyers are being warned about category D insurance write-offs as thousands of cars find their way onto the second-hand car market every year.

Category D cars can save buyers hundreds and thousands of pounds, and they are also legal, but consumer experts are warning people that they can also cause a lot of trouble further down the line.

Cars which have previously been write offs were voluntarily given the name of Category D cars by a group of organisations to include insurance companies, salvage and repair agencies and the police. It was agreed that the title would put accident-damaged cars into one of four categories with Category D being the name for the least damaged cars. The title is also given to cars which have been stolen or recovered after the owner has been paid off by an insurance company.

A Category D car is a car that has been in an accident and suffered some damage, but which would cost less to repair than its value. However, insurers will write it off once they have worked out that the cost to them will be greater than the car’s actual value. This usually becomes evident when taking into account factors such as towing the car if necessary, the cost of sending out an assessor to inspect the damage, the cost to provide a hire car, personal injury expenses and more.

With insurance companies able to claim as much as 65 per cent of a car’s value following an accident, it is often a more feasible option to write the car off and then allow an independent garage with lower overheads to repair it to its Category D status.

Graham Threlfall, the head of the National Association of Bodyshops, sites the increasing focus on safety and luxury in cars as part of the reason. He said: “Ten years ago, if a car was involved in a front-end collision, the damage was confined to the bodywork, but with airbags, belt tensioners and things like self-levelling headlamps, it is much more expensive to repair them now. Insurers are often happy to be rid of the liability.”

If a Category D car is well prepared it can appeal to buyers who are on a budget and you will find thousands of these types of cars readily available on the internet. In fact, a recent examination of such cars on eBay found more than 300 cars available offering savings of up to 25 per cent more than the best car prices second hand.

The main concern is that many buyers do not understand what a Category D car is, and it is therefore the responsibility of dealers to make sure that every car they sell has undergone a full history check to ascertain whether the car as been written off or previously damaged in an accident. However, even if full checks have been made, buyers might still face problems, for example, some insurance companies will refuse to insure a Category D car, or they will not pay out if the buyer makes a claim but has failed to declare the vehicle was once a write-off.

The association of British Insurers has said that there has only been a slight increase in Category D cars appearing on the market since 2002 and that the average age of such cars is between eight and nine years. They are also recorded on the Motor Insurance Anti-Fraud register and information is also available from companies such as HPI, meaning buyers should not find themselves caught out as long as they do their homework thoroughly before they make that all important purchase.

Posted by Leana Kell on 29/10/2012