There are five levels of damage used by the insurance industry to describe cars that have been involved in accidents. These levels, or categories as they're more commonly known, are labelled as A, B, C, D and F.
Cat F refers to a vehicle that has suffered fire damage. The other four 'Cats', A to D, all relate to cars that have had various levels of crash damage, and that are registered as such.
Cat A is the worst of the four, where a vehicle is so damaged that it cannot even be used for salvage and should be crushed.
Cats B and C mean that the vehicle has been heavily damaged and the insurance company has chosen not to go ahead with the repairs. Cat C cars are usually capable of being salvaged if the repairs are carried out correctly.
Cat D is the least serious category. It usually means that the vehicle has suffered light damage but the insurance company's decision to repair it is dependent on the cost of the repairs and the value of the vehicle.
If you're buying a Cat D car, there's no guarantee that it hasn't incurred chassis damage. You can find out for sure by investing in a full mechanical inspection at an approved dealership, or by RAC Inspections.
If you buy a Cat D car, make sure your insurance company knows about it, otherwise they might not pay up on any claim.
Salvage or damaged repairable vehicles are a great means to acquire a vehicle at a fraction of the cost of a similar model from both dealers and private sellers. But on the other side of the coin, the thought of buying a damaged vehicle can put people off as they fear they are considered unsafe for use.
This buying guide is here to give impartial advice on how to make sure you buy the correct salvage for you, and give hints and tips on how to make your salvage buying experience both safe and enjoyable.
First you must decide which type of damaged vehicle you want to buy, one that is damaged repairable, or one that is damaged repaired. Both have pro’s and con’s which are explained later in the guide.
A damaged repairable vehicle is one that has been involved in an accident but has not yet been repaired to a standard that is suitable for use on the road. Buying a car that is in need of work can offer great savings, but you need to weigh up the pro’s and con’s to calculate if this is the right choice for you. We will also cover what to look out for and the various steps required to get the car back on the road.
Damaged vehicles can be sourced from various sellers and dealers, both as auction and straight sale formats.
When buying a repairable vehicle it is good practice to view the vehicle first or at least get a good understanding of the damage to estimate the work involved. For example, cars with damage to the chassis leg may require jig work, so you need to factor this into your costing. Cars with light panel damage will generally sell for more, as the work required is much less and they appeal to a greater audience.
So think carefully and look even more so......
Chassis Legs – Are they damaged? Have they moved? If so, then they will more than likely require jig work to be put straight. If just the ends have been damaged, then these can be repaired or replaced.
Front Panel- Is the panel bolted or welded into place? If the front panel is welded into place and has sustained damage, will it need replacing or can it be repaired.
A, B and C Pillars– If these have been damaged, can they be repaired or will new sections need to be welded into place? Damage to the pillars can also affect the roof line and shape.
Rear Quarters – How badly damaged are they? Since rear quarters are not a ‘bolt on’ panel they may need replacing if they cannot be repaired.
Boot Floor – If the vehicle has had a rear end impact, is the boot floor intact? If it has crumpled, can it be pulled out, or will it need a section replacing?
Airbags– With newer cars featuring more and more airbags, have any been deployed? If the passenger side front airbag has gone off, will the dash need replacing also? Check for signs of curtain airbags that have gone off as these can be easily missed, don’t forget to check the seat belt pre-tensioners too.
Windscreen – Often overlooked, especially when viewing photos of the car online. If the passenger front airbag has deployed, it can often cause damage to the windscreen.
All the above are just some of the basic checks you should do before committing to bid on or buy your next salvage vehicle. Checking all these will allow you to effectively estimate the cost of repairing the vehicle, so you know what you are prepared to pay for the vehicle in its damaged state.
Remember: If buying from photographs alone then any panels that look damaged, defiantly will be, so study the pictures hard and if possible view the salvage vehicle first.
With good prior costing and planning, you can ensure you end up with a good, reliable and safe vehicle while making a good saving on the same model from a private seller, trader, or dealer forecourt.
Paperwork and Legalities
This section will cover any queries about the paperwork and legalities aspect of getting you and your vehicle back on the road, including the V5C Logbook, MOT certificates, and VIC tests at VOSA stations.
Category A & B – As stated in the previous section, these vehicles are for ‘Parts only’ and legally cannot be repaired and put back on the road. If somebody is selling a repairable vehicle that is categorized as A or B then it’s either a mistake or the seller is trying to pull a fast one, so be sure to avoid these vehicles if you’re looking for a damaged repairable car.
Non Recorded - Vehicles that are advertised as non recorded are ones that are damaged and haven’t been subject to an insurance claim and written off. This could be due to a number of reasons including the claim was rejected or throw out, no claim was made against the vehicle or simply because the data was never recorded on MIAFTR database. Non recorded vehicles can be much more profitable, but always carry out a vehicle history check to confirm that the vehicle hasn't ever been written off.
Category D – Sometimes when buying a Cat D car it will be supplied with the V5C Logbook, this is usually stated on the advert or auction listing. If the logbook is present, then you must fill in the new keeper details and send off to the DVLA, in 2 – 4 weeks this will be returned in your name.
Top Tip: A common misconception is that a car that has been written off must be MOT tested before it can go back on the road, this is not strictly true. You can use the document reference number on the front of the V5C Logbook to check if the vehicle stil has an MOT,If the vehicle still has an MOT, a duplicate can be issued from any MOT station for a small fee. If the MOT has expired, then an MOT will be required to legally drive the car on the road.
Category C – Cat C cars differ slightly from their Cat D counterparts, in that more checks must be done before the car can be returned to the road. In most cases, the V5C will be destroyed when the car is deemed Category C. When the V5C is applied for, you will receive a notice stating that your car will require a VIC (Vehicle Identity Check).
VIC’s were introduced to prevent stolen cars being passed off as accident damaged cars, also know as ‘ringing’. The VIC consists of checking the cars identification numbers to make sure they match the DVLA records.
Some points to note about the VIC test;
The extent and quality of the repairs are not checked, although the car must be able to drive under its own power.
The car must be covered by a valid MOT if over 3 years old.
The person driving the car must be insured.
The car can be driven to and from a pre-arranged VIC without road tax.
When the VIC is passed, you will be issued a VIC pass certificate and the V5C Logbook can be issued. The logbook, when issued, will state at the bottom; “VIC passed on **/**/****”.
BUYING DAMAGED REPAIRED VEHICLES
A damaged repaired vehicle is one that has been in an accident, and then repaired and put back on the road. Again, as with a damaged repairable car, great savings can be made, although you will pay more for a vehicle that has been repaired compared to one that requires repairing, as the work has already been carried out to get the car back on the road.
When you have decided on the make and model of car you want, you should shop around to see the prices that they sell for. This will give a guideline price to which you can then ensure you make a saving on the car you intend on buying.
For example, a certain make and model of car you are interested in change hands at around £3000, however you have seen one that was previously written off as a ‘Cat D’ car and has been repaired, and is up for sale for £2900. For a saving of only £100 you must ask yourself is it worth it? If the car was for sale at £2400 then a considerable saving would be made.
It is important to remember that although you will make a saving when purchasing the car, you will also get less for the car if you decide to sell at a later date.
Things to Look Out For:
The usual rules and practices that apply to buying a used car also apply here, explained below are a few hints and tips to make sure you know exactly what your buying, and to build a picture of both the extent of the damage, and the quality of the repair.
Paint Matches – Check the paint on the panels to see if there are any inconsistencies in colour, also check the quality of the spray job by looking for the ‘orange peel’ effect in the paintwork. Both of these will highlight the damaged area.
Over spray– Check inner wheel arches, trim, door shuts and rubber seals for over spray, again this should highlight the area that has been damaged and the quality of the repair.
Gaps – Check the gaps from panel to panel for differences in size. The gaps should be fairly equal around the car if a good job has been carried out.
Chassis Legs – This can be hard to check once the car is built back up due to other parts being in the way. If you open the bonnet and have a look around, you should be able to see if any repairs have been carried out to the chassis legs. Also check the area of the bulkhead where the chassis legs join to see if there has been any damage in this area, damage here usually means the car has had a heavy impact.
Boot Floor – Open the boot and lift up the carpet to reveal the boot floor, look for any obvious signs of crumpling, and also if any sections have been replaced.
Driving Straight – Something that should be checked on any used car, but when on the test drive, find a flat, straight, smooth road and check that the car drives in a straight line when your grip is loosened on the steering wheel. Pulling to one side could be something as simple as tracking, but could also indicate that something isn't lined up due to an impact.
Dash Lights – Before starting the car, turn the key to the ‘ignition’ stage (one before starting the car) and check that the relevant lights correspond with the equipment that car has, and that the lights go out when the car is started. For example, the airbag light does not come on when the ignition is switched on, this usually means the airbags may have been replaced, but the main airbag computer still holds the fault, and the person repairing the car has taken the bulb out of the dash instead of having the code cleared or the Airbag ECU replaced.
Helpful hints and tips.plus some good offers from ur specialists and advice on motoring abroad
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Look out guys it’s him that thinks he’s in charge!
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Good review there Dupe my personal view is I wouldn't touch one with a barge pole ,yes you buy it at a bargain price and most people realise that they have to sell it on later also at a bargain price but the catch being there's a very limited market of potential buyers, its hard enough selling really nice straight cars in this economic climate at the minute .
worth noting that if a car is crashed, but repaired through insurance by policy holder, it will not be recorded on HPi checks