Watch out for insurance write-offs when buying a second hand car

insurance write offIf you thought that all written-off vehicles were destined for the scrapheap – Think Again! Last year HPI (The Vehicle History People) found that one in every 33 cars they checked was an insurance write-off; that’s 625 cars a day or 223,000 cars a year. It’s a worrying statistic and begs the question why are so many people trying to hide their vehicle’s history?

When a vehicle is written-off by an insurance company it’s placed in a category depending on the degree of damage, as follows:

Category A Scrap only with few or no economically salvageable parts, e.g.: total burnouts. These vehicles should not be returned to the road

Category B Can be broken for spare parts if economically viable.  Again these vehicles should not be returned to the road

Category C Total loss vehicles where repair costs are more than the vehicle’s value before the accident

Category D Total loss vehicles where repair costs are less than the value before the accident

Vehicles in categories C and D can be repaired, but they must pass a DVLA Vehicle Identity Check before being returned to the road. If your insurer deems the repairs too expensive you’ll be given a cash payout and your car will be kept by the insurer. It can them be sold, repaired, tested and returned to the road.

So far everything is legal and above board, the problem comes when unscrupulous salesman bodge repairs and cut corners in order to make a quick buck. The pages of motoring press are jam-packed with stories of dodgy dealers giving written-off vehicles a cosmetic makeover to hide the serious work that needs to be done, such as replacing used airbags or faulty parts.

“It’s all too easy to be taken in by shiny paintwork and a bargain price” says Shane Teskey of HPI, “but that shiny exterior could be hiding a host of faults that make the vehicle dangerous. Dodgy sellers are out to make a fast profit and will happily take your money for a vehicle that’s not fit for purpose.”

Unwittingly buying an insurance write-off can be a costly and dangerous mistake, so take the following five steps to make sure that you’re getting exactly what you are paying for:

  • Don’t be fooled by shiny bodywork and a silver tongued salesman.
  • Check the price online and remember that if it seems too good to be true: it probably is too good to be true
  • Take your time and don’t be pressured into buying, after all there are plenty more cars on the market.
  • Get a vehicle history check from a reputable online provider. Not only will you find-out whether the vehicle has been written-off, but you’ll also find out whether it’s been stolen, clocked, or has any outstanding finance.
  • If you know a vehicle is an insurance write-off make sure the paperwork is correct and get it looked-over by a qualified mechanic.

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