Category A - scrap/crush only, no economically salvageable parts e.g. total burnouts
Where a vehicle is declared a total loss 'write-off' by an insurer the salvage must be dealt with correctly to ensure that dangerous, badly repaired vehicles aren't put back on the road and to avoid fuelling the crime of 'ringing' where a stolen vehicle is given the identity of another.
The Code of practice for the disposal of motor vehicle salvage defines four categories for vehicle salvage to ensure that it is only possible for a total loss vehicle to find its way back onto the road where appropriate.
The Code of practice is voluntary but is supported by all of the major organisations involved with vehicle insurance and licensing, crime enforcement and salvage including The Home Office, Department for Transport, Association of British Insurers, DVLA, and the National Police Chiefs' Council.
Details of all total loss vehicles are notified to DVLA and recorded on the Motor Insurance Anti-Fraud and Theft Register (MIAFTR) along with the salvage category assigned to the vehicle:
You might also hear the terms 'actual loss' to describe categories A and B, and 'contructive loss' to describe C and D.
The VIN (Vehicle Identification Number) plate and Visible VIN, Number plates and tax disc must be securely disposed of (A and B) and airbags/seatbelt components must be properly disposed of and not re-sold (B)
Vehicles in Categories C and D may be sold on for repair.
According to the Code of Practice, insurers and their agents should use 'best endeavours' to ensure that vehicles in Categories A and B don't find their way back onto the road.
As additional security against 'ringing', vehicles notified to DVLA in categories A and B will not be re-registered by DVLA.
If you are considering buying a used car previously written off by an insurer, bear in mind that its Category C/D status is marked on the V5C registration document and will affect the vehicle's future resale value and saleability - this should be reflected in the current purchase price.
You will need to satisfy yourself that repairs have been carried out to a satisfactory standard and should consider getting the vehicle independently inspected.
Bear in mind too that insurance can be more expensive and that some insurers may even refuse to insure a repaired Category C or D write-off. Check with your insurer before buying, and if you do buy, make sure that your insurer is made aware that the vehicle was once declared a total loss write-off.
(updated 28 October 2015)