Many people think vehicle salvage means a heap of metal which doesn't drive and isn't worth a penny. This is not always true. In many cases vehicle salvage simply means the car is damaged and can be repaired. Salvage guidelines classify vehicles into categories A, B, C, D and X:
- A vehicle that has been written-off and which must be completely destroyed. It cannot be used for dismantling into its parts .
- Notification of Destruction required. (To be crushed).
- Recorded at DVLA & HPI
Category A is closest to being the archetypal heap of metal. Fire damaged (burnt-out), flood damaged (contaminated or salt water), severely damaged with no serviceable parts, or heavily stripped (shell).
- A vehicle that has been written-off but its parts may be re-used. However, the body shell cannot be re-used and must be destroyed.
- Notification of Destruction required. (Parts can be removed and sold).
- Recorded at DVLA & HPI
Category B is damaged beyond economical repair and/or severe structural damage. However if you broke the vehicle salvage and sold the car parts there is scope to make a profit.
- An insurance write-off mainly due to the cost of repair exceeding the former market value of the car. It is suitable to repair to make it roadworthy.
- Can be sold for repair but must now have VIC inspection.
- Recorded at DVLA & HPI.
Category C vehicles can be repaired into a roadworthy condition. The damage may still be significant but it is repairable. If the work is done by a retailer the costs may exceed the pre accident value, however if you know how to do some things yourself or have a relationship with a garage at mates rates you may be able to repair it economically. Since category C is on the border between breaking the vehicle for parts and fixing the vehicle salvage up, you should always be sure you can fix it up viably before purchasing.
- An insurance write-off for other reasons as the repair costs may be less than the former market value of the vehicle. It is suitable to repair to make it roadworthy.
- Recorded with HPI.
Category D should indicate the vehicle is repairable and that the cost of doing so (retailer or no retailer) will be less than the former market value, thus making you a tidy profit. The damage is always less than a category C and often parts such as new wings or bumpers are needed with very little damage.
- A vehicle which is not listed as being damaged on the HPI register, or one which may have very little damage. Often these are vehicles that have been stolen and then recovered.
Category X is the best vehicle salvage around since the car has no or little damage (apart from wear and tear from the previous owners) and is often simply stolen recovered or unclassified as being in an accident. This type of vehicle salvage always makes a high profit.
As a simple rule of thumb category A is crushed, category B is broken down for car parts, categories C and D are for repairs and category X is a bargain
Avoiding your car being categorised
If an insurance company wants to write of your care after an accident, try negoiating. I have successfully had my car written off, bought back the car and been given a payout which almost exactly matched the repair bill. They also assured me that it would not be categorised on any insurance database, and wrote me a letter to this effect.
Why did they do this? My guess is they where concerned that during the repairs more problems might be revealed, and, of couse, they did not have to pay for any courtsey car hire. In my case the difference between the salvage value of my car (which I paid) and their estimated value of the car was almost exactly equal to the repair bill - it was a borderline Category D write-off.