Make Sure Your Dream Car Is A Safe Car

Leading vehicle information expert HPI, is warning used car buyers about the potential number of Category B insurance write-offs being dangerously repaired and returned to UK roads for sale rising. These are vehicles that have been recommended by the Association of British Insurers (ABI) to be crushed or broken down for spare parts or scrap.   HPI urges consumers to protect themselves against the threat of buying a potential death trap.

“The Government’s Scrappage scheme gave the UK new car market a fantastic boost, but the continuing lack of good quality second hand cars for sale, means unscrupulous sellers are using a variety of ways of conning used car buyers out of their money,” says Nicola Johnson, Consumer Services Manager at HPI. “Criminals have been capitalising on this shortage by disguising Category B write-offs as a good buy.  An HPI Check will give a used car buyer the complete picture of a vehicle’s history, including revealing if the car has been an insurance write off and if so, which category.   This offers protection from paying good money for a vehicle that is not fit for purpose and a possible safety risk.”

All vehicles that are written off are put in to one of five categories, depending on the level of its condition. The categories include cars that can be repaired and returned to the road, or ones that are recommended to be totally scrapped and never allowed back on the road again.

It is not illegal to repair and return ‘written off for salvage’ vehicles back to the road, however all classifications excluding Category D must pass a Vehicle Identity Check (VIC) with the Vehicle and Operator Services Agency (VOSA).    Insurers notify the DVLA of all cars ‘written off’ within salvage categories A, B, C and D. This notification will set a ‘VIC marker’ against the DVLA vehicle record for Category A, B and C write-off. While a VIC marker remains set, DVLA won’t issue a registration certificate V5C, or vehicle license reminder V11.  VOSA carries out the VIC which is designed to confirm the car’s identity, not its road worthiness.  This helps to ensure that the genuine car is returned to the road in a bid to reduce the problem of ringing – when stolen cars are given the identity of a written-off vehicle.  The VIC marker will only be removed when the car passes a VIC test by VOSA.

However stresses Nicola Johnson from HPI, the VIC test should not be mistaken as a safety test.  “Anyone looking to buy a car that has passed a VIC should seek to have it independently checked by Autolign or Thatcham to ensure that it is in fact road worthy.

“One in twenty five vehicles checked by HPI are recorded as insurance write-offs and we currently hold 650,000 write-offs on the HPI database, which confirms the scale of the risk to buyers. However, a check against HPI’s registers will tell you if the car has ever been written off, giving you the information you need before parting with your cash.

“It’s easy to be taken in by shiny paintwork and a low price, but it could be hiding a multitude of faults that haven’t been fixed. Unscrupulous vendors will sell a write-off to make a quick profit but if the vehicle is not properly repaired any price is too high.”

The ABI Categories of ‘Write off’

Category A Scrap only – vehicles in this category should have been crushed. They should never return to the road and doesn’t have any economically salvageable parts and is only of value for scrap metal.
Category B The body shell of a vehicle in this category should have been crushed and should never reappear on the roads. They can however be broken for spare parts and residual scrap.
Category C Vehicles in this category are extensively damaged and an insurer has decided not to repair it. If one of these vehicles were to go back on the road they should have an independent inspection first.
Category D Vehicles in this category have been damaged and an insurer has decided to not repair it.
Category F Vehicles in this category have been damaged by fire and an insurer has decided not to repair them.