Don't write off an insurance write-off

Article date: 16 September 2008

  • HPI calls for car buyers to be vigilant but to keep an open mind

Vehicle information specialist HPI is calling for used car buyers to be sure they fully understand the meaning of the term an "insurance write-off", as fresh reports confirm a significant rise in vehicle write-offs over the past 10 years.

Daniel Burgess, automotive director of HPI, explains: "A recent report into the UK Car Body Repair Market* found the number of annual total losses declared by insurance companies has risen by an astonishing 86% since 1998, meaning write-offs now amount to nearly a quarter of all insurance claims**. Any vehicle that has been declared a write-off by an insurance company is placed into an industry recognised damage classification, depending on its condition. With 8% of vehicles checked by HPI being recorded as a category A or B write-off - vehicles which should have been crushed and never returned to the road -  the rise of the insurance write-off means that used car buyers face an even greater risk of potentially buying a death trap."

In 2007, the HPI database held information on over 650,000 written-off vehicles alone and an HPI Check will tell the user if a vehicle has been declared a write-off as well as providing the category of damage - giving people the complete picture of a vehicle's history. A check against HPI's unique Condition Inspected Register, which is a database of written-off vehicles that have been repaired and passed a Thatcham-approved inspection, will confirm if a category C write-off is in fact fit for the road.

"Car buyers can easily be taken in by shiny paintwork and a low price but as dealers know, the reality is if the paintwork is shiny, it could be hiding a multitude of faults that haven't been fixed.  Unscrupulous private sellers will sell a write-off to make a quick profit but if the vehicle is not properly repaired, any price is too high," continues Burgess. "However, 92% of vehicles that HPI check that are recorded as ‘written off' fall into the category C or D write-off. With falling used car values coupled with increases in the cost of raw materials has meant that increasing numbers of insurance companies are simply declaring a vehicle a total loss. Dealers need to be aware that even category C or D write-offs can have a big impact on the value of a vehicle; for example, a car worth £5000 could lose up to 20% of its value if it has been declared a category D write-off at any stage. An HPI Check will spot one of these cars enabling the car buyer to ensure they are getting the vehicle for the right price, or walking away from an unsafe vehicle."

Consumers and dealers need to remain vigilant and the only way they can arm themselves with the fullest possible picture of a vehicles history is by performing a HPI Check to make sure all is exactly as it seems.

The ABI categories of 'write-off' 

Category A: Scrap only - this vehicle should have been crushed. It should never reappear on the road and there are no economically salvageable parts. It is of value only for scrap metal - eg a totally burnt-out vehicle.

Category B: The bodyshell should have been crushed. The vehicle should never reappear on the road, but it can be broken for spare parts plus any residual scrap metal.

Category C: Vehicle extensively damaged and insurer has decided not to repair. The vehicle should have an independent inspection before being allowed back onto the road.

Category D: Vehicle damaged and insurer has decided not to repair.

Category F: Vehicle damaged by fire and insurer has decided not to repair.


* Report published by Trend Tracker, June

** Write-offs amount to a quarter of all claims when claims for damage to glass, theft and personal injury are deducted from total.

For press enquiries please contact:
Margot Tomkinson, Dominic Dennis and Justine Hoadley at HSL 0208 977 9132.

Notes to editors:

About HPI
Originally established in 1938, HPI Limited is a primary source of vehicle information for the UK motor industry and motoring consumer, which since August 2004 has been owned by Norwich Union. HPI encompasses both the HPI database of all UK road registered vehicle descriptions and histories, and the National Mileage Register which holds in excess of 125 million mileage readings.

Together, HPI and NMR represent the UK's largest vehicle information source, combining and interpreting data from government agencies, industry bodies, private organisations, the police and the general public. Registering with HPI helps companies to protect their financial interests in motor vehicles and a wide range of other mobile assets. HPI Checks give purchasers instant confirmation of whether vehicles are correctly described, known to be subject to outstanding finance or serious accident damage, or recorded as stolen or "clocked".

'HPI' and the HPI logo are registered trademarks of HPI Limited. 

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