a blue damaged beyond-repair car

Car Damage Categories: A Full Guide

November 21, 2023

When you're dealing with car damage, especially after an accident, you might hear terms like 'Category S' or 'Category N' thrown around when you speak to your insurance company. For the uninitiated, these car damage categories can be a bit of a maze if you're not familiar with them, but understanding what each one means can be helpful as you go through the claims process. So, let's break down what these categories mean and how they can impact your decisions regarding car repairs, insurance, or even buying a used car.

Types of Car Damage Categories

In the UK, car damage is classified into different categories, and these categories are designed to give a clear indication of the level and type of damage a car has sustained. They range from Category A, which is the most severe, to Category N, which denotes minor damage. While these categories are primarily used by insurance companies to assess damaged vehicles, they're also useful for anyone dealing in cars, whether you're buying, selling, or repairing.

These categories are part of what is known as the Salvage Code; this is a standardised system that helps when it comes to making informed decisions about the future of damaged vehicles. To simplify things, the code exists to answer the question: is the car salvageable (i.e. fixable) or is it beyond repair.

How Cars Are Categorised

Generally, a car’s categorisation is going to depend on factors like the extent of the damage, the cost of repairs, and the car's overall value. Before being given an official category, an assessor will look at these factors and assign a letter accordingly.

What is Category A?

First up is the worst category: category A is for cars that are beyond repair. These vehicles are so badly damaged that they should be scrapped entirely, and there's no chance of salvaging anything, not even for spare parts.

fire men working to put out a fire on a burning car

What is Category B?

Cars in Category B also can't be repaired, but their parts can be salvaged and used in other vehicles. Generally, the consensus is that the car's body shell should be crushed, but other parts can find a new life in different cars.

What is Category C?

Category C, now more commonly known as Category S, refers to cars that have sustained significant structural damage. While these vehicles can be repaired, it's often costly, and safety can be a concern once back out on the road.

What is Category D?

Category D, now known as Category N, denotes cars with non-structural damage. While the repair costs might be high, there's no significant damage to the core structure of the car, meaning that it’ll usually be safe to drive once all necessary repairs have been completed.

In each case, it's essential to understand the depth of damage and the implications for repair; if your car falls into one of these categories, especially S or N, and you're considering repairs, you might also need to think about a replacement vehicle in the meantime.


What does it mean when a car is categorised as 'Total Loss'?

A 'Total Loss' categorisation, often corresponding to Category A or B, means that the vehicle is either too damaged to be repaired safely or that the cost of repair exceeds the car's value. In these cases, the car is typically scrapped.

Can a car in Category S or N be safely driven again after repairs?

Yes, cars in Category S (structural damage) or N (non-structural damage) can be safely driven again after proper repairs. However, it's important to make sure that a qualified mechanic carries out these repairs in order for the car to be considered safe for driving.

How do car damage categories affect insurance?

Insurance companies use these categories to assess claims: a car in Category A or B is usually not insurable, while those in Categories S and N might see increased premiums or specific repair stipulations.

Should I buy a car in Category S or N?

Buying a car in Category S or N can be a good deal, but it does require caution on your end of things. Before paying up, ask for proof that the car has been properly repaired and inspected. And just to be sure, it's a good idea to have the car checked again by a professional mechanic - this not only ensures your safety on the road but will also help you understand the history of the damage.

Does a car’s damage category affect its resale value?

Yes, a car's damage category can significantly affect its resale value. Cars in Categories S and N typically have a lower resale value due to their history of damage and repairs, but that doesn’t mean they can’t sell.