The facts about salvage retention and insurance write-offs

One of the most frequently asked questions about classic or specialist vehicle insurance is whether you can retain the salvage if your vehicle is written off. The answer is, it all depends on which category of loss your vehicle is, and if a qualified engineer has declared the vehicle safe to go back on the road. Over the years, we have heard so many different variations of what people have been told about salvage retention, some of it true, some not so true. We hope the following information will help to dispel the myths, inaccuracies, and offer some clarity on what you can expect should the unthinkable happen to your vehicle.

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Please note that whilst we cannot comment on other companies’ policies, the following regulations will apply to all Abbeyfields Insurance customers who have opted for additional Salvage Retention cover.

What is a car insurance write-off or total loss?

A car insurance write-off or total loss is where your vehicle has been damaged beyond economic repair or deemed not safe to be returned to the road.

How do insurers determine if a car is beyond economic repair?

A qualified engineer inspects the vehicle and decides the category of loss.

What does salvage retention mean?

For certain categories of loss, you can retain or buy back the salvage from your insurance company. We will cover this procedure later on.

Some insurers offer an additional policy benefit whereby you can receive a full settlement and retain the vehicle’s salvage with no deduction, other than policy excess. This is known as Salvage Retention cover.

Can salvage be retained?

Yes, but subject to the category of loss. The different categorisations are explained in this article.

Our classic and specialist vehicle clients frequently ask us whether you can retain the salvage if your vehicle is written off. The answer depends on what category of loss your vehicle is and if a qualified engineer has declared the vehicle to be roadworthy following the repairs.

Over the years, there have been many misconceptions around salvage retention and we’re here to put the facts right. We hope the following information will help to dispel the myths, inaccuracies and offer some clarity on what you can expect, should the unthinkable happen to your vehicle.

Please note that whilst we cannot comment on other companies’ policies, the following regulations will apply to those who have opted for additional Salvage Retention cover.

How many car insurance write-off categories are there?

In the event of a collision, your insurance company will appoint a qualified engineer to inspect the vehicle and the engineer will decide if your vehicle is uneconomical (constructive loss) or unsafe to go back on the road (actual loss). The engineer will also determine which of the following four categories your vehicle falls into.

Category N (Non-Structural)

The vehicle is repairable, has minor damage, but the cost of repairs is nearly or more than the vehicle is worth.

Category N may also apply to a vehicle that has been stolen and recovered, but the insurance company has already settled the claim.

Category S (Structural)

The vehicle is repairable, but the cost of repairs is higher than the vehicle’s value. The damage also includes structural damage, but the vehicle can be safely repaired and can go back on the road.

Category B

The vehicle has sustained major structural damage. The costs of repairs are more than the vehicle’s value.

The vehicle is not safe to go back on public roads and cannot be re-sold. Parts may be salvaged from the vehicle, but only by an approved salvage company.

Category A

The vehicle has severe damage, possible contamination and there are no salvageable parts. Sadly, the vehicle will have to be crushed.

The same categories also apply to vehicles that have been damaged by flood, fire and smoke.

A certificate of destruction will be issued for write-offs in Category A and B.

Can I retain my salvage for all write-off categories?

If you have a Category A or B write-off, then you will NOT be able to retain the salvage - even if you have additional salvage retention cover within your policy. These are the laws of the land.

If your vehicle falls into categories S or N, then you can negotiate to retain the salvage with your insurer.

How do I go about retaining my salvage?

When you report the claim to your insurance company’s claims team, inform them at this point that you wish to retain the salvage.

Your appointed claims handler or engineer will liaise with you and keep you updated on how the claim is progressing. When you have received final confirmation that your vehicle has been declared a total loss you may wish to remind them of your initial conversation.

How does a total loss or categorised vehicle affect a claim?

If your insurance provider continues to insure your vehicle whilst the repairs are being carried out, you may find that your cover is reduced to Third Party only, until repairs have been completed and all of the safety checks have been carried out.

Can you dispute the decision to write-off your car?

There is always the right to appeal. There would need to be a valid reason, i.e vehicle of historic importance and this would depend on the category of loss.

Can you insure a vehicle that has previously been written off?

Once the vehicle has been repaired and passed all of the safety checks, i.e. MOT, then can insure a category N (D) or S (C) vehicle for you.

Don’t forget that a categorised car may have a detrimental effect on the future value of the vehicle. If the vehicle is involved in another incident rendering it a total loss, it may result in a reduced settlement figure and could also affect the market value of the vehicle.

If you want to delve a little deeper into the ins-and-outs of total loss and salvage retention, then there is a vast amount of information on this topic that can be found on the Gov website: https://www.gov.uk/written-off-vehicle

Are you concerned about your current salvage retention policy?

Talk to Abbeyfields Insurance, they are a specialist vehicle insurance broker who has multiple years of experience delivering the best salvage retention rates. Call 0121 550 2380 to talk to a real person, without those long waiting times.