What is a Cat S car?

What is a Cat S car?

Buying a used car can be a bit of a minefield, and cars can come with a number of different categorisations that may seem confusing. You want to make sure you’re buying a car that’s good value for money, and that isn’t going to fall apart when you’re driving home.

We’ve put together this handy blog to help you understand what exactly a Cat S car is, and how it fits into the other categories out there.

If you’re looking to understand more about what a Cat N car is, you can check out our blog ‘What is a Cat N car?’

Get insured with iGO4

Looking for a Car Insurance quote? It's important to make sure you're covered out on the road, and iGO4 have a variety of policies to keep you insured. Just click the link below!

Quick heads up - this is an affiliate link so Urban Jungle would earn some commission on sales made via the link.

What is a Cat S car?

A Category S (or ‘Cat S’) car is one of the classifications for cars that have been ‘written off’ after an accident. An insurance company will write off a car if the cost of fixing the car is too high, or if the car simply can’t be fixed at all.

There’s a few different categories that cars can come under when they’re written off after an accident, so we’ve put together a helpful table to help you understand the difference:

Category Possibility of repair Outcome
A Cannot be repaired The whole car has to be scrapped
B Cannot be repaired The body shell of the car has to be scrapped, but other parts can be salvaged
S The car has structural damage, but can be repaired You can choose to repair the vehicle and use it again, as long as the repairs make it roadworthy
N The car has non-structural damage, and can be repaired You can choose to repair the vehicle and use it again, as long as the repairs make it roadworthy
C* The car could be repaired, but it would cost more than the car is worth You can choose to repair the vehicle and use it again, as long as the repairs make it roadworthy
D* The car could be repaired at a reasonable price, but other costs (like transport) would make the overall cost of repair too high You can choose to repair the vehicle and use it again, as long as the repairs make it roadworthy

It’s worth noting that a car will only be categorised like this if it has been in an accident and an insurance company has written the car off.

*Since October 2017, categories C and D have stopped being used, and were replaced with categories N and S, because the government wanted to make the rules on the categories a bit clearer. You might still see a Cat C or a Cat D car around, it just means they were written off, repaired, and re-registered before October 2017.

If you’d like to learn more about the differences, you can check out our blog ‘What is a Cat D car?

Cat S cars are cars that took enough structural damage in an accident for the insurance company to write off the car. When we say structural damage, we mean the core frame of the car. Here’s the list of some of the things that could be damaged for a car to be made Cat S:

  • Rear chassis leg
  • Front chassis leg and welded cross member
  • Front inner wing
  • Front upper wing support
  • Sill
  • Front header rail
  • Rear header rail
  • Side cant rail
  • Fire wall and front bulkhead
  • Rear inner wing
  • Rear wheel housing extension
  • A-post

That might seen like quite a lot of car terminology - but essentially it just means anything that’s a structural part of the car.

After Cat S cars have been repaired, re-registered, had an MOT, and been taxed, they can be driven again.

Should I buy a Cat S car?

Whether or not you choose to buy a Cat S car is really down to your personal preferences and needs. Cat S cars are pretty likely to be cheaper than most other used cars, because they’re seen as a bit more high risk than other cars, since they’ve been damaged and repaired. Cat S cars can be more expensive to insure though, for the same reason. Because they don’t have to pass any official inspections (other than an MOT), Cat S cars are often seen as higher-risk by insurance companies, so insuring them tends to be more expensive.

If you want to know more about insuring a car that’s been previously written off, you can check out our blog ‘Insuring a Cat N car’.

Anyone selling you a Cat S car is legally required to tell you the car’s history, and in most cases a dealer will be able to give you a full breakdown of the repairs. Any car that’s been re-registered as a Cat S car will have a note in the V5 logbook saying that the car has been ‘salvaged’ and repaired, so you’ll know for sure. If someone is trying to sell you a car that isn’t registered, you may want to be wary, even if they assure you that the car is Cat S. You may find the car hasn’t been repaired properly or was not supposed to be repaired in the first place.

It’s also good to know that, once a Cat S car has been repaired, it does not need an official inspection to be registered again. The Cat S car will need an MOT, but if you’re thinking of buying a Cat S car from someone without an MOT, you might want to get the car checked before you hand over any money. The RAC and AA both offer an inspection as a service so they can come and check the car out before you buy it. This will generally cost you somewhere from £150-£200. If the car has passed its MOT then you can be pretty sure everything’s fine, but you may still want to get it checked just in case.

How to re-register a Cat S car

If you do decide to buy an unregistered Cat S car, or if you had the car repaired yourself, you need to re-register the car with the DVLA before you can get it back on the road. You don’t need to go through an inspection process, you can just register the car as a used car.

You’ll need to fill out a V62 form to re-register a Cat S car and get a new V5 logbook. It’s pretty easy to do, you just need to provide a few details about the car, including the registration number and the VIN (Vehicle Identification Number). It costs £25 to register and your new logbook should take around 6 weeks to arrive.

Does a Cat S car need a new MOT?

Once your Cat S car is repaired and re-registered, it will need an MOT and you’ll need to pay road tax and insurance before you can drive it. Getting an MOT for a Cat S car is a great way to get the repairs checked again before you drive it, and give you peace of mind about the safety of the car. If you’re buying a Cat S car from someone who’s already taken care of everything, you should be good to go. You just may want to get it inspected, just in case.

If you’re curious about MOTs more generally, you can check out our blog ‘How long is an MOT certificate valid for?’.

A few final tips…

Buying a Cat S car might seem like a big undertaking, or that it could be a risky one. It’s good to be wary of a car that’s been crashed and then repaired but, once everything’s been checked, it’s worth remembering that the category wouldn’t exist if Cat S cars weren’t usually safe.

Here’s a few key things to remember:

  • If you’re buying a Cat S car from a dealer, they should have taken care of re-registering the car, and they may even be able to show you the repairs.
  • Your Cat S car will need an MOT before you can drive it, but it’s a great way to check the repairs again before you drive it.
  • Cat S car insurance will very likely be more expensive, but that doesn’t mean that your car is actually unsafe.

Urban Jungle is not a financial advisor and information in this article should not be taken as advice or recommendation.