Should I Buy a Category S Car?

If you have been looking for a second-hand vehicle, you may have seen cars that are listed as category S. Cat S cars tend to be sold at a lower-than-average price, but what exactly are they?

If you are wondering if you should buy a category S car to save money, you’ll discover everything you need to know right here in our in-depth blog.

What is a Category S Car?

If a vehicle has suffered damage because of an accident, fire, or flood, the insurance company may decide that it's going to be too costly to have it repaired. If this is the case, the car’s insurer may just write it off.

Insurance write-offs are divided into four categories. They include category A cars, category B, category S, and category N. For category S vehicles, it means these cars have suffered structural damage. Nonetheless, they can still be repaired.

However, even though it's been repaired, its category will remain the same for the duration of its life. This reduces its price significantly. That's why category S vehicles are very affordable but may not be eligible for car finance.

Is Buying a Cat S Car a Bad Idea?

There is a major flaw in the categorisation of written-off vehicles. There is no legal requirement for the repaired vehicle to be inspected and assessed as to whether it is safe to drive on the road again. For this reason, it will be a challenge for buyers to know if the category S car has undergone proper and thorough repairs, and whether it is now roadworthy and safe to drive. 

Apart from safety, having a category S car can be risky in many ways. A category S vehicle will affect how much you need to pay for insurance. It will also affect the resale price of the car if you're going to sell it in the future. Keep in mind that it's very expensive to repair a car that has sustained structural damage. 

Insurance companies always assess whether the cost of repairing a vehicle will be worth it compared to the value of the car before being damaged. If, for example, the cost of repairing the car exceeds the value of the vehicle, then the insurance company will pay the policyholder a settlement figure and write off the vehicle.  

Does a Cat S Car Need to Be Inspected?

If you decide to buy a category S car, you need to understand that these cars can be repaired by independent car repair shops. However, they are not legally bound to submit the car for an inspection once it is completely fixed. This means you cannot be fully confident that the repaired category S vehicle is safe to drive. 

It is unfortunate that there are no controls on the repair standards for category S vehicles. But if you still want to buy one, the best thing you can do is to have the car inspected by an expert. It may cost a bit of money, but it will be worth your while knowing that the car is roadworthy, and you don't have to worry while you're driving it.

Why Buy a Cat S Car?

It can be a good idea to buy a written-off vehicle. The main benefit you can get from buying a category S car, is that these cars, being sold as repairable salvage, come at a very low cost.

These second-hand vehicles are even more affordable than exact models that have no history of damage. They may even have the same mileage and age, but a category S car would be much cheaper. It is for this reason that you may see car dealers, hobbyists, and repairers buying category S cars, as well as category N cars. Buying a car with damage, and then repairing them so that it can be roadworthy again is a profitable business. 

If you plan to buy a car that has been repaired, it is crucial that you do all the checks so you can minimise any risk of purchasing a car with hidden damage and issues. You may also want to conduct as much research as possible. This will give you a decent understanding of the cost of buying a damaged car, and how much you need to spend on the repairs so that it can be safe to drive on the road.

Reselling a Cat S Car

If your purpose for buying a category S car is to restore and then resell it, you may make a decent profit. However, keep in mind that written-off vehicles under category S and category N usually sell at much lower prices, even if they have been properly repaired.

If you are going to buy a category S car for personal use, then you don't need to worry about the repair bill, the resale price of the car, and the profit you're going to make. Even with all the repair costs, you can still save money when you buy a category S car compared to buying a brand-new model.

Getting an Expert to Inspect the Car

A trained expert who can inspect the vehicle thoroughly should be a motor engineer who is associated with the RAC or AA organisations. They will be able to inform you if there are any risks associated with the condition of the vehicle, how reliable the car will be in case of an accident, and whether there are any hidden issues with the car. 

It's not going to be cheap, but it will be worth it to get an expert opinion. Having an engineer's report is something that you can also use as evidence in court if you face the worst-case scenario where it does go wrong.

Is Buying a Cat S Car Worth It?

It can be tempting to buy a Cat S car because it’s so cheap. However, it would be best if you have mechanical knowledge and a background in how to restore a category S vehicle before buying one. This way, you can really be sure that the car you purchase is safe to go back on the road.

You will also often find that lenders cannot help you to purchase a category S car on finance, such as Hire Purchase or PCP. It is considered too high risk for them so be sure to ask first before you commit to buy.

If you are looking to buy a car, let us make it easier to afford the model of your choice. We offer a range of finance options, and you can calculate how much you can afford with our trusty calculator.