How Can I Tell If a Car Was Previously Written Off?

Are you worried that the car you like might have been previously written off by the insurance company? A reputable car dealership won’t sell a written-off car without disclosing such information to buyers. 

If you’re buying a car from a private seller, it’s best to do all the necessary checks to ensure that the vehicle is in top condition and that it hasn’t been involved in a crash or flooding. Here are some of the ways you can check the car’s history and whether it was written off before. 

Check the Car History Online

It’s easier to check a vehicle’s history nowadays thanks to the internet. You simply have to go to the Vehicle Information Checker of the DVLA and run a car history check. To be able to perform this though, you’re going to need the vehicle’s registration number. You may ask the seller for this or make a note when you view it. A trustworthy seller won’t mind providing you with this information. 

With the Vehicle Information Checker, you can learn about the important pieces of information about the car such as:

  • Current vehicle road tax rate
  • When the current vehicle tax will expire
  • CO2 emissions
  • MOT expiration date
  • First registration date
  • Year the vehicle was manufactured
  • SORN status (Statutory Off Road Notification)
  • Engine size
  • Colour

Apart from these details, the DVLA will also provide your information on the vehicle’s registered keeper as well as the previous ones, if any. With this, you can check whether the seller currently owns and is legally allowed to sell you the car. 

What if some of the information don’t match with what the seller claims? You may ask the seller about it and ask them to verify such details. If they insist on one thing but the records tell you something else, it’s best to walk away because it’s just not worth the risk. 

Ask the Seller About the Car’s History

A reputable seller won’t have any issues answering all your questions about the car they’re selling. You can simply ask them if the car was ever involved in an accident. 

The seller is obligated to inform buyers about the history of the car as per the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations of May 2014. There’s a general prohibition against misleading actions, misleading omissions, and other unfair commercial practices.

Of course, it’s important to note that some bad sellers would do anything to sell the vehicle. If you ever buy a car that has been written off and you don’t know its history, then you may experience car problems and even make you more at risk of getting involved in an accident while driving. 

If the seller does say that the car has been written off, only consider it if the car is under category S or N. If it’s under categories A or B, stay away from it because such vehicles are no longer safe to go back on the road. 

Ask an Auto Mechanic to Inspect It

If you’re not familiar with the steps on how to check the car before buying it, you may want to consider asking an expert auto mechanic to go with you when you’re going to view the vehicle. It goes without saying, choose your own mechanic, not one recommended by the seller.

The mechanic will be able to tell if the car is still in great shape and whether repairs and replacements have been made on some parts.  With their years of training and expertise, they’ll be able to know if the car has undergone some serious repair jobs because of an accident. 

Should I Buy a Written-Off Car?

Most written-off cars are being sold at really cheap prices. This is the main reason why some buyers even consider cars that have been previously involved in an accident and have incurred structural damage or Category S cars. The idea is that if the vehicle has been repaired well and is running properly, then it should be alright to drive it again, right? That’s not always true. It's important to really think about it whether you should buy a Category S car

The purpose of writing off damaged cars is not only because repair would cost more than it's worth, but sometimes also to ensure that road users remain safe by not letting such vehicles on the road again. They are at risk of causing accidents because they have been severely damaged. 

If you want to save money from your car purchase, the best thing to do is to spend sufficient time doing research and shopping so you’ll be able to find the best deals. It’s not worth buying a written-off vehicle when there are so many used cars in great condition. 

By devoting enough time to finding the best used car for your needs, you don’t have to worry that something bad might happen whilst you’re driving. 


When shopping for a car, try to choose a reputable car dealership. This will help remove most of the worries in your mind because you know that the dealership only sells cars in good condition with clean histories. 

If you ever want to buy a car from a private seller, be sure to do all the necessary checks first. You have to be extra careful in this case because it’s more difficult to tell the trustworthiness of a private seller compared to a good car dealer that’s been in business for years.