When it comes to buying a used car, you may have come across the terms Category N and Category S. These are insurance categories assigned to vehicles when the cost of a repair would likely exceed the car’s total value. 

Category N and Category S vehicles used to be known as Category D and C respectively, until they were reclassified in October 2017. These new categories now focus more on the condition of the vehicle than the cost of repairing it. 

A Cat N or Cat S car can be - or may already have been - repaired and made roadworthy once more.

Cat S relates to structural damage, whilst Cat N refers to non-structural damage that the vehicle may have experienced.

Read on and learn the difference between Category N and S cars, whether these vehicles need an MOT, and if you can drive them once they have been written off. 


Will a Cat N or Cat S Car Need a New MOT?

As Cat N vehicles have only suffered non-structural damage, the DVLA will not require that the vehicle has a new MOT before it is next driven on the road.

Just remember to book an MOT test for the vehicle ahead of the current MOT certificate expiry date, and make sure that you notify your insurer of the vehicle’s new classification. Make sure that you have any repairs carried out ahead of the MOT test to ensure that the vehicle is roadworthy, too. 

Once your Cat S car is repaired and re-registered, the vehicle will need an MOT, and you will need to pay road tax and insurance on it before you can drive it. Having your Cat S car independently inspected and MOT tested at a garage separate to the dealer selling it can give you peace of mind that your vehicle is safe to drive. 

Whether you are thinking of buying a Cat N or a Cat S car, be sure to do your research before committing. 

If your vehicle needs a repair, you can browse garages to find the best one local to you. 


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What Is a Cat N Car?

A Category N write-off is a salvage car, which an insurance company has decided is not worthy of repair as a result of the non-structural damage it has experienced. If the cost of repairs would have exceeded the car’s total value, then the insurer may decide to write the car off.

A Cat N car can refer to a vehicle which has suffered a severe mechanical fault, or even subtle cosmetic damage. The damage caused to a Category N car will usually have occurred during an accident, but this will not have impacted the chassis of the vehicle. The brakes, steering or electrics may have been affected. 

You can choose to have the vehicle repaired and use it again in future, so long as the repairs carried out on the Cat N car make it roadworthy. 


What Is a Cat S Car?

A Cat S car will have experienced structural damage, perhaps to the chassis or crumple zones. Vehicles in this category will have been written off by the insurer for being uneconomical to repair

That being said, Cat S vehicles can be driven after all repairs have been carried out by a garage or body shop, and the vehicle has been deemed safe to drive. A Cat S vehicle will then need to be re-registered with the DVLA before it is back on the road, so you should check the paperwork for this before buying. 

Similarly, please note that sellers may attempt to sell Category S or Category N cars as non-damaged, meaning you may pay more than necessary if you do not do your research before buying a used car

Cat S cars are likely to be cheaper than most used cars, as they are viewed as high risk as they have been damaged and repaired. However, Cat S cars can be more costly to insure.


Should I Buy a Category N or Category S Vehicle?

As long as a vehicle has been deemed roadworthy, then it should be safe to drive. Even so, if you are planning to buy a Cat N or Cat S car, you should think about the following questions:

  • Is the car properly repaired?
  • Have you been provided with documentary evidence of the repairs?
  • Have you had a third-party inspection done?
  • How much will the car cost to insure?

You can drive a Cat N or Cat S car, provided that the vehicle has had the necessary repairs and has been classed as roadworthy, which you should check before buying.

You should find out if the Car S or Cat N car’s faults are likely to reappear in future, and how much these issues will cost to fix.


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Bear in mind that some drivers may be hesitant to buy a Cat S or Cat N vehicle if you decide to sell. 


We hope that you have enjoyed learning all about Cat N and Cat S cars.