The used car market attracts hundreds of thousands of buyers every year, and for good reason - you can end up saving hundreds of pounds buying a used car as opposed to buying new. Here at RAW2K, we host a massive range of used cars in our daily and weekly online auctions, and many of these include accident-damaged cars for sale.
But what are accident-damaged cars, exactly, and why should you consider buying them? In this comprehensive guide, we explore everything you need to know about accident damaged cars, including what you need to consider before buying one.
What are accident damaged cars?
Accident-damaged cars are essentially a loosely-defined subset of auction cars. Now, it’s true that technically, accident-damaged could be referring to almost anything - flood damaged cars could be theoretically categorised as accident damaged cars, for example. In the industry, though, they’re generally viewed as being largely synonymous with crash damaged cars - those which have been involved in collisions of some description.
(‘Salvage cars’ is another broad term which can be used for accident damaged cars, but confusingly, salvage cars can have a very broad meaning or a very specific one, depending on which company or entity is using it. If in doubt, it’s always best to double check to be sure!)
You can, however, be certain about one central aspect of accident-damaged cars - they’re almost always insurance write-offs. This means that they’re either supplied directly from insurance companies who don’t think they can be returned to the road, or trade buyers looking to sell them on for repair.
These types of vehicles will have been involved in collisions of varying degrees, which may leave them with various levels of damage - ranging from light cosmetic damage, serious technical issues, or even serious structural damage. They’ll also usually have been issued with an ABI category by the Association of British Insurers, which will roughly indicate their condition.
Why buy accident damaged cars for sale?
Many accident damaged cars can still be driven again if you’ve got the tools and expertise to repair them, which means they can provide fantastic value for money, as opposed to buying new. Lightly damaged cars are naturally the easiest to get roadworthy again, but seriously damaged cars can be repaired too.
If you don’t intend to drive the car again yourself, you can even sell it on for financial profit, as many of our own customers do. In fact, fixing up cars and selling them on is a popular and lucrative pastime for professional mechanics, which is part of why we have so many trade customers at RAW2K.
Even the most badly damaged cars can still be useful; they’re a great source of spare parts, which can be used to repair other vehicles. If the vehicle being fixed is a particularly high-end brand, it can end up saving you hundreds on the repair. It’s another reason why they’re often quite so useful to our trade customers!
Of course, not everyone buys accident damaged cars for business-related reasons, or financial gain. Some people simply like having a project to work on, and for this reason accident damaged cars can be a worthwhile purchase for hobbyists or self-taught mechanics.
Where to find accident damaged cars for sale
Take your pick! Common sources of accident damaged cars for sale include private sellers, online retailers and dedicated car auction companies. Using private sellers can often be a gamble, as it can sometimes involve a choice between taking them at their word on a certain aspect of the car, or alternatively walking away from the sale.
Personally, we would recommend using car auction companies and online retailers. By design, they’re often able (and willing) to be even clearer about the condition of the car, and what you can expect when you purchase it. In each of our listings at RAW2K, for example, you can find all the key information clearly laid out for you at a glance.
Car auction companies and online retailers can often host a much wider choice of accident damaged vehicles, too. RAW2K hosts online car auctions which are refreshed on a daily and weekly basis, featuring damaged cars for sale, repairable cars, bike and van salvage, and insurance write-offs in a broad spectrum of makes and models.
Who can buy accident damaged vehicles?
Theoretically, almost anyone! However, it’s true that most of the people who buy accident damaged cars tend to be professionals mechanics, trade customers and serious hobbyists, as we’ve outlined above, but there’s nothing stopping anyone else from doing so as long as you’re within the law (e.g. you’re not underage or anything similar).
In practice, while you can find many cars with light cosmetic damage, if you’re buying anything with structural damage or suffering significant mechanical problems, it’s best to have the knowledge and skill to repair them yourself. Buying one and immediately sending it off for repair probably means any savings you’d make would be minimal. You may as well buy new!
Even if you’ve got some mechanical knowledge, you’ll still need to consider your purchase carefully. Buying an accident damaged car still involves weighing up the investment of time and money it’ll take to repair or sell on, and the level of damage between individual cars can vary significantly. Make sure to do your research in advance!
Do I need a licence to buy an accident damaged car?
In the majority of cases, no - you won’t need a licence to buy Category N or S cars (formerly known as Cat C and D, respectively). However, you may well need a licence to buy a Category B vehicle, because of the strict legal stipulation that they must never be put back on the roads. (We cover the various vehicle categories below.)
For Category A vehicles, the point is essentially moot. These cars have been so badly damaged that they can never be put back on the roads, so by definition they’re useless to even the most skilled of mechanics, and you’ll struggle to find these types of accident damaged vehicles for sale anywhere.
What are the various accident damaged vehicle categories?
If a vehicle has sustained enough damage in an accident for the cost of repair to be close to (or even exceed) its pre-accident value, the insurer will take possession of it. It’ll then be assigned a salvage category - sometimes known as a salvage title - according to the code set out by the Association of British Insurers.
There are four main ABI categories in total: A, B, N and S. Up until October 2017, Categories S and N were named Category C and D, respectively, but they were changed to allow for increased clarity as to the state of the car. Some sellers have yet to update their paperwork or websites, which is why you may occasionally see Category C and D accident damaged cars for sale.
The four main categories include:
Category A - strictly scrap only. These cars have been so badly damaged that they cannot even be stripped for parts. The entire car must be crushed.
Category B - Sometimes known as breaker cars, these vehicles have suffered serious structural damage and the shell of the car must therefore be crushed. However, they can still be stripped for parts.
Category S - Formerly known as Category C vehicles. The S stands for structural - these are accident-damaged cars which have sustained serious structural damage to their frame or chassis, which is severe enough that the insurer has decided not to repair them.
Category N - Formerly Category D. Sometimes known as Non Structural cars, these vehicles have not sustained damage to their chassis or underlying frame, but the insurer has decided to write them off anyway. They can still be repaired, and indeed many customers do - see our recent post on Category N cars.
Other, less frequently used categories include:
Category U or Category X - Unrecorded insurance write-offs. These can include stolen cars or accident-damaged vehicles which were involved in collisions but the damage wasn’t reported to the insurance company. (This sometimes happens when the driver is uninsured.) They can be risky purchases, as it can be more difficult to find out the true extent of the damage.
Should I buy an accident damaged car?
Only you can really know the answer to that! It depends on a lot of factors, including your personal level of mechanical skill, the condition of the car in question, and what you’re planning to use it for. At least some mechanical knowledge is advisable - we generally wouldn’t recommend buying an accident damaged car if you don’t know how to properly repair it.
This means that people looking to replace their family vehicle or commuter car often end up looking elsewhere, but vehicles with light cosmetic damage can still be useful to first-time drivers who don’t mind buying a secondhand vehicle as their first car.
How much research should I do?
Again, it’s mostly up to you, depending on how confident you are in the vehicle’s condition and how much you’re happy to pay for it. Here at RAW2K, we can guarantee that there is no outstanding finance on any of the vehicles we sell, but many customers still prefer to find out more about the background of their potential purchases using sites like the Vehicle Enquiry Service, or do an HPI check, just in case.
However much detail you personally prefer to go into, we’d always recommend carefully reviewing the information provided about the vehicle, and if you’d like, organise a visit in person to see it for yourself. It’s not always strictly necessary, but it’s rarely a bad idea!
How to register to buy accident damaged vehicles for sale
The process for registering obviously varies depending on exactly where you’re buying them. Here at RAW2K, we’ve made sure that it’s as simple and as easy as possible. All you have to do is search, sign up, and start bidding.
First, use our simple search facility to track down your favourite accident-damaged cars. Then, we just need a few quick details from you to sign you up, and that’s all there is to it! You’re free to start bidding on your preferred car (or cars) immediately. It couldn’t be simpler!