What is a Category U salvage car?

If you’ve already been hunting around for a salvage car, either as a repair project or to drive yourself, you may already be familiar with the main salvage categories. Whenever a car is written off by an insurer, it’s assigned a salvage title by the Association of British Insurers. These are intended to serve as a general indication of its rough level of damage, and wherever possible you’ll see them in the individual listings of our online car auctions. The main ones include Category A, Cat B, Cat S and Cat N. However, in rare cases, when searching online you may occasionally see a Category U accident damaged car for sale. So, what is a Category U, and are they worth buying?

What is a Category U car?

Category U cars are ‘Unrecorded’ write-offs, which generally means that official details are hazy as to the circumstances surrounding their accident. Salvage cars are assigned an Unrecorded status when they were known to be involved in an accident, but for whatever reason this wasn’t reported to the insurance company at the time. (We’ve explained some of the most common scenarios below.)

Sometimes this damage has been repaired privately or off-the-books, leaving the car looking just as good as other used cars, and sometimes it hasn’t. For the same reasons, the extent of the damage is often not as well-documented as it can be with other cars, and if you’re planning on buying a Category U car, you’ll find that doing the research on its background is particularly difficult. Because of the lack of reporting, the accident in question probably won’t have been reported to the Motor Insurance Anti-Fraud Theft Register, which can leave gaps in its history.

What’s more, because the car hasn’t been assigned a C or D salvage category, it means it won’t have necessarily gone through any tests or inspections to ensure that it’s road legal again.

3 common scenarios in which a car can become Category U

The driver was uninsured

If the person in control of the vehicle at the time of its collision was uninsured, then obviously the proper reporting procedures become null, which means that no insurance company would have stepped in to take responsibility for the vehicle. Therefore, in these cases police will seize the car, and if it’s not scrapped entirely, it will often be classed as a Category U.

The driver only had third party insurance

If the driver was involved in a collision which didn’t involve anyone else, and only had third-party insurance, this can sometimes lead the vehicle in question being declared as a Category U. Third party insurance is the legal bare minimum when it comes to car insurance, and is the most basic you’re able to get. It’s purchased by a first party (the insured) from a second party (the insurer) for protection against the claims of another third party - hence the name.

In these cases, third-party insurance will cover the costs of the property damage the driver inflicted, but not the costs of the driver’s vehicle or any personal injuries they may have suffered. If the driver is unable to cover the costs of their own car, it can lead to the car becoming a Category U.

The vehicle was stolen and then recovered

Occasionally, a car may be stolen but covered under the driver’s insurance. If the car remains missing for some time, the insurer will sometimes settle the owner’s claim, only for the car to turn up later. This means it won’t always flag up on an HPI or similar check as having been written off, and will be classed as Unrecorded.

Should I buy a Category U car?

Really, that’s up to you! As we’ve touched on above, they can be risky purchases, and the time and cost of researching their background can be too much hassle for many buyers. They’re generally not worth the effort and risk if you’re trying to find a used car to drive yourself, but mechanics or salvage dealers can often find them a valuable source of spare parts. You’re the best person to decide whether you have the resources, energy and skill to take them on!

Don’t worry if you’re not sure about them, though - we’ve got plenty to choose from right here at RAW2K. Whatever you’ve got in mind for your new vehicle, you’ll find plenty of suitable options amongst our salvage vehicle auctions, with models from leading manufacturers including Peugeot, BMW and Ford. Why not take a look around, and see what you can find?