Crashed cars deemed too damaged or beyond economical repair by insurers are being given a clean slate and sold to unsuspecting motorists on the second-hand market, a shocking new investigation has revealed.
Auto Express found 10 vehicles that had previously suffered substantial damage – enough to be written off by insurers in the past – being advertised for sale almost a year later with a clean bill of health.
The motoring magazine carried out vehicle history checks on each of the 10 cars only to find that the reports came back with no record of them being written off.
Auto Express carried out vehicle history checks on all the cars it knew had previously been recorded as Cat S write offs. Every check came back giving the vehicles a clean bill of health
Auto Express said it found 10 cars for sale on the used market that had been declared as Cat S that came up with no history check warnings about previously being written off.
It identified these vehicles by their Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) plates.
Vehicle write-offs explained
Category A, or ‘Scrap’ cars, remain the most badly damaged vehicles. They can’t be repaired or even broken for spares.
Category B, or ‘Break’ cars, are again very badly damaged and beyond repair, but they can be ‘broken’ into parts for salvage and recycling.
Category S, or ‘Structural’ cars have incurred damage to the basic structure that gives a car its strength. These ‘S’ cars can be fixed and re-sold, but you should ensure that the work has been checked by a qualified mechanic.
Category N, or ‘Non-structural’ cars, are equivalent to current Cat D cars. Their damage isn’t to the core structure, but there might still be some safety-related parts in areas like suspension or steering that will need to be replaced.
The motoring magazine said some of the cars had history check alerts for outstanding finance and dodgy mileage, but not one was listed as having previously been written-off in the past.
This has potentially lethal and financially damaging ramifications for unsuspecting used car buyers.
That’s because consumers are advised to have an independent mechanical inspection on any car listed as a Cat S write off, purely as a safety measure.
Without any declaration that a car has a hidden background of crash damage, motorists are unlikely to have an inspection carried out.
Buyers who find out at a later date that their car has previous been written off will also see the value of their vehicle plummet.
And because it’s an offence to knowingly sell a written-off car without declaring this information, it begs the question if the market is being policed at all.
HPI consumer director Fernando Garcia told Auto Express that it ‘constantly monitors the quality of the data it generates and receives’ and added: ‘If the consumer conducts an HPI Check and it did not show the Vehicle Condition Alert Register information, they would be covered by our guarantee if they adhere to our terms and conditions.’
An Experian spokesperson told Auto Express that none of the vehicles checked using its service were recorded as a total loss and as a result did not show as being written off.
When the DVLA was also contacted by the car magazine, it said: ‘Insurance companies are required to notify DVLA of all accident-damaged vehicles.’