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​New help for used car buyers: Insurers update rules for handling write-offs to give consumers clearer info

Press Release   •   Sep 29, 2017 11:35 BST

Changes to the way insurers categorise damaged vehicles which are salvaged will offer used car buyers a new way of finding out more about the history of the vehicles.

From this weekend (October 1st) an update to the Salvage Code means vehicles which were structurally damaged but judged repairable will have their registration certificate – known as the V5C – marked with an ‘S’ and the following text:

This vehicle has been salvaged due to structural damage but following a technical evaluation declared suitable for repair.

This will give a clear sign to consumers that they should check repairs have been done to an appropriate standard, by investing in a vehicle inspection or using a recognised car history checking service.

DAC Graham McNulty National Police Chief Council (NPCC) Lead for Motor Vehicle Crime, said: “I welcome the measures taken in the new code with regard to the categorisation of vehicle salvage. These steps will not only protect the public further through the additional safeguards preventing unsafe vehicles returning to the road but also help to detect and deter criminal activity. The codes will provide consumers with further peace of mind regarding the provenance of a vehicle prior to purchase.”

Ben Howarth, Senior Policy Adviser for Motor and Liability at the Association of British Insurers (ABI), said: “Not all insurance ‘write offs’ need to be taken off the road forever and buying one of these cars can be a great way to find a bargain. The new Salvage Code should mean there is better information for anyone considering a second hand car, so you know what questions to ask and can buy with confidence. While these changes work their way through the system, make sure you also carry out other background checks on any used car you’re thinking of getting.”

Since it will take a while for the change to filter through the used car market, here are some other key tips for people shopping for a second hand vehicle:

  • Test drive the car, and take your time looking it over. Watch out for anything suspicious like slightly different colours of paint
  • Use a car history checking service which can uncover problems such as whether the vehicle’s been stolen or has outstanding finance
  • Check for gaps in the service history to see if it’s been properly maintained or not
  • Check the MOT certificate to see when it was last judged roadworthy and whether much work was needed
  • Get an engineer’s check which can more accurately check the car’s condition and any hidden dangers
  • Check online valuations to see what similar vehicles cost to buy and to insure.

Richard Billyeald, Chief Technical Officer at Thatcham Research, said: “This is about providing clarity to the consumer. The changes have refocussed the process of classifying salvaged vehicles away from financial criteria to a categorisation that provides greater insight into the nature of the damage.”

More technical background / detail on the changes to the Salvage Code can be found here

Thatcham Research is the independent voice of automotive safety & repair, advising motorists, insurers and vehicle manufacturers to help reduce accident frequency, severity and costs and to realise the vision of ‘Safer cars, fewer crashes’.

As well as its world leading crash and track research, Thatcham Research tests and accredits crash repair parts, vehicle repair technicians, and a number of other products and services within the collision repair industry for insurers, motor manufacturers, equipment manufacturers and suppliers.

A founder member of the international Research Council for Automobile Repairs (RCAR), Thatcham Research has also been a member of the European New Car Assessment Programme (Euro NCAP) since 2004.