6 minutes
cat s car meaning

If you’ve ever wondered about the mysterious terms Cat S and Cat N when shopping for cars, you’re not alone. In this guide, we’ll unravel the meanings behind Cat S and Cat N classifications, providing you with a friendly and human perspective to navigate the world of used cars more confidently. Let’s dive in!

What are the Insurance write-off categories?

Insurance write-off categories A, B, S, and N are classifications used for damaged vehicles:

  1. Category A (Scrap): The entire vehicle has to be crushed or have irreparable damage, and the vehicle is meant for scrap only.
  2. Category B (Break): Severe damage and the vehicle should be dismantled for parts but not returned to the road.
  3. Category S (Structural): Structural damage that is repairable, and the vehicle can be returned to the road after repairs.
  4. Category N (Non-Structural): Non-structural damage, often cosmetic, and the vehicle is repairable for road use.
Insurance write-off categories

What does Cat S mean?

Cat S stands for “Structural Damage.” When a vehicle receives a Cat S designation, it indicates that the damage is significant, specifically affecting the core structure of the car. This often includes the chassis or frame. However, it’s important to note that a Cat S designation doesn’t imply that the vehicle is beyond repair.

Common types of damage on Cat N:

  1. Chassis Damage: Harm to the main framework of the vehicle that supports various components.
  2. Suspension Damage: Issues with key components of the suspension system, such as control arms, struts, or shocks.
  3. Frame Damage: Compromises to the structural support of the vehicle.
  4. Engine Mount Damage: Impact on mounts securing the engine to the vehicle.
  5. Axle Damage: Harm to components crucial for the vehicle’s movement.
  6. Safety System Damage: Impacts on safety features such as airbags or crumple zones.

Can Cat S cars be repaired?

Yes, Cat S cars can undergo repairs and be safely reintroduced to the road. However, before doing so, they must undergo the re-registration process with the DVLA (Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency). This ensures that the necessary checks and documentation are in place, providing transparency about the vehicle’s history.

How does cat S affect insurance?

A Cat S designation can impact insurance by influencing coverage availability and premiums. Insurance companies may perceive structural damage as a higher risk, potentially leading to higher premiums. 

Some insurers may also have specific conditions or limitations for providing coverage on Cat S vehicles. It’s crucial to communicate openly with insurers to understand the implications and options for insuring a vehicle with a Cat S classification.

Is It worth buying a car with cat S?

Buying a car with a Cat S designation can be worth it if you thoroughly inspect the vehicle and ensure that the structural repairs are professionally done. While Cat S cars often come with a lower price, transparency and a careful evaluation of the repairs are crucial to making a wise and reliable purchase decision.

Can you remove cat S from a car?

No, the Cat S designation cannot be removed from a car. It is a permanent part of the vehicle’s history, even after repairs. The information about the Cat S classification is recorded in the vehicle’s documentation, such as the logbook (V5 document). 

Transparency is crucial when selling or buying a Cat S car, and attempting to conceal or remove this designation is not a legal or ethical practice. Always disclose the vehicle’s history to ensure fair and informed transactions.

What does Cat N mean?

Cat N stands for “Non-Structural Damage.” This classification indicates that the damage sustained by the vehicle is limited to components outside the core structure, such as body panels, lights, or the electrical system. While this damage may impact the aesthetics or functionality of the vehicle, it doesn’t compromise its fundamental structure.

Common types of damage on Cat N:

  1. Cosmetic Damage: This may include scratches, dents, or paint damage that affects the appearance but not the structure.
  2. Interior Damage: Damage to seats, dashboard, or controls that doesn’t compromise the vehicle’s structural integrity.
  3. Electrical System Issues: Problems with non-essential electrical components like radios or air conditioning.
  4. Light Damage: Damage to headlights, taillights, or other exterior lights that doesn’t impact the core structure.

Does cat N affect insurance?

Yes, a Cat N classification can affect insurance premiums and coverage. While it indicates that the vehicle has been repaired and deemed roadworthy, insurers may perceive it as having a history of damage, potentially leading to higher premiums.

Cat N  designation generally has a milder impact on insurance compared to Cat S. Since Cat N involves non-structural issues like cosmetic or electrical damage, insurers may be more willing to provide coverage, often with standard premiums. However, the specific impact can vary between insurance providers, and it’s advisable to communicate openly with insurers to understand their policies regarding Cat N vehicles.

How to remove cat n from a car?

To remove Cat N damage from a car, address all listed damage professionally. Repair both structural and cosmetic issues thoroughly. Then, have the car inspected by a qualified mechanic or Vehicle Standards Agency (VSA) inspector. 

They’ll assess its roadworthiness and safety. If it meets standards, they’ll remove the Cat N classification. Ensure all repairs are documented and keep records for potential buyers, as some may still inquire about the car’s history despite the classification removal.

Which used car is best to buy: Cat S or Cat N?

The choice between buying a Cat S or Cat N car depends on personal preferences and the specific type of damage. 

Cat N (Non-Structural) cars typically have less severe damage, often limited to cosmetic issues, while Cat S (Structural) cars involve damage to essential structural components. 

If you prioritize non-structural issues like cosmetic damage, Cat N might be the better option. On the other hand, if you’re comfortable with structural repairs and want a potentially more affordable option, Cat S could be suitable. 

If repairs are done professionally, both can be viable options. However, it’s crucial to assess the nature of the damage and the quality of repairs before deciding which category better suits your needs and preferences.

Does Cat S or Cat N show on V5?

Yes, both Cat S and Cat N classifications are recorded on the vehicle’s logbook, commonly known as the V5 document. This information provides transparency about the car’s history and helps potential buyers make informed decisions. 

Always check the V5 document to ascertain if a vehicle has been classified as Cat S or Cat N before buying or selling to ensure awareness of any past structural or non-structural damage.

What happens if you are told your vehicle is a ‘total loss’?

If your vehicle is declared a ‘total loss,’ it means the cost of repairs exceeds the vehicle’s current value. Insurance companies often compensate you with the vehicle’s market value or agreed-upon value. 

You can choose to keep the totaled vehicle with a reduced settlement or accept the payout and surrender the car. Understanding your options and negotiating with your insurer is essential in this situation.

If you unknowingly purchase a write-off car what to do?

Under the Sale of Goods Act 1979, vehicles bought from a dealer must be ‘as described,’ ‘of satisfactory quality,’ and ‘fit for purpose.’ If a purchased vehicle does not meet these criteria, you can return it and receive a refund within 6 months. Reporting to Trading Standards is an option if you believe the dealer has broken the law, such as selling an unsafe car.

Read this guide for more details about buying repaired ‘written off’ vehicles.

How can i Check my car is a write-off?

To check if your car is a write-off, inspect your vehicle’s documentation, specifically the logbook (V5 document). Look for any insurance write-off categories like Cat S or Cat N. 

Additionally, obtaining a vehicle history check from reputable platforms like Car Analytics and The Auto Experts is a smart move, providing in-depth information, including the vehicle’s write-off status. It’s a comprehensive method to ensure transparency about your car’s history.


In conclusion, understanding Cat S and Cat N categories is essential for anyone navigating the used car market. While Cat S indicates structural damage, careful inspection and transparency about repairs can make these cars viable options for budget-conscious buyers. 

Remember, a professional inspection and open communication with insurers are your allies in making informed decisions when dealing with insurance write-off vehicles.

Drive with Confidence! 

Discover the Untold Story of Your Next Ride with Comprehensive Vehicle History Checks

Frequently asked questions:

Does a Cat S car need to be inspected?

Yes, a Cat S car should be inspected before being deemed roadworthy. Despite being repaired, Cat S vehicles may have had structural damage, so a thorough inspection is crucial for safety assurance.