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Buying a crashed classic

Born Again Published: 3rd Oct 2012 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

Buying a crashed classic
Buying a crashed classic
Buying a crashed classic
Buying a crashed classic
Buying a crashed classic Fire damage can be extensive, note blob of a battery!
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How repairing a write off could easily get you the classic car of your dreams.

We all know what a basket case is – but what’s the difference between cutting out rusty panels to replace with new or doing similar with bent metalwork that’s been smashed to bits? Exactly and that’s why buying a crashed classic as a restoration can make a lot of sense and save you a packet – so long as you know what you are looking at that is!

With some five million prangs reported a year there’s a real likelihood that the next car you’ll purchase (be a modern daily driver or a classic) will have seen the inside of a bodyshop at some point in its life… According to trade classifiers HPI (01722 422422), around one in eight cars on our roads have been involved in an accident – and believe it or not but an awful lot of rare classics are written off every year, too!

There’s a real fear of buying a dodgy-repaired car of course, although it’s not quite such a worry on an old car that may need extensive restoration anyway; after all if a bodyshell has to be rebuilt from virtual scratch, does it matter how it got into that state in the first place?

It’s As Easy As Abc…

There are various classifications of what constitutes a write-off. The term describes a vehicle that in the eyes in the insurance company does not warrant repairing, either due to age, value or administrative hassle. Traditionally, insurers write off if the estimated cost of repair exceeds 65 per cent of a vehicle’s market value.

Category A & B vehicles are deemed by the insurers to be dangerous and should never make it onto the road again, although Cat B cars can be used to donate certain parts.

Other ‘total loss’ situations fall into categories C & D. Category C are vehicles that are safely repairable, even if the insurers have decided it is uneconomic to do so. They can legally be repaired and used on the road, although fresh V5 documents have to be obtained directly from the DVLA stating that the car has been repaired.

This will also be shown if any computer data check – such as an HPI check – is carried out.

As these vehicles carry some ‘previous’, their resale values are affected as a result – around 15 per cent typically, although with a classic car, which has no set market value, this isn’t such a worry.

Category D cars tend to be the more valuable vehicles and often suffer from nothing more serious than trivial damage. Their V5s can remain unsullied – however these are still recorded on computer data checks. Category D cars can also be stolen and recovered vehicles which although okay (maybe just a smashed window and broken steering lock) aren’t wanted by the owner after the theft. Indeed we’ve heard of low value modern classics – MGFs being a prime example – being written off for nothing more serious than a slashed hood while we almost bought a Porsche 924 for just £200 at a special salvage auction which was only missing its keys!

Vic To The Rescue

The majority of damaged cars that fall into Category C are sold without their original V5 logbooks as these, by law, are returned by the insurance companies to the DVLA and you must apply for a replacement. However, before this can be issued the vehicle must be checked to confirm its identity by the authorities.

Although it is carried out at local Government Goods Vehicle Testing Stations, it is not a roadworthiness check like the MOT, but rather one that verifies a vehicle’s age and whether or not it’s a potential ‘ringer’ (stolen and given a new identity). The test, which you are not allowed to see carried out, is strict and secret. Every car carries certain ‘date stamps’ on it and examiners check these datum points against the vehicle’s original build date plus confirm the damage as described by the insurance company. These tests cost around £40 and it’s up to you to transport the car to a check station; they won’t come to you.

Abi Code Of Practice Is Here To Help

In order to help stamp out rogue traders and illegal practices, the Association of British Insurers (ABI) devised a Salvage Code of Practice some years back, and this has proved very successful. But to be on the safe side, it is always best to buy ‘salvage’ from an insurance approved agent – these will be the dealers who collect and sell damaged vehicles for the insurance companies themselves.

They will never try to sell either category A or B vehicles. These companies are also the most professional in the business and will do a lot to help customers find the vehicle they want, explaining the damage and even helping locate the parts they need to repair the vehicle. The best starting point is the likes of the British Vehicle Salvage Federation (BVSF,

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