Should I Buy a Cat S Car?


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Should I Buy a Cat S Car?

Last updated on: April 3, 2024

Deciding to purchase a ‘Cat S’ car is a decision that carries with it a set of unique considerations. ‘Cat S’, or ‘Category S’, refers to a vehicle that has suffered structural damage. While these cars have been professionally repaired and are legally back on the road, they carry a history that potential buyers should be aware of.

In this guide, we will explore the pros and cons of buying a ‘Cat S’ car, as well as provide tips on how to make an informed decision.

What is a Cat S or Category S Car?

‘Cat S’, short for ‘Category S’, is a designation used by insurance companies in the UK to classify vehicles that have sustained structural damage. This refers to any damage to the integral framework of the car, including parts such as the chassis, crumple zones or suspension mounts.

It’s important to note that a ‘Cat S’ classification does not necessarily mean the vehicle is unsafe to drive. Instead, it signifies that the car has undergone major repairs to fix structural damage. This could have been caused by a variety of incidents, such as a severe collision, that at the time of the incident were deemed too costly to repair compared to the car’s value.

Cars classified as ‘Cat S’ can be put back on the road, but only after they have been professionally repaired and undergone a Vehicle Identity Check (VIC) to verify their identity. This process ensures that the repaired vehicle matches its original specifications and is safe to drive.

However, buyers should approach ‘Category S’ vehicles with caution. Even though these vehicles have been approved for use, their history of significant damage and repair can lead to ongoing maintenance issues and potential difficulties with reselling in the future.

Related: What is a Cat A, Cat B, Cat S, or Cat N write-off car

Pros of Buying a Cat S Car

Cheaper Purchase Price: Cat S cars are typically cheaper than similar models that haven’t been written off. This price reduction can make them appealing to buyers on a budget who are willing to take a chance on a repaired vehicle.

Potential for High-Quality Repairs: If a Category S car has been repaired by a reputable garage or technician, it could offer good value. A thorough repair job could restore the vehicle close to its pre-accident condition.

Less depreciation: These cars tend to depreciate less than non-written-off cars, as they have already taken the biggest hit in value.

Cons of Buying a Cat S Car

Safety Concerns: Even though Cat S cars have been repaired, there is always a risk that the vehicle may not be as structurally sound as it was originally. This can lead to safety concerns for both passengers and other road users.

Potential Hidden Damage: While all Category S cars must pass a VIC before they can be driven on public roads, this doesn’t guarantee the absence of hidden, unaddressed issues. Future mechanical problems could arise, leading to costly repairs.

Resale Difficulties: The ‘Cat S’ designation stays with the vehicle for life, which can make it more difficult to sell. Future buyers may be wary of the car’s history, which could limit its resale value.

Insurance and Financing Challenges: Some insurance companies may charge higher premiums for these types of cars, or may not insure them at all.

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5 Essential Cost Considerations

When considering the purchase of a Cat S car, several cost factors must be kept in mind:

Initial Purchase Price: Though Cat S cars are generally less expensive than their non-written-off counterparts, it is critical to ensure you’re getting a fair deal. Consider hiring a mechanic to inspect the vehicle before purchase.

Inspection Costs: Since Cat S vehicles have suffered structural damage in the past, it’s advisable to have the vehicle thoroughly inspected by a trusted mechanic before purchase. This will incur additional costs.

Repair and Maintenance Costs: Remember, the VIC checks for roadworthiness, not for the quality of the repairs. There may be hidden damages or shoddy repair work that could result in high future maintenance costs.

Insurance Costs: As already mentioned, insurance premiums for Cat S cars can be higher. It’s worth checking with several insurance companies to get an idea of what you might have to pay.

Resale Value: Cat S cars often have a limited audience due to their history, but the depreciation is less significant since it has already occurred.

Also Read: How Early Can You MOT a Car Before Expiry?

What to Check Before Buying a Cat S Car?

It’s highly recommended to thoroughly inspect a Cat S vehicle before deciding to purchase it. Here are some key considerations for this inspection:

Hire A Professional – To ensure a comprehensive inspection, it’s best to hire a professional mechanic or technician who has experience with Cat S vehicles. They will be able to identify any poorly done repairs or hidden damages that may not be immediately apparent.

Request Repair Documentation – It’s important to ask for documentation detailing the repairs completed on the vehicle. This should include what parts were replaced or repaired, and who did the work. This information can provide insight into the quality of the repairs and the integrity of the parts used.

Conduct a Vehicle History Check – Use the vehicle’s registration number to check its history online. This can reveal past accidents, MOT history, and whether there are any outstanding finance issues with the vehicle.

Examine the Vehicle Structure – Pay close attention to the vehicle’s structure. Look for signs of misalignment or uneven gaps between body panels, which could suggest poor-quality repairs.

Mechanical Check – Have the mechanic check the engine, transmission, suspension, and brakes carefully. These systems are vital for the car’s performance and safety, and any issues here could lead to significant costs down the line.

Check the Car Interior – Don’t forget to check the interior of the car. Look for signs of airbag deployment, which may not have been replaced or refurbished properly.

Test Drive –  Finally, take the car for a test drive to get a feel for how it handles and performs on the road. Listen closely for any unusual noises and make sure all systems are functioning correctly.

By following these steps, you can make a more informed decision about whether a Cat S car is a good investment for you.

Final Thoughts

Ultimately, the decision to purchase a Cat S car will largely depend on your personal circumstances and risk tolerance. These vehicles can often be a cost-effective alternative, particularly if you’re working with a tight budget. However, it’s crucial to remember that they carry a history of significant damage, which may contribute to potential future issues, even with professional repairs. Furthermore, such vehicles may also have a lower resale value.

Hence, it’s vital to thoroughly evaluate the car’s condition, have a trusted mechanic on board for inspection, and ensure that all crucial repairs have been carried out professionally.

If you’re prepared for potential risks and diligent during the buying process, a Cat S car might just turn out to be a worthwhile investment.

FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)

What Does Cat S Mean?

Cat S stands for “structural damage.” It is a category used by insurance companies in the UK to classify cars that have sustained structural damage in an accident. Structural damage is any damage that affects the car’s chassis, frame, or other key structural components.

Which Cat is better, D/N or S?

Cat N (previously called Cat D) cars are generally considered to be better than Cat S cars. This is because Cat N cars have sustained only non-structural damage, such as damage to the bodywork or interior. Cat S cars, on the other hand, have sustained structural damage, such as damage to the chassis or frame.

Why Should I Buy a Cat S Car?

People mainly consider buying Cat S cars because they are often priced lower than equivalent non-accident-damaged vehicles. This can make them an attractive option for buyers on a budget or those looking for a more affordable option.

Are Cat S Cars Safe to Drive?

It depends on the extent of the damage and the quality of the repairs. Before purchasing a Cat S car, it is essential to have a thorough inspection done by a qualified mechanic or engineer. They can assess the damage and determine if the car has been repaired properly and is safe to drive.

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