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What happens when your car is written off - and how to buy it back

Scroll below this post and you'll notice how I gave up on this blog about my car in early January. Anyway, to quickly sum up I got the exhaust fitted (sounds great, bit anti-social), replaced the front run-flat tyres with regular ones (improved the ride quality no end), and had my steering wheel retrimmed in leather and Alcantara. It looks and feels amazing, see below; huge thanks to Jack at Royal Steering Wheels.

Anyway, a few months later my beloved Mini was written off. But that isn't as bad as it's a quick (ish) story about what happens when your car is written off, how you can keep your car, and even make a decent financial profit.

Here we go:

I went to wash my car one day and noticed a mystery gash in the roof. Pictured below, it runs from the top of the A-pillar on the passenger side and back towards the sunroof. It has punctured the outside skin of the roof but is not a major problem. It's not an MOT failure and with a bit of gaffer tape is waterproof. Tape also stops it making a whistling noise while driving.

The police couldn't help, I had no witnesses, and the only security camera with a perfect view turned out to be the nearby shop's only fake. Typical.

Wanting it sorted, I called up my insurer, Admiral. They booked me into a local garage of their choosing for an inspection and valuation, but this is where the bad news continues. The garage decided the car should be written-off because fixing it is 'beyond economical repair'. At this point I was able to drive the car home and continue using it as normal.

Admiral got in touch a week or so later to negotiate a settlement. They said the car is worth £5,000, which I was quite happy with given I'd paid £5,650 a few months earlier and insurers are renowned for under-valuing cares in these circumstances. The cost of any work or modifications done does not raise this price, and neither does the fact I had insured the car for £5,650. The insurer basically looks at similar cars for sale and offers you what it deems to be a fair price.

You should definitely negotiate here, as you've nothing to lose. I got them to raise the price to £5,200.

At this point I could have taken the money, which would be £4,875 after my insurance excess is take away. I'd get a cheque in the post and my car would go to the scrap yard. There, I could remove all parts of value and pay a small fee per part to the scrap dealer.

Instead I went for option two, which is to negate the amount of money a scrap yard would have paid Admiral to buy the car off them. This means £5,200 minus my £325 excess and minus the £1,500 the scrap yard would have bought it for. This left me with a cheque for £3,375 and, crucially, I got to keep my car.

The car was perfectly driveable, according to Admiral, did not require a new MOT and was insured just as before.

However, having taken the money and settled with Admiral, I accept my car is now (and will forever be logged as) a Category D write-off. Category A and B vehicles have suffered major crash damage and/or fire, flooding etc and don't come back onto the road. Cat C and D cars are written off due to their damage being beyond economic repair. That phrase again. The damage was relatively small, but the car will now be worth less when I come to sell it.

Next came my insurance renewal, which was due a couple of months after the damage appeared. Admiral original quoted me £1,900 for 12 months, and of course took away my no-claims history because I had to claim off my own policy. I phoned up, haggled, and got this knocked down to £958 for the year, which isn't too bad considering.

Finally, I'm now looking to get the damage fixed. Admiral and the garage said it had written off a car worth £5,000, yet I have received a quote from a local bodyshop of £500. Bargain. Hopefully I'll have it sorted in the next few weeks and my car will be exactly as it was before the incident, minus the Cat D status.

So that's what happens when your car is written off. It's not the end of the world, and sometimes you can even end up with some money in your pocket.

And no, I've absolutely no idea what caused the damage in the first place.

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