Entries in car (2)


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 sounds...here'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.


Buying a car - Not because I needed to, but because I wanted to

I’ve bought a car. This may sound fairly mundane to many, but I live in London and owning a car in London is a commitment not to be taken lightly. Honestly, I’d put money on there being successful marriages which have required left effort than owning a car in London. I live near Wimbledon; a green bit with normal-sized roads and Tube stations above ground, and it’s still an expensive pain.

It’s not even as if I needed the car to travel anywhere. I use public transport for work and two of my three housemates already owned cars when I bought mine. The third has one now too, and compounding this further is my rather jammy job. I’m fortunate enough to get paid to review cars. It’s not every week, but roughly one weekend in every four or five can be spent using a free car, which gets me around and takes me 200 miles north to see mine and my girlfriend’s families.

But the thing is, I really like cars. I like everything about them and I have since I started crawling around as a toddler, chasing the Scalextric my dad used as a catalyst for what quickly became a lifelong passion. I watch car programmes, I read car magazines, I post on car forums, I listen to car podcasts and I write about the bloody things almost every day of the week.

So when I discovered how much cheaper supermarket loans are than those from my bank, I had to put the wheels in motion (ha ha). Credit checked (and Experian promptly cancelled a day before the free month ended), loan approved, bank account flushed with cash. Let’s go shopping.

My favourite hobby as a young teen was to flick through a copy of AutoTrader, back when you could still buy it in print, and fantasise over what I might be able to afford if, somehow, I landed a weekend job and saved every penny. The teenage car purchase never happened, but thankfully Mum saw pity and stuck me on the insurance of her Vauxhall Corsa. Anyway, the 2015 equivalent is to get online, set a budget, add 20% with some man-maths, get an insurance quote and away we go.

I’d set my heart on a RenaultSport Clio 182 - basically a tarted up Clio with a 2-litre engine - and specifically the Trophy version, limited to just 500 examples. I was - and still am - convinced that the Clio Trophy is an appreciating asset. They are a comfortable £2,000 to £3,000 more than the regular 182, thanks to their rareness and trick front suspension. But spending £5,000 on a near-decade-old Clio was just too much of a gamble for my first ever car purchase. One for another, no doubt more expensive, day.

Clio idea parked (sorry), I went looking for a Mini. I’d recently reviewed the newest John Cooper Works Mini, the hottest of the bunch. It was a riot, but with a face only a mother could love and a price tag, after options, of over 30 grand. But dig into the classifieds and the previous generation, the R56, can be had for a fraction of this. The Cooper S from this R56 generation (sold from 2006 to 2013) was in my budget. I found a few potentials on Pistonheads, but having no current car insurance meant test driving any for sale privately would be a palava.

After a week of searching I found a tidy looking 2007 model with the John Cooper Works body and a few other niceties like sat-nav, air conditioning and a panoramic sunroof. I dragged my girlfriend, Jess, 90 minutes across London on a sodden Sunday afternoon to view the car, which I bought there and then. A couple of quick phone calls to sort the tax and insurance, and away we went.

Thirty minutes later and the car pinged loudly, telling the tyre pressures were low and that I must drive slowly to a garage to top them up. This was joined by a strong vibration through the steering wheel, which was pulling to the left, and a noise which sounded like a flat tyre. I went against all my own advice in buying the first car I saw - and from a dealer at that. Would this by low tyre pressures from being sat for a while? An unfortunate puncture? Or something much worse?