No one plans on having their car written off but it is an unfortunate possibility for those that have been in an accident. Getting a write off usually means your car is unsafe to drive or it is financially unviable for the insurer to repair it. There are many legal parameters at work surrounding your vehicle and the ultimate decision to register it as a write off, and it may surprise you to hear that it doesn’t all come down to you and what you want. In fact, at the end of the day, it’s the insurer’s call – and to disagree is to open up a can of worms for yourself. Let’s delve deeper into what it means to have your car written off and how to make the best decisions for your own interests in this case.
How to Tell if Your Car is Written Off
The first thing you need to know if there are laws in each State and Territory that outline whether a vehicle needs to be written off. Insurance companies must comply with these laws in making their decision.
These laws generally acknowledge two classifications of written off vehicles (WOV).
- WOVs that are unrepairable because they’re too unsafe to repair – these are often called “statutory write offs” or “non-repairable write offs”.
- WOVs that are repairable but too uneconomical to repair – sometimes called “repairable write offs”.
Therefore, following an accident and your insurer’s assessment of your vehicle, they will deem it a write off based on these classifications, and more specifically, the ‘Damage Assessment Criteria for the Classification of Statutory Write-Offs’, developed by the National Motor Vehicle Theft Reduction Council (NMVTRC) and Austroads. This criteria was developed for the consistent application of assessment criteria for the classification of WOVs.
If Your Car is Unsafe to Repair…
Your car will be unsafe to repair if it has sustained certain damage. In this case, it will never be repaired and will be permanently de-registered. In most cases, it will be taken to the junk yard where it is stripped for parts. The car will also be added to the write off vehicle register (WOVR) for its particular state.
If you’re ever purchasing a used car, you should always check that the vehicle you’re looking to purchase is not on this list. Unfortunately, there are cases where people have unknowingly purchased vehicles that have been in significant accidents and undergone illegal repairs. Always perform the right checks when purchasing a used car – check our article on things you need to know about purchasing second-hand cars.
For light motor vehicles, the following damage is deemed unsafe to repair.
- Excessive structural damage – indicators are listed in the ‘Damage Assessment Criteria for the Classification of Statutory Write-Offs’.
- Excessive fire damage where paint has blistered on any three of the following: the roof, a pillar, the floor, the firewall, structural walls or chassis, or if the vehicle has sustained a combination of interior or exterior damage.
- Excessive water damage where the internal cabin has been inundated with water to a level above the inner door sill.
- Excessive stripping damage where excessive pieces of the interior or exterior parts, panels, and components of a car have been removed (for examples, the wheels, bonnet, guards, doors, boot lid, etc.).
If Your Car is Uneconomical to Repair…
If your car is uneconomical to repair, it is still placed on a WOVR; however, you can contact your state authority to repair your vehicle and deregister it from the WOVR. In this case, your car can still be legally sold and driven. That being said, your car will be updated as a repaired write off, which may affect the value of the vehicle.
Your car will be deemed uneconomical to repair based on a simple formula.
Salvage Value + Cost of Repairs > Market Value of Vehicle (pre-accident) or Sum Insured
If the salvage value of your car (that is, the cost to sell it as it is to the salvage yard) and the cost of repairs amounts to a figure higher than the market value or the price you insured the car for then the insurer will deem it uneconomical to repair. The insurer will conduct an assessment of the vehicle to determine this decision.
After your car has been registered as a write off, your insurance company will pay out the sum of your cover, minus your excess and the remainder of your registration.
If you want to dispute your insurer’s claim – whether that be for a statutory or repairable write off – you have to act quickly as they have to notify the WOVR register within seven (7) days. It’s a struggle to get the WOVR amended once it’s been updated as the original assessment needs to be amended. It also required a lot of evidence.
If your car was a statutory write off, you will need to prove that the legislative requirements of a non-repairable car have not been met and the insurer was wrong. If it’s a repairable write off and you want your insurer to pay for the repair, you will need to prove the repairs or salvage value are cheaper than the market value and sum insured of the repaired vehicle.
You can take your dispute to the Internal Dispute Resolution of your insurer and on to the Australian Financial Complaints Authority (AFCA).
What to do if the Damage Isn’t Classified as Write Off Worthy
So, your car is damaged, but still repairable. You can breathe a sigh of relief – if you’re insured. Although it’s a hassle, dealing with insurance is the right way to go about resolving and damage to your car, particularly if it was caused by a third party or the damage is significant.
If the damage was caused by an accident not involving any other parties and the damage is light, you may wish to try to resolve it yourself. The best way to move forward is to seek professional advice. Whether that be from a mechanic or your insurer is up to you.
The thing to be weary of is mechanics that quote underpriced or overpriced repairs that they cannot carry out safely and effectively. This may lead to your car being unsafe to drive in the aftermath. Always seek a second opinion and do your research for a trusted repairer.
If your vehicle is in the process of being written off, more often than not, it’s time to say your final goodbyes. More importantly, it’s most likely time to start searching for your next set of wheels. To help you decide, check out our blog where we feature guides like the 2019 guide on the best cars for families.
For specific damage, seek specific services. Windscreen damage can obstruct your vision and make your car unsafe to drive. For a high quality windscreen repair or replacement, book an appointment with Novus Autoglass. With the best materials and technique on the market, and a lifetime guarantee, Novus Autoglass is the trusted name in windscreen care.