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Motorcycle write off categories explained

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Have you been eyeing up a Cat C write off on eBay to convert into the perfect track weapon? Great, but what is a Cat C write off, and how is it decided? Here is the low down on the four motorcycle write off categories.

What do write off categories mean?

There are four main categories used by insurers to classify the condition of the bike. These are A,B,S and N. Each has its own meaning which distinguishes what can be done with the bike once it’s been coded.

Category N (formerly Cat D)

Category N is the equivalent to the Cat D before the coding changed. The N stands for None structural, which means the mainframe hasn’t been damaged. These can be fixed up and put back on the road, however, the insurance company deems the value of the bike beyond economical repair. This can mean the parts are too hard to get hold of, or the parts are too expensive against the value of the bike. Normally this will be cosmetic damage such as plastics, steering lock in the event of a stolen bike or other exposed parts on naked bikes like header tanks. Usually, you can buy it back from the insurance company or buy cat N’s at auction.

Cat N might be a good way to go if you find your dream project bike. It will likely be more expensive to purchase vs other categories, but the main components should all be there and relatively undamaged saving some cash.

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For some older bikes, Cat N classification can be as simple as a bent set of clip-ons, a snapped steering lock or footpeg. This is due to the cost of replacement parts. Older bikes decline in value with age and mileage so you might be able to find a bargain if you keep an eye out.

Cat N’s may need an MOT after restoration. If the previous MOT is in date, you shouldn’t need a return trip to the test centre.

write off category S (previously Cat C)

These bikes are Cat N’s with some structural damage, hence the S in the name. The damage might be only to the frame and plastics, but the insurance company grants it to be “too much damage to repair and exceeds the value of the bike itself”. Nevertheless, a category S bike can still be fixed up, and ridden on the road once again, much like the Cat N.

Ducati multistrada
Cat S Ducati Multistrada

Cat S bikes can be excellent streetfighter bikes, as more than likely the plastics will be damaged. They can also make good starting points for a track bike, as damaged plastics aren’t much of a concern.

Missing pannier lid and a dented exhaust worth more than the bike.

Category S bikes are advised to get an MOT after restoration due to the extended damage they had originally.

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Cat B, Break for parts

Category B bikes are significantly damaged. The frame cannot be repaired, and there is major damage to the fairings and other components. This means it cannot be repaired without a significant investment. These are bikes will more than likely have catastrophic damage to significant cost items like damaged forks, a severely damaged frame.

Cat B bikes see the structure too unsafe to be fixed, so must be stripped down for salvageable parts, whilst the rest of the bike is destroyed.

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Bikes classified as Cat B are great for finding used parts for repair projects and are easily found online by breakers. They can be a useful lifeline for bikes that struggle to get OEM parts from dealers due to their age.

Motorcycle write off Cat A

Here the motorcycle has been damaged so severely that the insurers have written it off entirely. The bike must be scrapped, and no parts can be taken off the bike for resale. The whole bike will usually be crushed.

Cat A write off
New space saving motorcycle.

A cat A bike is too unsafe to be fixed. It won’t see the road or track ever again. You (shouldn’t) find them for sale.

Can I check if a bike has been written off?

Checking the category of a bike usually costs a few quid. Autotrader provides a service starting at £17, along with similar checks from HPI check which covers MOT, write off, outstanding finance, and checks if the vehicle has been reported stolen.

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It is worth taking these ratings with a pinch of salt. These categories will only apply to bikes that have gone through the insurance system. A bike may have been crashed, and fixed by its owner privately meaning it will have no category but has still had extensive damage previous. As always inspect any new purchase thoroughly and be sure of what you are buying.