Car Insurance for Write-Offs

Learn about what to do when your car is written off and the insurance claim process in Savvy’s comprehensive guide.

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, updated on February 15th, 2024       

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Car Insurance Banner - Front view of a blue car which has been written off in an accident.

Even the most careful driver can find themselves in a situation where their car is damaged beyond repair. Anything from a prang on the road to damage from a storm can lead to your vehicle being written off. If this happens, it’s important to know what to do and what steps to take with your insurer.

You can learn more about write-offs in car insurance right here with Savvy. Our helpful guide explains what it means when your car is deemed a write-off, the insurance claim process and what you can do with a written-off vehicle.

What is a write-off in car insurance?

If you’re involved in an incident that causes major damage to your vehicle, your car insurance company might deem it a ‘write-off’ or ‘total loss’. This means it’s been found to be either beyond repair or too expensive to fix.  

There are two types of write-off:

  • Statutory – a vehicle that has sustained severe damage, making it unsafe to repair and drive. These vehicles are considered a total loss and cannot be legally driven on public roads. They’re typically sold for salvage or dismantled for parts and aren’t eligible for re-registration.
  • Repairable – the car could be repaired but the cost of doing so would be more than its agreed value in your insurance policy or the market value before the incident.

Any number of incidents can lead to a car being written off, from a high-speed crash to weather-related damage such as hail. Even if a car looks undamaged, it could have serious unseen issues. For example, the chassis may be broken or water damage affecting the car’s electronics may lead to it being deemed a write-off.

Will my car insurance cover my vehicle if it’s written off?

If your car is written off, whether your car insurance covers it will depend on the type of policy you have and its terms and conditions. All the relevant details will be outlined in your policy’s Product Disclosure Statement, but comprehensive car insurance can provide protection against accidental damage to your vehicle, including situations where the vehicle is deemed beyond repair. This means that if your car is written off in Australia, your insurer may offer a settlement based on the car’s agreed or market value, depending on the qualification criteria of your policy.

You may also be covered if you have third party fire and theft (TPFT) car insurance and your vehicle is written off due to a fire or theft, but this doesn’t cover you for incidents such as road traffic collisions. If you have third party property damage (TPPD) insurance, you aren’t covered for any damage to your own car, including if it’s written off, but it can cover you if you write off someone else’s car.

What happens after my car is written off by my insurer?

To determine whether a car is a write-off and what type of write-off it is, your insurance company will send an assessor to evaluate the vehicle and assess the damage against set criteria. The insurance company will then review the assessor’s report and calculate from that whether the car can or should be repaired. Once classified as a write-off, it’ll be listed on the Written-Off Vehicle Register (WOVR), an Australia-wide government initiative for recording written-off vehicles.

If you accept your insurer’s decision, you'll receive an insurance payout for your written-off vehicle (provided the write-off satisfies their terms and conditions). Depending on your policy, this payout will be either for the car’s market value – based on the car’s listed value and sales of the same model, condition of the car before the accident and distance on the odometer – or agreed value, which is the amount agreed between you and insurer when the policy was taken out.

However, the amount you receive may be impacted by other deductions, such as:

  • Your excess
  • Your remaining car insurance premiums for the year
  • Unused registration and compulsory third party (CTP) insurance

If your car is financed, your insurer must pay the outstanding value of the vehicle; however, this might be less than the amount owed to your lender, so you’ll be responsible for paying the difference if this is the case.

What can I do if I disagree with my insurer’s decision to write off my car?

If your insurer deems your car a repairable write-off but you disagree, you can dispute the decision. However, insurers have just seven days to notify the WOVR after declaring a car a write-off.

If you believe your vehicle can be repaired economically, you should start gathering evidence to support your claim as soon as possible, such as quotes for repair and salvage value and evidence of market value.

If you can’t reach a resolution, you can take your case to the Australian Financial Complaints Authority (AFCA).

Frequently asked questions about car insurance and write-offs

Will my future car insurance premiums be affected by a write-off?

Every time you make a claim on your car insurance, there is a chance your premiums will increase, even if you aren’t at fault. If you’re found to be at fault for a write-off, this will appear on your driving history to insurers and could significantly increase your car insurance costs when it’s time to renew your policy or take out a fresh one.

Can I keep a repairable written-off car?

Your insurer may allow you to keep a repairable write-off, which you may wish to repair or salvage parts yourself. However, not all write-offs can be re-registered and different states and territories have different rules around this, so it’s important to check which rules apply where you live.

For example, in the ACT, the car must pass a roadworthy test and undergo a vehicle identity inspection before registration. New South Wales, meanwhile, has much more stringent rules and will only re-register a written-off car in very limited circumstances.

Can I buy a written-off car?

It may be possible to buy a written-off car, which may present a cheaper option when looking for a used car to buy. How much a repairable write-off is worth will be affected by its ‘repaired write-off’ status as recorded on the WOVR, which is designed to protect buyers and prevent them from purchasing a written-off vehicle. However, it’s important to factor in significant repair costs, higher insurance premiums and, should you decide to sell it, a lower resale value before buying a written-off vehicle.

Can I insure a repairable write-off?

You may be able to insure a repairable write-off if it’s been repaired and re-registered, although your insurance options may be limited. Furthermore, your costs may increase, as the vehicle’s history and condition will be taken into account. It may be worth checking with different insurers to see if they can cover your written-off vehicle.

How much damage is required to write off a car?

In Australia, the amount of damage required to write off a car depends on various factors. A car can be written off if the damage is too severe and there isn’t any way it would ever be safe to drive again – for example, if it was in a major crash or damaged by fire. However, a car can also be deemed a write-off if the cost of repairs exceeds the value of the car, even if the car could be fixed. For instance, an older car that has suffered damage, even if only relatively minor, could still be written off if it's deemed uneconomical to repair.

How can I check if the car I’m buying is a write-off?

In Australia, details of all written-off cars are entered into the WOVR in the state/territory you live in. If you’re planning to buy a used car but don’t know its history, you can contact your state’s transport department with the vehicle’s details to check whether it's been written off or check the Australian Government’s Personal Properties Security Register (PPSR). This also helps ensure you don’t end up buying a car that has been ‘rebirthed’, which is when the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) of a written-off car is used on a stolen vehicle to give it a new identity.

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