A car insurance write-off is when it is too expensive to repair your car after a severe collision or accident. The insurance carrier will determine that paying to repair your vehicle is more than or about equal to its market value.
In this case, the insurance carrier will decide to write off the vehicle and pay you an amount equal to its market value. You, as the policyholder, have the right to appeal their write-off decision, but it must be done within a relatively short timeframe. In some cases, the policyholder and carrier may agree on a different value for the insurance payout, but not always.
When an insurance carrier writes off a vehicle, they record the write-off information in the Written-Off Vehicle Register of your state or territory in Australia. It is either a statutory write-off or a repairable write-off.
- If it is a statutory write-off, it signifies your vehicle is too unsafe to be operated on the road, no matter how many repairs are made. Cars with a statutory write-off usually become scrap metal in a junkyard.
- If it is a repairable write-off, it signifies your vehicle could be repaired and operated again. However, the repair costs surpass the coverage amount (agreed value) on the insurance policy or the vehicle’s market value leading up to the accident.
The Written-Off Vehicle Register of each state or territory sets the thresholds and damage categories for write-offs. First, the insurance carrier will hire a licensed assessor to evaluate the severity of the vehicle’s damage to see if it is too unsafe to operate or too expensive to repair.
Based on the assessment results, the insurance carrier will determine whether to file a statutory write-off or a repairable write-off.
How to Find Out If Your Insurance Carrier Has Written Off Your Vehicle
Contact your insurance company after a traffic accident and ask if they have written off your car. You may need to give them some time to assess your vehicle and determine the extent of the damage and the cost of the repairs.
Another thing you can do is run a PPSR instant online search on your vehicle to see if any new information has been recorded. This search allows people to review historical information about the car, such as past accidents, repairs, theft reports, rebirthing, etc.
What To Do After a Car Insurance Write-Off?
If your insurance company has written off your vehicle, you can review the write-off details in the Written-Off Vehicle Register. Your insurance carrier should also notify you of their write-off decision. If you agree with their decision, the carrier will send you a payment equal to the vehicle’s market value before the accident.
Insurance carriers calculate a vehicle’s market value based on its pre-accident condition and value, odometer reading, and comparable sales value to similar model vehicles. However, the current car insurance policies enable carriers to lower the total payment amount by deducting the remaining car insurance premiums owed and the unused amount of CTP insurance and rego.
Contact the roads and transport authority of your state to recover any portion of your rego or CTP insurance that remains.
How to Dispute a Car Write-Off Decision
If you want to dispute a car write-off decision from your insurance company, you have a couple of options.
For instance, a repairable write-off decision allows you to apply at your local roads and transport authority to repair or re-register your vehicle. You could also talk with your insurance carrier to express your interest in improving the car. They may change their decision if you can convince them that it could be economical to repair the vehicle.
Make sure you dispute the write-off decision quickly because the insurance carrier has to contact the Written-Off Vehicle Register within seven days regarding their decision. You also need evidence to prove that it would be economical to repair your vehicle. Some examples of evidence include the following:
- Official market value listings from reputable sites like glassguide.com.au or redbook.com.au
- Salvage yard quotes showing your vehicle’s salvage value
- Smash repairer quotes describing the vehicle repair cost
You can submit disputes to your insurance company’s internal dispute resolution service department. In some cases, you may also need to file a dispute with the Australian Financial Complaints Authority.
What Happens to the Vehicle After a Write-Off?
If your vehicle has received a repairable write-off decision, your insurance carrier may let you keep it if you submit a request to do so. However, they will subtract the salvage value from the market value before paying you. That means you won’t get as much money back, but at least you can keep the vehicle too. Of course, that is only better if the car has personal or sentimental value.
Remember that your insurance carrier must approve your request before you can keep the vehicle. Since some repairable write-offs cannot be re-registered legally in certain territories or states of Australia, you may not always get approval to keep the vehicle from your carrier. It depends on the extent of the damage to your car.
For example, you would only receive approval to re-register your vehicle in Queensland if you fully repaired your car and subjected it to a written-off vehicle inspection and Queensland safety inspection. If the vehicle passes both inspections after being repaired, you can re-register it under the law in Queensland.
On the other hand, it would be much more challenging to re-register your written-off vehicle in New South Wales because they only allow it under a few circumstances. Those circumstances include:
- Hail damaged the vehicle that you were registered to operate for over 28 days
- You inherited the vehicle from letters of administration or will
- The vehicle registration was under your name for over 28 days before the accident
Contact your local authority or insurance carrier if you have questions about re-registering your written-off vehicle.
What If My Financed Vehicle Received an Insurance Write-Off?
If you are still making payments on a car loan for a written-off vehicle, your insurance carrier must legally submit the payment to the financier to pay down the debt amount owed. But sometimes, the insurance payment doesn’t fully pay off the outstanding debt, so you must cover the rest.
Motor equity insurance is suitable for this situation because it will pay off the outstanding loan amount after your insurance company submits the comprehensive total loss payment to lower this amount. So basically, the motor equity insurance pays the difference between the loan amount owed and the comprehensive total loss payment amount.
Can You Sell a Written-Off Vehicle?
Technically, you can sell a written-off vehicle if you have successfully repaired and re-registered it under your name. However, buyers can see the “repaired write-off” status if they conduct a PPSR instant online search to learn about the vehicle’s history. This may stop them from wanting to buy your vehicle because they’ll know it underwent significant repairs in the past. Therefore, you may have to reduce your asking price to attract buyers to a car with repaired write-off status.