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A vehicle might be written off because it isn’t worth the cost of repairing it – or because it’s been stolen and never found. Insurers sometimes call a write-off a "total loss".

If a vehicle’s been written off, an insurer will usually pay out its "market value" just before it was written off. Some people complain to us that the insurer hasn’t paid them enough. Others are unhappy that the insurer has decided to scrap their vehicle – in some cases, without telling them first.

need to know

  • Most of the complaints we see involve disagreements about the “market” value of the vehicle. This generally means the price it would have sold for at a reputable dealership just before it was damaged or stolen. To reach a fair price, it’s important to check that the vehicle’s details have been recorded correctly.
  • To decide whether an insurer’s valuation is reasonable, we compare it with prices in specialist motor trade guides – called Parkers’, Glass’s and CAP. If the trade guides show significantly different prices, we’ll check the insurer hasn’t simply paid out the lowest.
  • We might also use engineers’ reports to help us decide whether the insurer’s valuation is reasonable. These can give useful information about the condition of the vehicle. We don’t usually find adverts helpful to judge a vehicle’s value, because the selling price usually turns out to be lower. But they may be if the car’s a classic or rare model.
  • People often have to give (or estimate) their vehicle’s value when they’re filling out their motor insurance application form. This isn’t actually the amount the insurer has to pay out – and we often have to clear up confusion about this.
  • If someone’s unhappy with how the insurer has written off the vehicle – for example, if it’s been scrapped without warning – we’ll look into the insurer’s reasons. If we decide someone’s unfairly lost out, we’ll tell the insurer to pay compensation.

common complaints showing our approach

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