We are the voice of insurance and long-term savings | Contact us

Don’t write off the salvage code

Rob Clark is Niche Motor Underwriting Manager at Ageas and has represented the ABI at the recent National Stolen Vehicle Workshop, in association with West Midlands Police.

When a vehicle is written off, the salvage code sets out detailed guidance for insurers and salvage firms regarding how it should be categorised and therefore what can happen to it next. This rigorous code was updated  in autumn last year – after extensive collaboration with vehicle manufacturers, the salvage industry, motor traders and the police – with the specific aim of making vehicle histories more transparent.

When insurers write off a vehicle for financial reasons rather than because it’s unsafe, it would be disproportionate and wasteful to crush it if there is someone who has a legitimate use for it.

West Midlands police claim that the way the code operates means there are more repairable write-offs available than there are parts to fix them. This has led to organised crime gangs stealing cars to provide spare parts, to repair write-offs in a way that maximises their profits. In many instances, these “Frankenstein” cars are not particularly well put together, are not fit to drive on the road and seriously endanger the safety of unsuspecting buyers and other road users.

As an industry, we share the concerns of the police that criminals are abusing the system to make money. The fact that the rate of vehicle theft is increasing is concerning, let alone any increase of unsafe vehicles on the road. We are working alongside the police to help find a solution to this issue. I attended a workshop last month where the current evidence was considered and ways forward are now being worked on.

It is in no one’s interests that insurers start ignoring salvage guidelines and scrapping a higher number of fixable cars, purely to try to make life harder for some unscrupulous lawbreakers. I applaud West Midlands Police for having recently launched a crackdown on the garages where stolen cars are being processed. The other key step should be increased scrutiny of the motor vehicle market and tighter rules for vehicle repairs.

There is currently no requirement for written off cars to undergo an individual vehicle approval (IVA) test before being put back on the road. Shockingly, this allows criminals to buy a written-off shell, “repair” it with stolen parts and put it back on the roads without any scrutiny. Addressing this situation with the DVSA seems an obvious place to start to make it harder for these criminals to exploit the system, and to increase protection for car buyers.

Rob Clark has also written about this issue, with advice for used car buyers, on the Ageas website.


Last updated 21/08/2018