Can I refuse my car being written off?

What you need to knowIf you have been in an accident or another event that leads your car to become severely damaged, it may be written off by your insurer.Rather than getting your

Can I refuse my car being written off?

What you need to know

  • If you have been in an accident or another event that leads your car to become severely damaged, it may be written off by your insurer.
  • Rather than getting your car back, you typically get an insurance pay-out for the market or agreed value of the car.
  • In some cases, you can request to keep your vehicle if it is deemed a repairable write-off.

If you are told that your car has been written off, it means it is unsafe or too costly to repair. In this case, you'll get some kind of payout from your insurer. The car's details are entered into the Written-Off Vehicle Register (WOVR) in your state or territory.

There are 2 ways your car can be written off:

A statutory write-off

This is when your car will never be safe to drive again, regardless of how much repair work was to go into it. This means it can't ever be registered again and is nothing more than scrap metal.

A repairable write-off

A repairable write-off is when repairs would be possible, but, the cost of making them is more than the policy's sum insured (also known as agreed value) or exceeds the car's market value prior to the accident.

How much damage is needed to write off a car in Australia?

This depends on certain damage categories and thresholds set by the WOVR. Again, a car is written off when an assessor  arranged for by the insurer  deems the damage to be so severe the vehicle is unsafe to drive again. Or, the repair cost is near to or above what it would have been worth on the used car market.

Once a car has been written off, its details are recorded in the written-off vehicle register. If you choose to accept your insurer's decision, you will receive a payout based on the car's market value.

When determining this amount, insurers consider the following:

  • Its listed value and other current sales of the same model
  • The pre-accident condition of your vehicle
  • The distance on the odometer

However, your payout may also be smaller than you would expect because most car insurance policies allow insurers to reduce the amount payable by deducting:

  • The excess payable on each claim
  • Your car insurance premiums for the rest of the year.
  • The unused portion of your rego and CTP insurance.

Do you get rego back if your car is written off?

Yes. You can recover your remaining rego from your state's roads and transport authority, and your unused CTP insurance from your CTP insurer.

If you have recently been involved in an accident and you want to know if your car has been written off, call your insurer and ask them if they have assessed your vehicle yet. Depending on your insurer and the extent of the damage, it may take some time for a mechanic to assess the damage to your car.

You can also use review any vehicle's past status with a PPSR check online. This register is designed to provide protection for all road users by helping them avoid buying cars that have had substantial repairs, or that have been stolen and illegally rebirthed.

Rebirthing occurs when the identifying parts of a wrecked car are transferred to a stolen car, allowing criminals to sell the stolen car with another vehicle's identity.

If you're unhappy about your car being written off, you have two options:

  • If the car is a repairable write-off, you can apply to the roads and transport authority in your state or territory to have the car repaired and re-registered.
  • If you think the car can be repaired economically, you can speak to your insurer and challenge their decision.

You'll need to be quick if you want to dispute an insurer's decision. After the insurer declares a car as written off, they have just 7 days to notify the Written-Off Vehicle Register (WOVR).

How to gather evidence

You should gather together the following:

  • Quotes from smash repairers to outline how much it will cost to repair the vehicle.
  • Quotes from salvage yards that reflect the salvage value of your vehicle.
  • Evidence of the market value of your vehicle from a company such as redbook.com.au or glassguide.com.au.

If you decide you want to make a complaint, you can do so through an insurer's internal dispute resolution service, and then to the Australian Financial Complaints Authority (AFCA) if necessary. Or you may be able to lodge your case with the car insurance ombudsman.

Yes. You can make a request to your insurer to allow you to keep a repairable write-off. In this case, you will receive the sum insured less any salvage value. Bear in mind then that you won't receive as much but it may be important to you if the car has some sentimental value.

However, not all repairable write-offs can be legally re-registered. Check with your insurer then before applying to keep a badly damaged vehicle.

Re-registering your car also depends on the state or territory you live in. For example, in Queensland your car can only be re-registered if they've been fully repaired and have passed a Queensland safety inspection and a written-off vehicle inspection.

However, in New South Wales, written-off vehicles cannot be re-registered except in very limited circumstances. To be re-registered in NSW, your car must not have any non-repairable damage, and must also fit into one of the following categories:

  • The car was hail damaged, and you were the registered operator for more than 28 days before the damage occurred.
  • The vehicle was inherited from a will or letters of administration.
  • It was registered in your name for more than 28 days before the damage occurred.

If there's still finance owing on your car when it is deemed a total loss, the insurer is obligated to pay the financier any outstanding amount. However, in some cases there may be a shortfall between the amount paid out by your insurer and the finance amount owing, which is where motor equity insurance can help.

This is designed to pay the financier the outstanding loan amount when your comprehensive car insurer's total loss payout is insufficient to pay out your loan contract.

There is one very big drawback to repairing and re-registering a vehicle that has been written off: its status as a repaired write-off will severely hamper its resale value.

The written-off vehicle register is designed to protect consumers and prevent them buying a car that has been written off, and required substantial repairs to get back on the road. If you decide to sell the car in the future, the fact that it is listed on the register as a repaired write-off can have a big impact on how much prospective buyers are willing to pay.

*Some brands differ in benefits so make sure to check the Product Disclosure Statement to find out which policy best suits you.

Frequently asked questions

What's the process for re-registering a written off car?

It may be possible, depending on your circumstances. The option to re-register a vehicle is available in most states and territories. So, you'd need to check with the roads and transport authority in your area to find out what you have to do. For example, written-off vehicles in Queensland can only be re-registered if they've been fully repaired, and have passed a Queensland safety inspection and a written-off vehicle inspection.

However, in New South Wales, written-off vehicles cannot be re-registered except in very limited circumstances. To be re-registered in NSW, your car must not have any non-repairable damage, and must also fit into one of the following categories:

  • The car was hail damaged, and you were the registered operator for more than 28 days before the damage occurred.
  • The vehicle was inherited from a will or letters of administration.
  • It was registered in your name for more than 28 days before the damage occurred.
Where can I get more information if my car's been written off after a big storm?
If my car is declared a total loss, can I still drive it?

'Total loss' is effectively another term for 'written off'. You won't be able to drive your car again if it's been damaged to the point it isn't safe to be repaired and driven again.

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