Category D cars, are you saving money or cutting corners?

Not once in several months and 3000 or so miles across the UK did anyone say something negative about the looks of my Aston Martin. In fact it was quite the opposite, random compliments approving gazes and the odd candid picture. What if I told she’d had a crash? Back in 2013 my Aston Martin had a shunt of some sort which resulted in it needing basically a new face. A pair of wings a bumper and I think a bonnet, nothing important just the fleshy bits. Funny how the atmosphere in a room will change when you tell people that isn’t it? it’s like announcing your girlfriend has an STD no-one in the pub would’ve known until you announce it to the world.

We in the UK are a funny bunch, we’re so protective of our cars, we demand flawless service history, low owners and even lower mileage. Yet it’s very rare anyone actually looks through the invoices when buying. My usual kink was high-milers, take a clean Audi RS4 add 150,000 miles and drop the price and you’re right up my street. I never understood why people worried so much, my RS4 was 13 years old when I got it and if I’m honest it was probably going to break anyway regardless of miles. I would go to car shows and have the same conversations and receive the same praise as cars with half the mileage that cost £5-10k more. Apart from resale taking a little bit longer (nothing with a V8 moves that quick anyway) I wasn’t losing out at all. Champagne lifestyle on lemonade money as a naive 20 year old waving around my 4 door penis extension.

I’ve never had a problem with Cat D or N cars because as a rule what you’re getting is a car that’s 20% cheaper, has newer parts on it and is usually in better condition than its counterparts. Imagine a 15 year old car with virtually no stone chips and brand new headlights that’s also several grand cheaper. Yet most will turn their noses up at them. VinWiki founder Ed Bolian summarises it as “the nice examples are too nice to stick a bunch of miles on” get a rough one or one with a bad title (written off or stolen) fix them up and use them for as many miles as you want guilt free.

I took my Aston Martin part ex against my Audi RS7 with a great big lump of cash. This enabled me to do two things, first of which was relax. I had a big barrier of cash to enjoy life away from cars. Secondly it meant the car owed me very little despite being an Aston Martin. This meant I could attack a twisty road a lot harder than I would otherwise be inclined to do so while enjoying myself so much more. I was able to accumulate a few thousand miles on the Vantage very quickly, because the worst thing that could happen had already occurred 7 years prior.

What is CAT D/N? Category D and N cars in the UK are cars which have been written off by the Insurance company as uneconomical to repair. Sometimes this is because the parts are difficult to acquire thus being very expensive. Others are due to the painting costs associated with the replacement panels. Cat D is the old name for what is now Cat N which means Non-structure damage. This means the vehicle underneath and it’s chassis are perfectly intact, however cosmetic body panels will need replacing. It is the lowest form of insurance Write-off category and stolen recovered cars will also sit in this bracket.

But what about resale? The Vantage is the only car I’ve had that’s been an insurance write-off and it didn’t take any longer to sell than any of my high-mileage cars. If you’re only worrying about resale values then I feel you’re somewhat missing the point. Most of my cars are worth nothing in relative terms because I drive them so much, hence I try and buy cheap shitters to start with. My first R35 GT-R was a cosmetic dog but with a heart of gold and comprehensive service history I was able to enjoy some of the best 5500 miles I’ve ever covered. If you’re budget only allows the lower market cars like the high-mileage or Cat D/N cars then I say you’re splitting hairs buying either. It’ll all come down to which has the best maintenance records and the spec you prefer. If I could go back in time and have the same £12k sat in my pocket 5 years ago, I think I’d still drive that RS4 saloon home with a proud 140,000 miles on the clock. But I get it if that’s way too many for you , if there’d been a 50k miler Cat D with wingback buckets for the same money I may have been tempted to stray.

To summarise then it’s like buying any performance car. Do your research and see what’s in budget, don’t turn your nose up at the Category cars if they’re clean and well presented. You could use that few grand elsewhere and 9 times out of 10 your experience and fun behind the wheel won’t be less than anybody else’s. It just cost you a little bit less to get there.

Published by Sam Busby

a big nosed bearded idiot who likes to write about cars. Lucky enough to have owned a few quick ones too.

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