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Premature End of Life Vehicles

damaged vehicle
Deciding whether a vehicle should go back on the road or not is more complex than you might imagine.
In this article, Bluecycle's Compliance Manager, Andy Latham takes a close look at what's involved from the engineer's point of view, when categorising a premature end of life vehicle - an area where decisions are often questioned by the salvage and dismantling industry.


By their definition Premature ELV’s are vehicles that have not survived the expected life span of 12-15 years that most vehicle manufacturers build into their vehicles. The reasons for this can be many, however I suspect that most will be due to accident, fire, flood or other events that result in an insurance claim.

Insurance engineers completing vehicle inspections need to determine if the vehicle could be repaired economically; if repair is not viable, then vehicles need to be dealt with as salvage and the inspecting engineer must determine if the vehicle is safe to repair, or must it be removed from use?

One of the most important decisions that an engineer makes is deciding if the vehicle ‘could’ or ‘should’ be repaired; the engineer needs to know the extent of damage, potential method of repair and availability of parts.

Knowledge of vehicle construction is very important here, especially as manufacturers try to save weight whilst developing stronger vehicle bodies, the greater use of high strength steel makes repair increasingly difficult and any motor salvage inspection needs to balance repair potential against passenger safety – in other words, can any professional engineer signing a vehicle write-off report confirm that the vehicle could be repaired to a standard that would maintain occupant safety in the event of another accident?

Developed over many years the Association of British Insurers (ABI) Code of Practice for Motor Salvage assists the decision making process when inspecting vehicles in the UK that are written-off. The ABI code has four categories of salvage that are:
  • Category A. Scrap vehicles, good only for the shredder and metal recycling.
  • Category B. Break only – bolt on parts can be re-used, but the vehicle structure is so badly damaged that this must be removed from use and destroyed.
  • Category C. Repairable Salvage – repairs using normal methods of insurance repair (brand new parts, manufacturer labour) exceed the value of the vehicle, however cheaper labour, second hand parts, or ignoring ‘cosmetic’ damage means that the vehicle could be repaired in the salvage industry.
  • Category D. Constructive Total Loss – where the repair cost of the vehicle when added to other costs, such as loss of use, or the value of the salvage, exceeds the value of the vehicle, then insurers can decide to treat the vehicle as a write-off and minimise their costs. As an example, a £10,000 vehicle with £8,000 worth of damage may return £3,000 salvage, so a settlement of £10,000 less £3,000 salvage return gives a final outlay of £7,000 against the claim. Less than the assessed repair cost of £8,000.

Andy Latham
Andy Latham is Compliance Manager for Bluecycle, one of the UK’s leading online car salvage auction sites and online auction technology specialists. They have been trading for over 10 years and specialise in car salvage, end of fleet, motorcycle, plant, equipment and commercial salvage, selling hundreds of vehicles each week to customers throughout the UK and Europe. Andy is a motor vehicle engineer with over 30 years experience in automotive retail, motor insurance and vehicle salvage markets, he is married with 2 teenage children and supports Southampton Football Club.
There are a number of factors that need to be reviewed when inspecting potential write-offs, including type of damage, repair required to maintain occupant protection, and availability of parts; a few examples are detailed below.

Flood Damage
Factors to consider include type of water – fresh, salt or contaminated (sewage), height of water, and length of time in water. Current trends towards increasingly complex electronics will mean that any salt water damage will render the vehicle un-repairable, and if a vehicle has been submerged to a significant depth – for example water high enough to contaminate air bags, then the vehicle should be removed from use.

Fire Damage
Excessive heat removes the strength from High Strength Steel, so fire damage to structural areas of newer vehicles is serious, I would contend that, unless the damage is very localised, all fire damaged vehicles should not be repaired.

Parts Availability
A vehicle severely structurally damaged where parts are not available should not be repaired, releasing one of these vehicles into the motor salvage market for repair could lead to a substandard repair being completed and the general public being put in danger as an unsafe vehicle is in use. Engineers need to know what parts are available from the vehicle manufacturers and any safeguards they put in place. For example, many manufacturers place controls on the supply of replacement body shells that could result in these not being available to the salvage industry, thus compromising a safe repair on motor salvage.

In summary, all motor engineers inspecting vehicles for insurance repair need to be fully aware of current vehicle design and construction, they need to know repair techniques for all types of vehicles, and also decide if a salvage vehicle can be safely repaired and placed back into use. And we haven’t started on electric vehicles yet!

If you would like to know more about this subject, you can download a copy of the ABI Code of Practice for Motor Salvage here.


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