Q. I'm looking at a 1997 Honda VFR750FV that has had category C damage, apparently cosmetic only. The guy says it's been repaired and is straight.
Do you think it's worth me getting seriously involved with this bike or will it cause problems with insurance and MOT?
A. There are four classes of write-off: a class A has to be destroyed with a certificate proving this has been done. A cat B cannot be resold whole, but parts can be removed and sold, while category C and D vehicles are repairable.
A category C write-off is defined as repairable salvage and is applied to a vehicle with significant structural damage where the cost of repairs exceeds the book value.
Any bike older than ten years ends up as a category C as replacement components are a much bigger percentage of the bike’s value, so it is more likely to be written-off with a simple scratch on the frame or engine.
Since April 2003 four-wheelers categorised as a C or D write-offs have had to have a Vehicle Identify Check (VIC) conducted by a VOSA office before a V5C registration certificate will be reissued by the DVLA with a marker on it saying "substantially repaired and or accident damaged; identity checked on dd/mm/yyyy".
But bikes are not part of the scheme, so that’s not on the V5, although the insurance companies and hpi can identify its status, so always insist on an MCN Bike Check to check.
So it is ‘caveat emptor’ or ‘buyer beware’ as you will have to satisfy yourself that the ‘structural damage’ that made it a cat C has been repaired properly. I’d expect the seller to have an MCN Bike Check to hand, and a sheaf of receipts showing what has been repaired and replaced.
It could be that the frame has simply been scratched or scraped down the road, or it could have been bent or cracked with the wheels out of line. Start by checking for damage to the lockstops on the headstock that would indicate there’s been a heavy impact.
Check the wheel alignment using a laser or straight edge like a fluorescent light tube or scaffold pole. Drop the bodywork off to check the condition of the engine cases. For example, crankcase damage that has been plugged to stop an oil leak.
If you are not confident in your abilities to spot a problem, then I’d want to take it to a mechanic you rate to check it out.
Also contact your insurance company before you go ahead. Most will accept a repaired bike, but they may insist on a fresh MOT as proof that the bike is roadworthy.
Take your time, satisfy yourself it’s good to go and you could get yourself a great bargain. But if you have any doubts, walk away.