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Low Write-Off Values and Auction Sales: Impact on Crime and Safety

Introduction to Low Write-Off Values

In South Africa, the practice of writing off vehicles at low damage thresholds and subsequently selling them at auctions for high prices has significant ramifications. This practice not only fuels criminal activities but also compromises consumer safety and exacerbates financial losses for vehicle owners. In this blog, we delve deeper into the impact of auction sales and low write-off values, shedding light on how these practices contribute to a cycle of crime and risk.

Discover how low write-off values and high auction sales fuel crime and compromise vehicle safety in South Africa. Learn about the economic incentives, black market impact, and personal safety risks.

Economic Incentives for Insurers

Insurance companies often find it economically advantageous to declare a vehicle a total loss at relatively low damage thresholds. Typically, a vehicle is written off if the repair costs exceed 50-60% of its market value. However, in practice, vehicles with minor damages are frequently written off to avoid the costs and complexities of repair processes. This is especially prevalent for high-demand models that can fetch significant sums at auctions.

High Auction Prices

Once a vehicle is written off, it is commonly sold at an auction. High-demand vehicles such as the Toyota Hilux, VW Polo, and Ford Ranger often sell for top dollar at these auctions. The high resale value at auctions provides a substantial return for insurance companies, sometimes even surpassing the settlement amount paid out to the policyholder. This creates a perverse incentive to write off vehicles rather than repair them, increasing the number of written-off vehicles entering the market​ (TimesLIVE)​​ (ClearWave)​.

Impact on Crime and Safety

Fueling the Black Market

The influx of written-off vehicles sold at auctions fuels the black market for vehicle parts. These vehicles are frequently dismantled, and their parts are sold illegally. This illegal trade is highly profitable and supports organized crime networks. The availability of these parts encourages more vehicle thefts and hijackings as criminals seek specific models to meet the demand for parts​ (TimesLIVE)​​ (ClearWave)​.

Cloned Vehicles

Another significant issue is the cloning of vehicles. Criminals purchase written-off vehicles, especially those sold at auctions, and use their vehicle identification numbers (VIN) to create fake identities for stolen cars. These cloned vehicles are then sold to unsuspecting buyers or used in further criminal activities, such as smuggling and trafficking. The high resale value of popular models makes them prime targets for cloning, increasing the overall risk to vehicle owners​ (ClearWave)​.

Insurance Fraud

Low write-off thresholds also contribute to insurance fraud. Criminals can stage accidents or damage vehicles intentionally to claim insurance payouts. These fraudulent activities drive up the cost of insurance for all consumers as companies raise premiums to cover their losses. Additionally, fraudsters may purchase written-off vehicles at auctions, repair them inadequately, and resell them for a profit, perpetuating the cycle of crime and exploitation​ (Car Magic)​​ (TimesLIVE)​.

Compromised Vehicle Safety

Vehicles that are written off and then resold after inadequate repairs pose significant safety risks. These vehicles often do not meet the necessary safety standards, increasing the likelihood of accidents. Unsuspecting buyers who purchase these vehicles are at risk, as are other road users. The high auction prices for these vehicles create an environment where profit is prioritized over safety, further endangering consumers​ (ClearWave)​.

Personal Safety Risks

The prevalence of vehicle hijackings due to low write-off thresholds not only poses a financial risk but also a significant safety risk. Criminals targeting high-demand vehicles are increasingly using violent methods, including hijacking at gunpoint. This puts vehicle owners and their loved ones who may be in the vehicle during these incidents at risk.


The practice of writing off vehicles at low thresholds and selling them at high prices in auctions has numerous negative implications. It fuels the black market for vehicle parts, encourages insurance fraud, and compromises vehicle safety. By understanding these issues, we

can advocate for higher write-off thresholds and stricter regulations to protect consumers and reduce the opportunities for criminal activities.

Feel free to share your experiences and thoughts on this matter in our group. Together, we can advocate for change and make our roads safer.


  • ClearWave: List of Most and Least Hijacked Cars in South Africa

  • Independent Online: Rise in Hijackings Linked to Economic Factors

  • Insurance Business Mag: Vehicle Insurance Write-Offs and Their Impacts

  • Business Tech: The Impact of Vehicle Write-Off Thresholds on Insurance Premiums

Raising awareness and pushing for policy changes can help create a safer, more transparent vehicle market that protects consumers and reduces crime.

Join "SA Auto Insurance Write-Off Advocacy" on Facebook to advocate for change.

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