Guide to HPI Checks When Buying a Used Car
What is an HPI Check and Why is it Important?
You may have heard the term ‘HPI check’ floating around when looking to buy a used car for a car dealer, but what does it actually mean, and what does it do? In this post, we look at what an HPI check is, why it’s important, and how to get one when you are buying a used car.
What is an HPI check?
An HPI (Hire Purchase Investigation) check is an online check that reveals the history of a vehicle and offers insight into a large number of potential incidents and situations that may affect its value, its presumed condition, and even its safety. An HPI check should be carried out on any used vehicle you intend to purchas before you commit to buying it.
Why an HPI Check is Essential When Buying a Used Car
HPI checks find discrepancies and issues on more than 1 in 15 used cars, so not getting one or carrying out an HPI check after you have bought your used car could prove costly in more ways than one.
What Does an HPI check show?
HPI checks show invaluable information about the car you are looking to buy, including:
Logbook (V5C) check
There are over 200,000 stolen logbooks in circulation at any one time, if an HPI check highlights this issue with the car you are looking at, walk away. If the logbook is highlighted as stolen, the car could be stolen, cloned, or worse, such as a cut ’n’ shut. You can read more about cut ’n’ shut vehicles and other things to look out for in our Practical Guide to Buying a Used Car.
Registration number check
An HPI check will reveal any number plate changes the car has had. Sometimes this is for perfectly legitimate reasons, such as applying a personalised plate, but sometimes it is to hide the car’s ‘identity’ for dubious reasons.
VIN number check
As well as checking the car has the right registration number, the VIN or chassis number is also recorded in the HPI check. The VIN in the search should match the logbook, and the VIN plate on the vehicle. If it does not the car is likely to have serious issues or have been stolen.
Your HPI check will list the standard spec of the used car you are looking to buy, such as the make, model, engine size, emissions, and fuel type. If any of these do not match up there may be something suspicious going on or the car may have been subject to undisclosed damage or changes. Either way, this is bad news.
Insurance write-off and scrappage checks
An HPI check will tell you if the vehicle has ever been an insurance write-off, and if it has been logged as scrapped. Not all writers of instances mean something dodgy is going on, it can be surprisingly easy to damage a car enough for an insurance company to write it off.
Categories N (non-structural damage) and S (structural damage) apply to vehicles where the car was deemed safe to be repaired and to continue to be used, but it is still something most people would rather know about.
Categories A and B respectively mean the vehicle has been scrapped or broken, these vehicles cannot legally be on the road and pose a serious safety risk.
Mileage discrepancies check
An HPI check will indicate the mileage which should be shown on the car. If there is a discrepancy the car may well have been clocked, where the odometer has been tampered with to show a lower mileage than it has actually done. While this may not seem like a big deal, used cars which have been clocked are likely to be suffering much worse issues and the clocking is just the tip of the iceberg.
An HPI check will reveal if the used car you are looking at is an import. Some companies will not insure imported cars, some will but at a higher cost. The term ‘grey imports’ refers to cars that have been imported, but not through official manufacturer channels. For example, a car bought in Japan is then shipped to the UK. Grey imports are not usually a problem but face the same hurdles as other imported vehicles in the UK. A small number of imported vehicles may not qualify to be driven on the road in the UK.
Vehicles that have been registered as exported from the UK cannot legally be driven or insured here.
One of the most common findings from HPI checks is outstanding finance. Around a quarter of all HPI checks carried out reveal outstanding finance which is a massive no-no if you are looking to buy that car. Unknowingly purchasing a car with outstanding finance means the finance company remains the legal owner of the car but the outstanding debt can be passed on to you, leaving you out of pocket, without a car, or both.
Don’t rely on the name on the logbook to be the person or entity that owns the car, the name in the logbook is the ‘registered keeper’, which is not always the same as the legal owner.
How much does an HPI Check cost?
You can buy a version of an HPI check online for just a couple of pounds, but it will not give you all the information discussed above, and you could still be at risk of buying an unsafe or financially indebted vehicle. A decent HPI check online currently goes for around £20.
If you are buying a used car from a used car dealership, a detailed HPI check is a standard feature of their sales process and will cost you nothing. Buying from a used car dealership has many benefits over buying privately, and the provision of an HPI check is peace of mind for you and the seller that the car is legitimate and helps ensure no nasty surprises in the future.
How long does an HPI Check take?
HPI checks can be carried out in a matter of minutes, but if you are buying from a used car dealership like DCC, this will already have been carried out and certified before the car was put up for sale.
Buy a Used Car with Confidence from DCC
We hope this post has highlighted the importance of HPI checks on used cars. DCC offer unparalleled peace of mind on every used car we sell. Our quality assurance program means every car has an HPI check, an AA-approved 128-point physical check, a minimum six-month warranty, and 12 months AA breakdown cover.