HPI Check – Complete Guide (2023)

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HPI Check – Complete Guide (2023)

First published on: October 2, 2023

Are you thinking about buying a used car and feeling the need for a thorough check of its history?

You’ve probably already come across the much-recommended HPI Check in every guide. But, before you make the decision to obtain a vehicle history report from HPI or any other provider, it’s vital to comprehend what exactly this check should entail, particularly when you are deciding how much to shell out.

This guide aims to make you well-versed with the HPI Checks, aiding you in making an informed decision before your next car purchase.

What is an HPI Check?

An HPI Check is a vehicle history report generated by HPI Ltd, a British company (owned by an American firm, Solera) that has been operating since 1938. The company name, an abbreviation of Hire Purchase Information, reflects its initial focus: preventing the incorrect sale of cars under hire-purchase agreements. 

Today, this service has considerably evolved and expanded. The HPI Check is now an essential tool for anyone considering purchasing a used car in the UK. By collaborating with the police, the DVLA, and various finance and insurance companies, HPI collates an extensive amount of information on each vehicle registered with the DVLA. 

This data allows the company to provide a detailed report, which can inform potential buyers if a car has outstanding finance, has been stolen, is a write-off, has a mileage discrepancy (indicating possible clocking), has changed plates, has been cloned, or has an outstanding logbook loan.

The utility of the HPI Check cannot be overstated. Alarmingly, the company has found that 1 in 3 cars checked has issues potentially problematic for a future buyer. These could range from an active finance agreement or outstanding loan on the vehicle to the more serious issue of the car being stolen – HPI reportedly uncovers more than 74 stolen cars every day.

The Importance of HPI Check

HPI check screenshot

An HPI Check is an incredibly valuable tool, beneficial to a wide range of individuals, but particularly potent for prospective used car buyers

If you’re considering purchasing a vehicle from a private seller, where regulations are less stringent than for used car dealers, an HPI Check becomes even more essential. 

Sure, you can manually check for mechanical issues, find the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN), or go through service histories and MOT records. However, these conventional methods may not reveal whether the car has outstanding finances or has been involved in an accident. 

Imagine unknowingly buying a car that’s been stolen, is a Cat D write-off, or is officially exported from the UK. The financial implications could be significant, not to mention the legality of using such a vehicle. 

HPI’s statistics are rather alarming: one out of every four cars checked has had its number plates changed, and more than 1,771 insurance write-offs are discovered daily. 

So, an HPI Check plays a pivotal role in avoiding such pitfalls and ensuring a safe and legal car purchase.

What Does an HPI Check Include?

The HPI Check is a comprehensive vehicle history report which covers over 80 data points about a car, providing a thorough insight into its past and current condition. Here’s what’s included:

1. Stolen Car Check: This is an essential part of the HPI Check. When a car is reported stolen, its registration details are added to the Police National Computer (PNC). The HPI Check incorporates this information, thus assisting in the avoidance of purchasing stolen vehicles.

2. Insurance Write-Off: The check details whether the car is a Category A or B insurance write-off, which are vehicles that should be taken off the road and scrapped. If you’re considering a Category S or N car (formerly C and D), the check will reveal this, enabling you to ensure the vehicle has been adequately repaired.

3. Outstanding Finance: This feature informs you if there is any money still owed on the car. The legal owner of the vehicle is the lender or finance company until the debt is paid off. The HPI check will alert you to this fact, preventing potential financial loss or even loss of the vehicle.

4. Logbook Check: The check also verifies the details recorded in the logbook (V5C document), which records the registered keeper of the vehicle. This can expose any ‘logbook loans’, or help identify stolen or cloned cars.

5. Scrapped Car Check: The HPI Check will inform you if a car has been recorded as scrapped on the DVLA database. This could be due to an insurance write-off or other reasons. Such cars shouldn’t be driven or sold.

6. Vehicle Identification Data: This part of the check ensures that the Vehicle Identity Number (VIN or chassis number) and the engine number match with the official records. This helps detect stolen or cloned cars or other severe issues with the vehicle.

7. Vehicle Specifications: This involves a check of the vehicle’s details, including correct colour (in case it has been altered and not registered), equipment, fuel consumption and CO2 emissions.

8. Car Valuation: The HPI Check includes a comprehensive car valuation, suggesting an appropriate amount to pay for a private or forecourt sale at a dealership or receive as a trade-in. It also includes a calculation of future depreciation.

9. Imported/Exported Cars: The HPI Check provides information on whether the car has been imported into the UK and if the necessary registration processes have been followed. It also reveals if the car has been officially exported from the UK, in which case it can’t be legally driven or insured here.

9. Imported/Exported Cars: The HPI Check provides information on whether the car has been imported into the UK and if the necessary registration processes have been followed. It also reveals if the car has been officially exported from the UK, in which case it can’t be legally driven or insured here.

10. Ownership History: The logbook, maintained by the DVLA, records the number of previous owners a vehicle has had. Always ensure this number matches the claims made by the seller.

11. Changes in Number Plate: This part reveals how many changes the car’s number plate has undergone and identifies if any issues are connected to a previous plate. While some people change plates for personalisation, others may use it as a ploy to hide the car’s history.

12. Mileage Verification: Cross-check the mileage displayed on the car’s dashboard. Any discrepancies could suggest that the car’s mileage has been tampered with, indicating potential hidden wear and tear. This could also mean that the car’s value is inflated, and the correct servicing schedule might not have been followed, which may lead to severe mechanical issues.

13. Fuel Cost Estimation: This feature helps you calculate the projected fuel expenses, enabling you to weigh and compare the potential running costs of the car you’re considering.

14. MOT History Check: Accessing the vehicle’s MOT history offers invaluable insights into its maintenance track record during past ownership. This information can be instrumental when assessing a car’s condition.

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5 Advantages of HPI Check

happy couple looking back in car

Aside from detecting potential issues with a used car, there are several benefits that come with conducting an HPI Check.

1. Peace of Mind
The primary benefit of an HPI Check is the peace of mind it bestows. With it, you can rest assured that the vehicle you’re considering is legitimate and free from any lurking issues that could cause headaches down the line.

Investing in an HPI Check means you’re investing in confidence, significantly reducing the risk of purchasing a car with potential legal or financial pitfalls. Therefore, it’s a small upfront cost that could save you a lot of stress and expense in the future.

2. Avoidance of Legal Issues
If the car has a history of theft, outstanding finance, or is recorded as scrapped or written-off, purchasing it could land you in legal hot water. These issues may not be immediately visible, but an HPI Check uncovers them, ensuring that you avoid unknowingly participating in any illegal activity.

3. Financial Security
By giving you an accurate car valuation and future depreciation calculation, it helps you make an informed purchase. This valuable insight allows you to negotiate a fair price, ensuring you don’t overpay for the vehicle. Furthermore, it enables you to anticipate potential maintenance costs and get an idea of the car’s future resale value, thus assisting in sound financial planning.

4. Knowledge of the Car’s Condition
Knowing the true condition of a car before buying is crucial. An HPI Check provides a detailed breakdown of the car’s history, including any major accidents it’s been involved in, serious mechanical issues, and general wear and tear over the years. This information is vital in assessing if the car is safe to drive and worth the asking price.

Ultimately, the HPI Check equips you with a clear understanding of what you’re getting into, helping you avoid unpleasant surprises down the road.

5. Accurate Valuation
Getting an accurate valuation of the car you are interested in buying is a critical part of the process. The HPI Check includes a comprehensive car valuation, offering a clear picture of the vehicle’s worth according to its age, model, and overall condition. This information helps you understand whether the asking price is fair or if you’re being overcharged.

Furthermore, it can provide you with leverage during price negotiations. With an accurate valuation at hand, you can confidently discuss the price and ensure that you’re paying a reasonable amount for the vehicle. This not only ensures you get good value for your money but also contributes to your financial security in the long run.

How Can I Get a Free HPI Check?

If you search on Google, you’ll find multiple websites that offer a free HPI Check. However, it’s essential to be cautious of such websites as they may not provide a thorough and accurate report. Some sites might only offer partial, misleading, or outdated information, leading to potential risks when purchasing a used car.

According to the official HPI website, there’s no such thing as a “Free HPI Check”. The company invests a significant amount of time and resources into gathering data from multiple sources, including the DVLA, police, finance houses, and insurance companies. As a result, they charge a fee for their services to ensure the report is thorough and up-to-date.

However, there are other ways you could potentially access this service for free.

For example, some dealerships or private sellers already have a valid HPI Check report for their vehicle.

In such cases, you could ask them to share the report with you. This way, you can save money and still have a reliable source for the vehicle’s history.

Always make sure this doesn’t compromise the thoroughness and accuracy of the check. After all, it’s a critical step in making a well-informed decision when buying a used car.

HPI Check Pricing and Options

When it comes to HPI Checks, there are three main levels to choose from, each offering a varying degree of information.

Basic Check: This is the most affordable option at £9.99. It includes crucial information such as debt/finance status, whether the car has been stolen, if it’s an insurance write-off, and if it has been imported or exported.

Standard HPI Check: Priced at £19.99, this check offers the full range of data, giving you an exhaustive view of the car’s history and condition.

Multicheck: This option, priced at £29.97, includes three separate reports. These checks must be redeemed within two years of the original purchase date.

An additional feature that can be added to any of the checks is the Safety Recall Check, which costs an extra £2.99. This will inform you of any safety recalls related to the specific make and model of the car.

Does the DVLA do HPI Checks?

While the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) in the UK provides a range of vehicle information, it does not conduct HPI Checks or offer full vehicle history reports.

To access DVLA services, all you need is the car’s registration number or V5C number. The data from DVLA is included in any car check, such as HPI, but does not extend to referencing insurance companies, investigating outstanding finance, cross-referencing the police database of stolen vehicles, or liaising with any motor trade organisations.

The information the DVLA provides includes when the current tax expires, the current MOT status and history, known recalls, and the specifications recorded on the vehicle logbook, such as colour, engine size, year of manufacture, and CO2 emissions.

Is There a HPI Check for Trade?

If you’re part of the motor trade industry, opening a trade account with HPI can provide an array of advantages.

To open a trade account, you will need to contact Cap HPI directly. HPI Checks not only ensure that you’re purchasing the right used vehicles but also allow you to showcase the history and authenticity of your vehicles to potential customers, enhancing trust.

The features of a trade HPI Check are the same as a standard HPI Check. However, you can incorporate additional features such as CAP valuations, National Mileage Register checks, and the HPI vehicle monitor. The HPI vehicle monitor is particularly valuable as it can inform you if the same vehicle has been recently checked through HPI by someone else.

For ease of use, a mobile app is available, retaining a full record of all checks made. The last 100 checks remain on your phone, enabling you to revisit and recheck any vehicle at your convenience.

How Long Does an HPI Check Take?

Once you’ve made the purchase, the report is immediately displayed on your screen. In addition, an email containing the full details of the check, including your reference number, is sent to your inbox.

It is recommended to save this email as it serves as a record and will be crucial should you need to update your check in the future.

Bottom Line

HPI Checks and vehicle history reports are undoubtedly well worth considering. They serve as a safety net, preventing the potentially disastrous fallout of purchasing a vehicle with a problematic history. Even though the £19.99 fee might seem like an unnecessary expense, it pales in comparison to the potential loss of thousands of pounds.

Not only can a problematic car lead to financial distress, but it can also pose serious risks if it has been written off or scrapped and then illegally returned to the road.

Therefore, an HPI Check is not just a wise investment but an essential step in ensuring your safety and peace of mind when buying a used vehicle.

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