Buying a car or selling to make quick cash? Seven Secrets of HPI checks

Whether you are planning to buy a car or sell a car, to raise quick cash, you will come across the term “HPI check”. But do you know what it means or what it covers?

HPI stands for Hire Purchase Inspection. When anyone is purchasing a car, the HPI check provides vital information about that car to guard against a variety of motoring scams and fraud. But what does an HPI check actually cover? For such a common practice, the specific details are not commonly known.

So here are our Seven Secrets of an HPI check. The HPI check will ensure that the vehicle is NOT:

1. Subject to Outstanding Finance
The first thing that an HPI checks for is the finance status of the vehicle. If it is still subject to outstanding finance – ie someone took out a loan to buy it and has not fully repaid that loan – then legally the finance company is the owner of the car. This means that the finance company can repossess the car if payments are not kept up to date. If the vehicle does still has finance on it, it may be possible to come to an arrangement with both the seller and the finance company to find a way of clearing the finance off the vehicle, to enable you to purchase it debt free.

2. Written off!
It is a sad fact of life that some cars offered for sale may previously have been written off due to damage or accident. There are four different categories of written off cars – A, B, C or D. Category A and B cars are too badly damaged to appear back on the road. Category C and D vehicles can be repaired and reinstated to the road, but it is essential that you obtain proof that repairs that were completed by a reputable and reliable garage so that the vehicle is insurable and safe to drive. A written off vehicle also needs to have a VIC pass marker against it so that a new V5 registration document can be issued.

3. Stolen
The HPI check will also make sure the car you are about to purchase is not stolen. If you do purchase a stolen car then the police have the right and ability to remove it from your possession. This means that even though you are not at fault, you risk losing both the car and the money you paid for it. The HPI check also ensures that the V5 document is not part of a stolen batch that could lead to problems for you in the future.

4. Being sold illegally
This is a variant of when a car is either under existing finance or stolen, in that the car you are about to purchase does not belong to the seller. In this case the car is being driven by others – for example hire cars, fleet cars, forecourt demonstration models – and being passed off as their own in the hope of making some quick cash. The HPI check will indicate if the vehicle is on the security watch register, which is used by the police, finance companies and the motor trade to ensure that such vehicles can be traced if someone either steals them or attempts to sell them fraudulently. Needless to say, you should not proceed with the purchase until the situation is clarified.

5. Different from what it says on the tin!
It is important that the information you are receiving from the seller is the same as the V5 document. The HPI check will provide information from the DVLA database including the make and model of vehicle, the colour, door plan, engine size and transmission. It will also give the history of the vehicle in terms of the number of owners. This is all worth checking carefully to make sure all is as it should be.

6. Hiding clocked mileage
Some sellers clock vehicles as a quick way of adding value. Surprisingly this is not illegal in itself: but it is illegal to offer a vehicle for sale and not disclose the change to the mileage. Most used car buyers are looking for a vehicle with low mileage, so it can be tempting for sellers to make adjustments to attract a buyer. But not only does this distort the value of the vehicle, it also means that the vehicle might need more servicing and work doing, and missing these could pose a safety risk.

7. Showing odd numbers!
The HPI check will verify that the VIN number and registration number of the vehicle match the information on record with the DVLA. If there are mismatches this could indicate a variety of problems with the vehicle. In this case it is essential to obtain further information or advice and ultimately you may need to walk away.

If you are purchasing a vehicle it is therefore essential to get an HPI check done. They are offered by various organisations – including the AA,RAC, Auto Trader and HPI – for between £14.99 and £19.99. Well worth the initial outlay to make sure that when purchasing a car, what you see is what you get!