There are many pitfalls associated with buying a used car. Cars have histories beyond what is immediately visible to you when you’re looking for one. If you’re buying from a dealer it’s likely that they will have already carried out checks into the history of each car, but if it’s a private sale you’re probably out on your own. That is, unless you get an HPI check done yourself which will provide more background into the vehicle you’re interested in. But what is an HPI check exactly, and just how much will it benefit you when looking to buy a new car?
What is an HPI check?
An HPI check (HPI stands for Hire Purchase Inspection) provides car buyers, dealers, financiers and insurers with access to information on all UK registered vehicles. Carrying out a check gives confirmation on whether a vehicle is legal and owned by the person who is selling it. It can also give detailed information about the history of a vehicle, helping prospective purchasers to make a more informed decision about whether to buy or not.
HPI have been providing histories of vehicles since 1938 and were the first to introduce the service. The HPI check is recognised as the industry standard for providing information on vehicles in the motor trade.
As well as providing top line legal information an HPI check can also confirm many other details –
- Whether a vehicle is recorded as stolen
- Whether a vehicle has previously been written off
- Make and model of the vehicle
- Colour of the vehicle
- Door plan
- Engine size
HPI also have access to the National Mileage Register which can highlight any potential mileage discrepancies as well as providing manufacturer’s details for specific vehicles at the time of completion allowing comparisons with the state of a car later in its life.
Why get an HPI check done?
If you’re buying a used car you can take plenty of time to check everything that is visible, take it for a test drive and even maybe invite someone along who has a level of expertise to assist you with your inspection. But what about the things you can’t see or test? Based on checks carried out in 2010, 1 in 3 revealed a hidden history, this is where an HPI check comes in. By using information gathered from a wide range of sources such as the Police, DVLA, insurance companies, finance houses and garages, a check can fill in the gaps in the history of a vehicle. All this information can be provided by simply checking the registration plate.
Beyond the information that will give an indication as to the history of the vehicle an HPI check can also tell you what the running costs may be, including information on fuel, road tax, emissions and economy. Technical information can be provided too; exact height, width and length, maximum speed, 0-60mph times, how much torque it will develop (especially important if the vehicle may be towing a trailer or caravan), and what brake horsepower it is.
How to do an HPI check
The official HPI Check is only done by the HPI company, but there are many organisations who offer a similar service. Basic checks can be carried out in a matter of minutes for a small outlay with more detailed reports available at a higher cost. In addition to HPI, amongst those who can provide this service are the AA, Autotrader, Parkers and Experian. Access to these services is available on the relevant websites, or for some suppliers through a number of apps available through the app store.
The cost of an HPI check can vary wildly from company to company. If you search hard enough you can find very basic checks available for free but most range from around £3 up to £30. What you pay depends on the company you use and the amount of detail you require from your report. If you’re buying a used car from a dealer you should really expect that checks will have been carried out for you before you purchase the vehicle.
Generally all you need to complete a check is the registration of the vehicle although for more detailed reports the following information might also prove useful –
- VIN (chassis number)
- V5 Registration Document serial number
- V5 Registration Document issue date To be supplied
Given the amount of money you’re likely to spend on a vehicle it must be worth carrying out a check before agreeing a final purchase. And, it’s not just about making sure that the vehicle isn’t stolen as there is a whole host of information available that can help you make an informed decision. Being clear on what the running costs associated with a particular vehicle will be could also save you money in the long run. If you’re buying a used car from a dealer don’t forget to ask if a check has been carried out, it’s in their interest to have done one and let you see the results.