What is an HPI Check?
For those of you living in Ireland or the UK, an HPI check is an important way to make sure you’re buying a “clean” second hand car.
Here is some of the information you get when you do an HPI Check…
- Liens or Loans – See if the title is clear of any monetary problems.
- Wrecks – Know if the car has ever been “junked” by an insurance company or individual.
- Mileage – See how many miles each previous owner put on the car and if the totals match up to the speedometer now.
- Stolen – Know instantly if the car has been stolen or is wanted in connection to a crime.
- Previous Owners – See exactly how many times the car has been bought and sold.
- VIN Check – Make sure the Vehicle Identification Number matches your car.
Now obviously all of the above information is pretty important to know when you’re buying a used car. For me in particular is the piece of mind knowing there are no financial problems with the car and the papers are clean. And knowing the car has never been in an accident that was so severe that the car needed to be completely written off by an insurance company and the car is in good mechanical shape.
Liens and loans – This information is so important, because if you do end up purchasing a used car that has a lien or a previous owner had a loan and used the car as collateral, YOU are now responsible for that loan or lien!
It does not matter if the information was not disclosed to you. It is your responsibility to find out the history of the car and make sure everything is okay.
The bank or whomever WILL come and collect their car if the loan isn’t satisfied. And sometimes the amount can be far more than what the car is even worth.
It may also be a problem to even register the car if the lien holder causes problems.
Now it is common to have an outstanding loan with a finance company like a “Stocking Loan” or a “Demonstration Stocking”. This simply means that an outside financial institution “owns” the car and are letting someone sell it for them, often a used car dealer.
The dealership typically has only 90 days to sell the car before the finance company takes possession and sells it at auction.
If you do find there is something attached like a Stocking Loan, make sure that you get in writing in the final sales contract that this money will be paid by the dealer or finance company and that you are not responsible for the payment.
If it’s not in writing, then YOU are responsible, period! NEVER take someone’s “word” or a handshake when it comes to this.
Wrecks – One way car dealers or even individuals can make good money with a used car is by buying insurance write offs that have been in an accident. These cars can still be valuable, and with some work they can also be driveable.
BUT, there are problems with these cars. They’ve been in a serious accident and often times their frames are bent, parts are shaken loose, and a whole host of problems can appear over time.
Buying a wrecked vehicle is a risk, and one I personally wouldn’t take unless I was a very good mechanic that really knew exactly how bad the damage was.
But as a trade off, these cars are also often sold cheaper than than the same car that was never wrecked. So yes you can save some money now, but be warned it may cost you a lot more later on.
Mileage – One of the oldest “tricks in the book” when it comes to selling a used car is to turn back the odometer in the car so it reads less miles than it really has.
Of course this is illegal, but it doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen, and a lot more than you think!
It’s estimated that 1 in 12 cars in the UK have discrepancies when it comes to the car’s mileage.
Stolen Cars – Of course it’s always nice to know if the car has been stolen, or even if it is on a police watch list as part of a crime scene of some sort. An HPI check will let you know if there are any problems right away.
Previous Owners – Knowing how many times the car has been bought and sold can actually be very useful information.
If the car has changed hands a number of times it may mean there is a problem with the car and you should have it looked over by a professional mechanic.
While the number of owners may mean nothing, it could mean your new dream car could end up being a nightmare. So be careful!
VIN Check – One last thing you’ll need to look at is if the Vehicle Identification Number matches up to the car. This can tell you if the car is stolen, or maybe someone changed VIN numbers to hide problems like an insurance write off of a loan against the car.
Look at all the tags on the car. Then VIN should be stamped and easily seen through the windshield, but is also visible on the car door frame and on the car’s frame.
Take the time to look and make sure you’re getting exactly what you’re paying for.
Hopefully this article goes into enough detail to explain exactly what an HPI Check is and why it’s important to get one done if you’re buying a used car.
It’s an affordable way to insure that you’re not getting something different than what’s being told to you. And for a few pounds you can save yourself a lot of headaches in the long run.
Is There a FREE HPI Check?
Getting an HPI check online is one of the smartest things you can do to protect yourself from being scammed. I just wish there was something similar in every part of the world, but the check that I’m talking about is restricted to the UK only.
So if you’re in the UK and buying a used car, use one of these for piece of mind and to keep your money.
Usually these checks are paid for. The companies that provide them actually pay for the rights to use the main database. They then resell you the information at a small markup.
Even if you do pay for your HPI check, it’s not at all that expensive. Especially considering the amount of money you’re about to part with on the cost of buying a car. So is there a free hpi check?
So if it’s paid, how do they do it for free?
Companies that give you a free check are actually just giving you a “taste” of the check. Meaning, they’ll give you just a little of the information you are looking for in order to get your email and try to sell you their Full Package later.
Now for some people, they only need to check one or two things and so the free version is fine. And that’s great. But most of us “should’ want the entire package to get a proper understanding of the car and its history.
Another part of the check that’s important is the part on insurance claims. This allows you to understand if the car has been in any really bad accidents and has needed major repair.
Cars that have been in serious collisions are often never as good as new again. Their frames get bent, or things are no longer “snug” so there are noises and rattles. These problems get worse over time. Never better.
Often a dealer will buy a wrecked car and rebuild it cheaply so as to make a nice profit on the resale. And although they should disclose that this is how the car was acquired, they often don’t.
My point is, just because it’s a dealer and not something out of an ad doesn’t necessarily lower your probabilities of being scammed.
So can you find a free HPI check online somewhere, yes, absolutely. But be aware that you’re only going to receive past of the data. They need to pay for that data, and unless they can make up the difference somewhere, they are not just going to be nice people and help you out for free.
Otherwise, do the right thing for your own piece of mind and just get a complete HPI check so you know that used car you’re buying is actually drive-able and will last you for years to come.