Used Car Buying Guide - Chapter 2 - Step 1 - How to Perform a Full HPI Check
2nd January 2019
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Welcome back to our Used Car Buying Guide series - where, by now, you will have probably read our first post - "The 6 Crucial Steps To Take When Buying A Used Car - Finding The Right Car, At The Right Price!"   If you have not - please ensure to read it before you carry on. It offers a great snapshot of the 6 steps we highly recommend taking when searching for your next used car.   In the following 6 blog posts of our "Used Car Buying Guide" - I want to discuss each step in much more detail - giving you a guided walk through for you to use when looking for your next used car. Thus ensuring you don't miss out on anything, that could lead to something you may regret after making the important purchase (this applies to whether you are buying from a private seller or a trader!!!).    

What You Will Get Out of This Chapter?


As we now know, the first step you should complete, after you have found the car that "ticks the boxes" you have set at the start of your car buying journey, that fits within your ideal budget - is the HPI check.    I will detail what a HPI check actually is, where you can obtain a HPI check, what the costs are and how you should analyse the report to ensure you get the information you need from it!    

So... Lets Get Started!



What Is A HPI Check?


  A HPI Check (commonly referred to as a motor auto-check, but for this post, and simplicity - we will refern to it as a HPI check) is a detailed report you can obtain containing key information about a vehicle. Depending on the level of check you decide to pay for - it will usually contain details about whether the vehicle has been reported stolen, damaged or is on secure motor finance (stating the motor finance lender that has interest in the vehicle as well as the agreement number attached to it). However, if you pay a bit extra you can get much more information.    


Where Can I Get a HPI Check Done? (Is It Hard To Find?)


  There are numerous places (online) where you are able to obtain a HPI report for a vehicle, the most common and well known being the HPI Check website (, where you can get a basic HPI check (that pretty much tells you whether the car has been reported stolen, damaged or on finance) or a fully comprehensive check (which details things like total cost of ownership, market valuations, MOT history plus lots more).   Depending on how comprehensive a report you want to go for, there are other (cheaper) options that are available if you require a basic check - such as... Total Car Check (, Instant Car Check ( and My Car Check (    


But... Is It Expensive To Get?


    Well... Actually, it is not. Not when you consider the consequences of not getting one. Would you rather spend £9.99 on getting a HPI report and spending 15-30 minutes analyzing it, or buy a car whilst skipping this step - and find out it was reported stolen last week, resulting in the car removal from your driveway by a recovery truck the next?   The reports vary in cost, depending on where you get them from and what level you choose. However they tend to range anywhere from £9.99 (basic) to £19.99 (full).     

Should I Just Get a Basic Check... Or Pay More For a Full Check?


  We highly recommend opting for a fully comprehensive, thorough check - which gives you access to all the information you will need to perform a full background check on any used vehicle. Yes... it may cost (slightly) more - however for the level of information you get, its definitely worth it - for that extra peace of mind.    


Ok... So, I Have Brought The HPI Check - What Do I Need To Do Next?


  The next step... is analyzing the information you have and knowing what to look out for. These are the main snippets of information we recommend taking note of, and using, to ensure the vehicle you are interested in is legitimate and honest:    


Stolen? Scrapped? Significant Damage?
Finance? Imported/Exported?


  These are the the very first things that will appear in the HPI report - and logically the first areas we should check! HPI reports tend to have a "traffic light" system - Red/Amber/Green.   Red for high risk, amber for medium risk and green for no risk.       What to look out for:  

  1. Is there a red marker in the vehicle reported stolen box? Generally speaking, we highly recommend avoiding a car with a stolen marker! 
  2. Has the vehicle been reported scrapped? There is a high chance the vehicle advertised is not associated with the vehicle registration number you have used to pull the HPI report! 
  3. Has the vehicle been reported to have sustained significant damage (for e.g. Category C/D/S Damage)? Whilst it is not illegal to sell cars that have been declared insurance write offs or that have sustained significant damage and undergone expensive repair work - there are things you need to be mindful of. Has the seller been transparent (if not, why not?)? Does the seller have the invoices and receipts for the work completed? And most importantly - has an unbiased expert mechanical inspection been done? (Cars reported with a category status can represent excellent deals, however you must ensure the right steps are taken). Its also worth noting that the way insurance companies and finance lenders view them is usually different to there standard policies. 
  4. Has the vehicle got outstanding finance? It is a fact that 20 out of 100 HPI checks that are completed are reported with outstanding finance - this should not concern you - but you should proceed with caution. If you are buying a car with outstanding finance, we highly recommend personally calling the finance lender who has interest in the vehicle (on a FULL HPI report, you will be provided with the finance lender, agreement number and phone number) and confirming the amount owed. If you then decide to buy the car, it is highly recommended that either the seller clears the finance prior to you transferring any funds - or you personally (upon collection) transfer the funds to the finance lender - thus ensuring the agreement has been settled. 

    In an ideal world, we want to see all of these boxes highlighted in green. However there may be some occasions where you see an amber caution light, and and at first our reaction is to step back. But looking closer at why there is a caution can lead to a better understanding, and it is likely nothing to cause any major concern.    For example - registration plate changes will throw an amber caution on to the HPI report - but these are often nothing to worry about. It is always advisable to obtain the original number plate from the seller and run a full HPI on that as well - as number plate changes can be used to hide the history attached to a previous registration number.    


VIN/Chassis Number


  The HPI report will also have the VIN/Chassis Number associated to the registration plate you have entered. Quite simply - this must be cross-checked with the actual vehicle AND the physical logbook. On the majority of vehicles - the VIN number is located on the passenger side directly under the windscreen.    What to look out for:  

  • If the VIN number on the HPI report differs from on the vehicle and/or V5 registration document (logbook) - there is a high probability the vehicle is stolen with false number plates. 


General Vehicle Check


  Check the vehicle model, colour (although the colour will not state the exact manufacturers name for the colour of the car. For e.g. Ruby Red would just state - Red), engine capacity, transmission, BHP and previous keepers with the logbook.    What to look out for:  

  • If there are any discrepancies this  could mean the logbook is fake and/or has been altered.


Vehicle Valuation


  Again, on a FULL HPI check - you will be able to access the vehicle trade and retail valuations (usually provided by CAP or Glasses Guide).    What to look out for:  

  • If the vehicle that is being sold is significantly over the recommended retail value, and sold via a trader - find out why. Reasons could be... the vehicle may have a number of optional extras - or the seller may be including a number of additional services (i.e. additional warranty or the level of preparation). Or the particular car is quite rare - thus increasing the general value of the vehicle. If this is not the case - the guide prices should be somewhat adhered to - especially if considering motor finance as an option to fund your vehicle. Motor finance lenders use the "BOOK" valuations (similar to property valuations) when funding a vehicle - if you pay significantly higher than book value for a car, you could find yourself in negative equity should you decide to settle your agreement earlier that the term.
  • If you have found a vehicle via a private seller - you should certainly not pay "retail" value for the vehicle (unless it is something particularly different and/or rare) - as you will not receive any guarantee from the seller. Meaning protection is significantly reduced. Depending on the vehicle, how well it has been serviced/maintained and the bodywork condition - a private sale valuation is usually somewhere between trade value and retail value. 


Previous Keepers


  A FULL HPI check will give you information on when the vehicle changed ownership. This can be an important piece of information to help you in the next stages of the car buying process. We highly recommend making note of these changes - for you to use further down the line when speaking to the seller.   What to look out for:  

  • If a vehicle has changed ownership numerous time in a short period (I usually work on any more than twice within a two year period) - then find out why. There may be a genuine reason - for example, a pre-registered vehicle will show an initial registration date and then when sold the next owner is registered and this can sometimes be within a matter of months. However, numerous changes within a short period could be for other less innocent reasons - such as major issues with the vehicle. Again, this is just the first step in the car buying process - and information like this helps us in the next steps.


Fuel Economy and Cost of Ownership


  A FULL HPI will also give you estimated cost of ownership (fuel cost) and the most up to date road tax cost for 12 months. This is useful information if you working towards a tight overall budget.   What to look out for:  

  • If you are working towards a tight budget - use this 12 month average cost (based on average fuel cost and usually about 12,000 annual miles) to help work out your monthly budget. Whilst not 100% accurate, it will give you a great idea as to what the car will cost you month to month on fuel. 





These are the main areas of a HPI report that we personally recommend to take note of and analyse the information. However, once you have completed the HPI check & analyses - the information should not just be forgotten.   Most of the information obtained from this report will be used in the following steps of the Used Car Buying Process.     In the following weeks - we will detail how you can use the information obtained from the HPI report, in the following steps of the used car buying guide!    

We Are Here To Help!


In the meantime, should you have any questions about the information we have detailed in this chapter - please give me a call on 01922 50 20 25 - for some FREE friendly advice.    If you are currently looking for a used car and want a helping hand throughout the car buying process by an industry expert - give me a call and I can let you know how we can quite literally remove the hassle out of the process for you by doing not only the above step, but all the following 5 steps (and more!), on your behalf.

About the Author

Mike K

Member since: 23rd July 2018

Hi, I'm Mike Kirby and I am the Owner and Director of Find & Finance Ltd.

Find & Finance is a unique personal vehicle finding service, helping you find the very best car, van or motorbike within your...

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