As with anything else, when you’re in the market for a used vehicle, information is the most valuable asset you can have. Fortunately, there is actually a wealth of information available to those with the foresight to seek it out—and not about makes, models, years, or anything else so general, but about specific individual cars.
A professionally performed vehicle history check based on a car’s number plate draws from databases maintained by the police, the DVLA, and insurance companies, to give you the most complete information about a car as possible. Here are just a few examples:
Accident History and Write-Offs
This significantly affects the value, so you’ll want to know before you buy the car. If a car has been written off, check the salvage category. Category A and B total losses should not be on the road and you should never buy one of either.
MOT History and Mileage
This can give you a good idea of how well the vehicle has been maintained over time as well as giving you a reasonable idea of its last recorded mileage. If there’s a significant difference between the mileage listed and the reading on the odometer in the car, the vehicle may have been ‘clocked’—the milometer artificially rolled back to inflate its sale value.
Number Plate Changes
Sellers of dubious moral character often try to mask a vehicle’s past by switching its license plates, and if an HPI check exposes a change in plates they haven’t been upfront about you would do well to be wary.
If a car has been reported stolen, it is still legally the property of the original owner or their insurer, no matter how much you pay for it. If a history check tells you the car in question is stolen, inform the police immediately.
Of course, there are some things that don’t get put onto databases, and an HPI check won’t reveal these, but you can check for them yourself if you can physically inspect the vehicle.
Some thieves disguise stolen cars by giving them the plates of another vehicle. Check that the car’s chassis number matches the VIN listed in its logbook and the one revealed by the car history check. If there are any inconsistencies, you’ve got a potential clone on your hands.
These are the vehicular equivalent of Frankenstein’s Monster, made out of the surviving halves of two cars that have been written off in head-on collisions. They are death traps and you should never buy a car you suspect might be one. Look for signs of welding underneath the vehicle or under the carpets in foot wells.