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Buying & selling

HPI | Expert Advice on Reducing the Risks of Used Car Buying

Everyone loves a bargain, but it’s easy to be duped by shiny paintwork and a rock bottom price, when it comes to shopping for a used car. But like everything, used car buying has its own risks. Dodgy sellers use more and more sophisticated scams to cheat consumers out of their hard-earned cash, but you can avoid becoming a victim by understanding the pitfalls and conducting a vehicle check.

First-time Buyer gets his Fingers Burnt

Stefan Mordue, an architect from Newcastle, had just passed his test, when he went to buy his first car, a Citroen AX GT. He found it in the classifieds and went to view it with his mum and cousin.

The car was within budget and looked perfect, so he went ahead and bought it. He later decided to have it serviced by a mechanic, who revealed a number of serious mechanical issues. Stefan conducted an HPI Check®, which showed that the car was a category C insurance write-off. Further investigation revealed that the car had been bought from a scrapyard and was deemed un-roadworthy, making it dangerous to drive and practically worthless.

HPI Check® Saved Naomi Thousands

Naomi Copestake, a youth worker from Plymouth, almost lost £2,000 on a Peugeot 206 she was looking to buy. At the time, Naomi was a student, so she had limited funds, but desperately needed a car.

She spotted an advert in a magazine and went to view the car at the seller’s home. She admits she knows nothing about cars and was going to ‘wing-it’, but a nagging voice in her mind stopped her.

Naomi sacrificed half a week’s worth of food shopping to do an HPI Check instead. The HPI Check revealed that the car was a category D insurance write-off but the seller had not mentioned this. Luckily, Naomi could walk away.

Mum Knows Best

Andre Bemand, a train driver from Southport, knows the importance of an HPI Check®, thanks to his mum’s sound advice.

When searching for his first car, he found a BMW 7 Series for sale for £5,000. He’d scrimped and saved and had his heart and his savings set on this car, which he found in the classifieds. Andre took his dad to view the car and all looked good, but his mum urged him to check the car with HPI. The check revealed the car owner still owed £1,400 against the car to a finance company.

If Andre hadn’t followed his mother’s advice, he would have ended up with a car on outstanding finance. He could have lost the car and his money, as the finance company was the legal owner and could have claimed it back.

HPI’s Car Buying Checklist:

  • Set a budget and stick to it, including the costs for insurance, servicing and car tax.
  • Have a list of questions to ask the seller and record the answers. Ask the seller to sign and date the document.
  • Check the car’s registration document (V5) to validate ownership and the accuracy of the vehicle’s age and mileage.
  • Check that the engine/chassis numbers match the V5 and HPI documentation.
  • Test drive the car, but ensure that appropriate insurance is obtained.
  • Don’t rely on the MOT as evidence of a car’s condition.
  • Check for oil leaks, welds, untidy seams or paintwork. Are the electrics working?
  • Check for rust and paint bubbles on sills, wheel arches and doors.
  • Does the mileage match the age of the car? A worn interior may indicate a clocked car.
  • Never pay with cash – use the banking system or walk away.
  • What’s the market value? If the price tag is less than 70% of the market price, be wary.
  • Conduct an HPI Check® – this can reveal things the eye alone cannot tell you.

HPI inforgraphic. know the risks when buying a car

It’s never too late to check the history of your car.

Conduct an HPI Check® today by entering a car registration here to discover the truth about your dream buy.



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HPI is the UK's leading car history check company. The company has been checking car history since 1938 and has information available for over 40 million UK-registered vehicles.