Buying a car can be a traumatic experience at the best of times. But one area of pain you can outsource is finding out about the car’s history. Read on to find out how.
What is a used car history check?
A car has a lot more history beyond what’s happened to it mechanically. There is its insurance history. Who actually owns it? Has it been stolen? Does it have outstanding finance against it? What is its MOT history? And is the mileage correct? A comprehensive used car history check will find all this out for you.
Where do you get history checks from?
There are a large number of history checks to choose from. Companies such as HPI, Freecarcheck.co.uk, instantcarcheck.co.uk and even Webuyanycar.com offer them. So do breakdown organisations such as the AA, RAC and Green Flag.
When you’re buying a history check
Most importantly, make sure what you’re paying covers what you need. There’s no point paying for a ‘comprehensive’ history check only to discover it doesn’t verify a car’s insurance history. Good companies will offer a guarantee that the service they’ve provided is accurate.
How much do they cost?
Some of the companies above claim they’re free and they are. But the checks they offer for free are only the sorts of things you could do such as checking a car’s MOT history. You’ll have to pay for the good stuff.
Prices usually range from £3 to £15. Auto Express conducted an independent review of car history check websites here.
Is it worth having a history check done?
A report by history check company HPI revealed that one in three cars being sold is owned by someone other than the seller. And one in 11 cars has a mileage discrepancy. That means the mileage it is showing isn’t the genuine number of miles the car has covered.
It’s also worth bearing in mind that around nine in 10 new cars are bought on finance. That increases the likelihood of cars having outstanding finance against them. This is when the person selling them tries to do so before they’ve finished paying off the debt to the finance company. In that case, the car still belongs to the finance company, even if you’ve bought it in good faith.
Is it stolen?
Everyday more than 100 cars are recorded stolen on the Police National Computer. Make sure a vehicle history check verifies that the car is being sold legally and hasn’t been stolen and given a new ID.
Has it been written off?
This is when an insurance company declares a car to be a ‘total loss’ and pays what it’s worth to the policy holder. It will have done this because the car is too badly damaged to be repaired safely, or will cost too much to put back on the road.
But some cars that have been written off can be put back on the road – read about write-off categories here – but you need to know their exact condition to do so. Checking whether a car has been written off will reassure you that it hasn’t been repaired and returned to the road when it’s unsafe to do so.
Why is a mileage check important?
Clocking or tampering with a car’s mileage has become more common because of the large number of cars bought on finance. People ‘adjust’ the mileage on cars so that they aren’t hit by penalties for exceeding agreed limits by finance companies. When the car is sold it can command a higher price than it is really worth because it seems to have done fewer miles.