HPI explained

HPI is essential for buying a used car, from both private and trade sellers. HPI is an online database, that has the history of every registered car. The purpose of this check is to make sure your buying a strait and legal car.

A HPI check is easy to do, auto trader for example will offer you this service on there site, usually at the bottom of every car advert. They can cost from £3.50 – £20, depending on the vendor and the level of data provided.

On this page, I’m going to explain to you the main points of a HPI check and what they mean.

hpi report


Stolen, if this flags up on the report walk away, do not buy it, as this car is recorded as stolen, so if you bought it, you would not be the legal owner and the old bill may think you’re the person who has nicked it. Try explaining that one, “I bought it off a private seller honestly”

High Risk, if this flags up on the report walk away, do not buy it. This can mean a number of things like, a dispute on finance, the police have an interest in the vehicle, it’s related to a fraud offense. The best thing to do is walk away.

Finance, if this flags up don’t be too alarmed, this means the vehicle was purchased on finance and it could simply mean the agreement is still outstanding, or HPI has not been updated yet.

To find out if the agreement is still outstanding, on the report it will state what finance company still has an interest in the vehicle and simply call them and ask.

If there is finance outstanding, do not buy the car until it is cleared and the HPI report states that. If HPI has not been updated, ask them to update HPI and do not buy the vehicle until the report states there is no finance outstanding.

If you buy a car with outstanding finance, it means your not the legal owner, as the finance company is, the police can repossess the vehicle and you will be left out of pocket.

ABI Condition, this means that the vehicle has been damaged and has been recorded by an insurance company. Depending on the category it relates to the extent of damage and the cost of repair.

Category A – Scrap only, parts are not salvageable, vehicle not permitted on the road and should be crushed.
Category B – Extensive damage, beyond repair. Parts are salvageable, vehicle not permitted on the road and should be scrapped.
Category C – Vehicle is damaged but repairable, cost of repair exceeds the pre-accident value of the vehicle.
Category D – Vehicle is damaged but repairable.
Category S – Structurally damaged but repairable, its important that these vehicles are repaired professionally.
Category N – Repairable non-structural damage.

If you already knew the vehicle was a cat D or C and your happy to buy it, as it’s lot cheaper than a strait car, go ahead, but please consider getting a mechanic to look at it first, to excess that it’s been repaired properly and it’s safe to drive.

if you thought it was a strait car and the HPI report states it’s been in an accident walk away, don’t buy it.

Scrapped, if this flags up, it means the vehicle has been declared by the DVLA as being scraped. After you stop scratching you head, wondering why it’s still a car rather than a bake bean can, walk away, there’s a reason why it was declared as scrap and this car will cause you nothing but grief.

Original Plate / Plate Change, if this flags up, to be honest this is harmless, it basically means at some point in the cars life, it has had a private registration. This is very common to find on prestige cars. The report will also show you every registration the car has had.

Export Data, if this flags up it means that the vehicle has been recorded as being exported. With this it’s best to do some research on the car, to why it has been exported and has come back into the UK. If you drive a car to France on holiday, that will not cause this to happen. This occurs when the DVLA has been notified, of the permanent export of the vehicle.

Import Data, if this flags up it means, the vehicle was not first registered in the UK. Some certain models of car can only be purchased from abroad, like US and Japanese imports. If you knew the car was an import then that’s fine, but if you didn’t, do a lot more research to why it was imported, in most cases it’s harmless but it’s always good to check. A common reason for this, is that the car was bought from a dealer, from the republic of Ireland and has ended up in the UK, quite often when this happens, the vehicle will still have its Irish number plates.

No Extra Date / millage, if this flags up, it means there is a discrepancy with the recorded millage. Every time the vehicle has an MOT, goes for a repair / service (from RMI member garages / auctions), the millage is recorded and is submitted to the HPI register. This is done to prevent people clocking cars.

There are a couple of reasons why this would happen. Which I will explain below.

Clocking, this is the first conclusion everyone jumps too. Clocking is when someone lowers the millage on the dash board of the vehicle, to make it more valuable. Clocking is illegal and costs the UK car industry millions each year.

If you look at the HPI report, it states the last recorded millage of the vehicle, for example, 120K miles and the millage on the dash board is 40K miles, it has most likely been clocked.

Human error, “I’m only human after all, I’m only human after all, why do you count one me?”. As stated by Rag and bone man, I’m only human, we can make errors and mistakes and this happens surprisingly a lot.

He is an example that has happened to me.

I have taken a vehicle to get an MOT, with the miles on that dash at 47K miles. I have had a customer looking at the vehicle a week later.

He asks me “is the vehicle HPI clear” and I responded, “all my vehicles are and I encourage you to run a HPI check”, so he did. He then said to me, “why are the miles on the dash 47K and why on the HPI check it says, on it’s last MOT last week, it was on 75.6K?”

Can you work it out? The MOT tester from eastern Europe, was still using the metric system. The idiot of a MOT tester, recorded the millage in Kilometres, 47K miles equals 75.6K kilometres.

Now this can be corrected rather painlessly, the MOT station has to call HPI and the DVLA, then explain the error and within a few days it will be corrected.

So how can I tell if it’s been clocked, or it’s human error? This can be quite difficult, as you will need to at look previous MOT’s, service history and every recorded millage on the HPI report. Here are a few points and tips to help you work it out.

  • Do the miles to kilometres conversion, as this may be the reason (like what happened to me)
  • Check the dates and miles on everything, as this may be obvious, if it was clocked or human error
  • If there is only a couple of thousand miles discrepancy, this would most likely be human error because, knocking 2K off the miles of a car, is not going to make the car worth much more. Clocking / millage correction is not cheap, so to make it worth the persons while, they would have to shave off at least 10k – 20k.
  • Check the steering wheel, gear stick, and driver seat, as these are the parts that wear the most due to use. If the car has low miles and those parts look very worn, it would suggest foul play.
  • Check the service history and call the garages that have serviced it, as they might have more / different information, on their computer system.
  • Take the seller onto the Jeremy Kyle show, to do a lie detector test.

Important checks

Even if the HPI report has not flagged any thing up, there are a few more things to check.

  • Vin Number, a vin number is a unique serial number, that is located on the vehicle, the number is the identify the vehicle, even if it has a change of registration, or has been imported / exported. Usually this number is located at the bottom of the windscreen. The logbook / V5 document will also have this number on it. The HPI report will show the vin number, check this to the logbook and vehicle to make sure they all have the same vin number. If the vehicle / logbook / HPI report have different numbers, this could mean the car is a ringer (cloned car / stolen car). Walk away from this vehicle, as this would almost defiantly mean foul play.
  • Engine Number, this can be quite hard to check, due to the engine number being in many different places on the engine (each manufacture puts it in a different place) and many parts codes being there also. Check the HPI report / logbook and car to make sure they all match. If they don’t match this could mean the car does not have its original engine. This is not always foul paly or anything to worry about, on older cars sometimes the engine fails and will require a new engine, hence why a different engine number. If this is on a newer car this would seem a bit strange and could be a genuine reason like the engine failed, or foul play.
  • Colour, this may sound stupid and this is easy to check. The HPI report and Logbook will state what colour the car is and let’s say they both state the car is yellow and the car your viewing is black, you have a problem. This could either mean the car has been resprayed in another colour, the car has been wrapped and the paint is black underneath, or if the Vin numbers don’t match, this is a completely different car, possibly a ringer / stolen.


 When should I do a HPI check? / save money

As HPI reports are expensive, sometimes up to £20 per report, you don’t won’t to be doing these often. Let’s say you were interested in 3 cars and you done all 3 that could cost you £60.

Never buy a used car before seeing a HPI report, but there are ways to see the repot and save money.

Don’t bother with a HPI report, until you’re sure you want to buy that vehicle.

When you view a vehicle on Autotrader, they already run a small report on the car for, ABI condition (accident damaged cars), so you can’t advertise a vehicle on there as strait, if it’s a recorded loss. What this won’t check, is millage, finance, ect, so it’s important to do a full HPI check when your certain you want that car.

Dealers, as they do so many HPI checks, they get discounted rates at around £3.50 per report, as the dealer has bought the car, there is a strong likely hood, that they have the report for the car there. Simply ask to see the report and this will cost you nothing.

Ask the dealer to run a fresh check, on the day, so you have peace of mind, that this report is, as up to date as possible. Most dealers will do this free of charge, as they want to sell you the car and again, this will cost you nothing.