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HPI Checks

Buying a car second hand might be a sensible way to save some money, but it also carries significant risk. Unless you're buying from a childhood friend you trust 100 percent, chances are the seller won't be completely upfront about the vehicle's history.

That's where HPI Check comes into the equation, offering a trustworthy, easy-to-use online service dedicated to unearthing hidden secrets about your new pair of wheels through its registration number alone.

What can an HPI Check tell me?

As a rule, we should be skeptical of the claims companies make in order to advertise their product or service, but HPI Check's website suggests that one in three cars they check show up a "hidden history" not disclosed by the seller.

This could be something completely trivial that wouldn't necessarily affect your decision to buy, but at the same time, it could also be a deal-breaker.

Below are a few examples.

• The vehicle is stolen, meaning that your purchasing it would not be legally binding and you may be apt for criminal charges.

• The vehicle has not been fully financed, which could result in it being repossessed even though the debt outstanding does not belong to you.

• The vehicle has been written-off because of damage, in which case you will be legally prohibited from taking it out on the road. Essentially, you're buying a really expensive ornament for your driveway.

• The vehicle is not correctly registered with the DVLA - which means you won't be able to take it out on the road.

What can't an HPI Check tell me?

While HPI Check provide an invaluable service for those looking for a second hand motor, it's important that buyers recognise there is no substittue for seeing the vehicle in the flesh and having a good look at it for yourself.

The website doesn't unearth every single accident or skirmish in which the car in question has been involved. For one thing, many of them wouldn't have been reported in the first place - especially if the owner is unscrupulous enough to sell you damaged goods.

Another important caveat is that HPI Check won't be able to provide you with a comprehensive list of the times the vehicle went in for service. If the owner tells you that everything beneath the bonnet is in order, it really comes down to a question of trust and your own best judgement.

Where can I find additional information?

Because there may be gaps in HPI Check's database, it's worth checking out one or two other similar tools elsewhere on the internet.

Below are a few examples (although keep in mind that HPI is generally rated the most comprehensive by motoring experts).

As well as making use of modern technology, it's also a good idea to ask probing questions of your seller. If you think something sounds suspicious, then push them on it until you get a satisfactory answer. The last thing you want is to walk away from the negotiating table with a big hole in your wallet and a car that is being hunted by police.

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