What is a car history check?

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A car history check combines data from a variety of sources to give you a full overview of the cars status and history. Car history checks (also known as vehicle history checks, car checks and hpi checks) have been around since 1938 but they have changed a lot since then. Back then the checks were made by post and could only tell you if a car had outstanding finance. Now they can be done online in seconds and provide you with a wealth of information.

Why is it necessary?

Unfortunately buying a used car does come with risks.

  • Nearly half of all used cars have a hidden history. +
  • 1 in 12 used cars were recorded as an insurance write off*
  • 1 in 7 has outstanding finance recorded*
  • 104,519 Vehicles were reported as Stolen in 2017**

By checking a car's history you can protect yourself from these pitfalls and buy a used car with more confidence.

What checks does a car history check usually consist of?

Outstanding finance

If you buy a car that has outstanding finance the finance company usually owns the car, not you! You will probably be liable to pay off the outstanding finance, as well as what you have already paid to the seller. This data usually comes from credit reference companies and in our case the data is sourced from Experian™.

Written off

There are four categories of write-offs - A, B, C and D. A and B are illegal to sell or drive as they have been damaged beyond repair. C and D may be repaired, sold and driven legitimately but you need to be careful to ensure the damage has been properly repaired and the car is safe to drive. Because of this, Cat C and D cars are usually cheaper. This data is usually sourced from the DVLA and MIB .


If the car you buy is stolen, it belongs to the original owner and you will end up paying a "seller" for nothing. This data is sourced from the Police National Computer .

Vehicle Identity

All legitimate cars in the UK have a Vehicle Identity Number (VIN or sometimes called the chassis number) and an engine number. This is recorded on the V5C (logbook) document for every car. Some thieves transplant a "clean" VIN onto a stolen a car to try and make it look legitimate. Dangerous "Cut and shunt" cars may have multiple VIN or engine numbers. This data is sourced from the DVLA .

Mileage check

This data comes from a variety of sources such as the DVLA and other motoring and insurance companies. This helps to protect you against "clocking" or odometer fraud.


If a car has been registered as scrapped, it should not be sold or driven on the road. There are some legitimate cases where a scrapped car has been repaired and returned to the road but it must be de-registered with the DVLA before being sold.


If a car has been registered as exported and is currently in the UK, something is wrong. A car can be legitimately re-imported but it should be declared as such to the DVLA .


If the colour of the car is different to the registered colour there may be something wrong. This data is sourced from the DVLA


An imported car may cost more to insure or be difficult to get parts for but it is not a red flag. This data is sourced from the DVLA

Previous Owners

This data is sourced from the DVLA and records every registered owner of the car.

Registration changes

This data is sourced from the DVLA and records every registered number plate change.

MOT history and status

A car doesn't have to have an MOT to be sold but it does need one to be used on the road. The MOT history is a good way to check how well looked after a car is. Lots of failures and advisories could be an indication of a car with underlying problems or parts likely to fail soon. This data is sourced from the DVSA

and more

Car history checks usually contain more information including things such as vehicle specs, road tax and fuel costs. If you are looking to check a car's history, please consider our car history checks for motoring peace of mind.

* - Experian™ data for 2017
** - Vehicles registered as stolen on the Police National Computer in 2017