Your questions answered

What is an HPI check?

‘HPI clear’ is a phrase you’ll have come across when car hunting – but what does it mean?

HPI check

If you’re in the market for a used car, it pays to know as much as possible about the car you’re buying. Checks for bad repairs, service history, condition and suspect MoTs all go without saying – but what about the stuff you can’t see?

An HPI vehicle history check is the best way to make sure your potential purchase hasn’t been written off by an insurer in the past, and that it doesn’t have any outstanding finance. HPI stands for Hire Purchase Investigation, an organisation which provides checks on vehicles to its users.

The HPI Check service, introduced online in 2001, is the industry standard, and with good reason. It covers over 80 information points on every car, all of which help to keep buyers from buying a car they shouldn’t.

To use the service, you simply enter the car’s registration number into the box at – then pay to see the results. HPI’s Basic Check covers outstanding finance, theft, insurance write offs, import/exports and scrappage information and costs £9.99. A far more comprehensive check can be carried out for £19.99, or you can buy three full checks for £29.97 – that’s £9.99 each, with the checks redeemable within a two-year period.

HPI uses data collected from insurers, finance companies, the police, DVLA and others to collate its results. Other companies including the RAC and AA also provide a history-check service.

There are some things that an HPI check can’t confirm, though. The check confirms how many owners the car has had, but can’t tell you exactly who they were – a particular issue if you’re concerned about the car having been previously owned by a car-hire firm or taxi company, for example. 

Similarly, HPI cannot confirm details of any accidents that haven’t resulted in a write-off – we recommend a professional inspection if you have any doubts, as this should flag up any signs of previous damage. An investigation carried out by our sister title Auto Express uncovered evidence of previously written-off cars coming up clear on HPI, however, so the system is not immune to error.

Also, given that the HPI check uses a car’s numberplate, it’s possible that a stolen car could be wearing a ‘cloned’ registration. To make sure this isn’t the case, it pays to double-check your car’s VIN, too.

Most Popular

New Abarth 500e electric hot hatch revealed in full
Abarth 500e

New Abarth 500e electric hot hatch revealed in full

The hot version of Fiat’s electric city car does 0-62mph in seven seconds, and will be offered as a hatchback and convertible
22 Nov 2022
Will an electric car work in the winter?
Winter driving
Your questions answered

Will an electric car work in the winter?

Worried about a cold snap immobilising your electric car? Here, we explain how cold weather affects electric vehicles
25 Nov 2022
Tethered or untethered home charger?
BMW i3 wallbox
Your questions answered

Tethered or untethered home charger?

All the pros and cons of home wallbox chargers with either tethered or untethered cables
7 Nov 2022