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What is an HPI check?

As well as all the cosmetic, sound and engine checks you make on a vehicle you’re interested in buying, you might also be aware that you need an HPI check. There are a number of operators that provide equivalent services to HPI, including the RAC Vehicle History Check, the UK’s most comprehensive vehicle check. You can use our HPI Check comparison table to find out more about how these services stack up against each other.

But what is an HPI check? Essentially, it’s a specific service provided by the company HPI Check that draws on information from the police, DVLA and leading industry bodies to tell you things about a vehicle that perhaps the seller doesn’t know, or maybe doesn’t want you to know.

According to Experian, 88% of used vehicles on sale in 2012 had a hidden history that severely lowered their value and potentially made them a danger on the road. For peace of mind when buying used cars, the RAC Vehicle History Check is our car data check service, providing you with vital information and history on the vehicle you’ve got your eye on. Here’s our guide to why these checks are so important.


What does an HPI check reveal?
What doesn’t show up on an HPI check?
RAC Vehicle History Check

What does an HPI check reveal?

Outstanding finance

Nearly 25% of vehicles that undergo an HPI check have outstanding finance. So you wouldn’t be the legal owner of the vehicle (the finance company would be), but you could still be liable for the debt. The finance company would also have the right to repossess the car, leaving you out of pocket and without a car.


Every day, nearly 30 cars are identified as stolen and added to the Police National Computer. If your vehicle is one of them, the police have every right to seize it.


4% of vehicles that undergo an HPI check have been written off as a result of damage or theft. These vehicles may have been repaired, but you need to see proof that they were repaired reliably and are now safe to drive.

Stolen V5 document check

If the V5 document accompanying a vehicle is part of a stolen batch, you can’t trust the legitimacy of the vehicle.

Vehicle Identity

A car check will confirm with the DVLA the make, model, door plan, vehicle's current colour & prior colour, transmission and engine size, as well as how many times it has changed hands. You need to ensure that the latter in particular matches the seller’s story.

Plate transfer

20% of cars that have had a vehicle check have had at least one plate change. Usually there is nothing to worry about, but a change of plates can be used to hide a car's past, so it’s worth asking questions about it.

Number plate and VIN/chassis numbers

A car check will tell you whether the VRM and VIN correspond to DVLA records. If they don’t, there could be a number of problems with the vehicle.

What doesn’t show up on an HPI check?

There are some things that an HPI check doesn’t disclose. These include information on current or previous owners, but this wouldn’t reveal much about a vehicle’s safety and legitimacy anyway. The checks also won’t tell you about every accident a vehicle has been in or its service history, so these will be points to bring up when you view the car.

RAC Vehicle History Check

Getting an RAC Vehicle History Check vehicle check is quick to do online – just provide a few details about the car you plan to buy.

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Read RAC Vehicle History Check terms and conditions.