You are about to buy a used car and you want to know as much as you can about its history. A good proportion of sellers are honest, but some aren't and you can't always trust everything they'll tell you. In addition, a visual inspection and an MOT certificate can conceal a wealth of problems, even if you are mechanically minded and you have the investigative skills of Inspector Morse.
So what can you do? The very best option is to purchase a car data check from one of the many companies out there. We cover the prices and options that these companies offer on the other pages of this website (use the navigation at the top if you haven't seen all the report types yet), but you might be curious about what you actually receive for your money. Here we have a look at two types of report and show you what you can expect.
We have picked an average car from Auto Trader – a silver 62 plate Ford Focus 1.6L with around 20,000 miles on the clock for sale at £7,300. We'll get the most informative check (HPI) and a cheaper option sent to you via text message (MyTextCheck).
The HPI Check
HPI are the industry standard, and indeed a lot of other companies use HPI data in their reports. For £19.99 you'll get a single check, or if you think you might need to look at a few cars, go for the multi check – it works out at £9.99 per check for three checks.
I paid for the check via their website - £19.99. As soon as I had paid (with Paypal but other credit card options are available) I was presented with all of the information I needed on screen. HPI also email you a PDF document with all of the relevant check information in to your email address, and this is a very useful document to have – you can easily print it out or send it to friends/family for their opinion.
What I did find out and didn't expect was that the vehicle was previously damaged and recorded as a total loss by the insurance company and they chose not to repair it. Having this kind of information available to you is invaluable – it affects whether you want to take on the vehicle and what impact it might have when you come to sell it and someone else makes similar checks on your car.
The 6 page document looks like this (I have blurred any specific vehicle identity details):
So there we have it - a fairly exhaustive and important document to have should you be buying a used car.
The MyTextCheck Check
This check is a lot cheaper – it's just £3.00 but it's a lot more concise than the HPI check – in short, you don't get as much useful information.
You get a number of text messages sent to your phone and nothing via email or web so make sure you keep the details safe. There's a smaller warranty in the case of the information being incorrect - £5,000 in this case which is more than many of the other SMS check companies will offer.
Both types of check are good, but for peace of mind we'd recommend the HPI check – think about how much you are potentially spending on a car and weigh this up against paying £9.99 to £19.99 for a full check.
Also, see what free car data you can get.