Advice and Tips

What happens when your car is written off

For some people, their car is like a family member. It’s been doted on and has given reliable service for years, which is why parting can be such a wrench. So what happens when that car is written off through crash damage, which may be only minor?

The problem that owners have when a car is assessed after a crash, is that there’s no sentimentality where insurance companies are concerned. They see your car as a commodity with a fixed value – it doesn’t matter how reliable it’s been or how much money you’ve sunk into it over the years.

When a car’s value is assessed after a crash, it’s based solely on what it would have fetched on the open market before the collision. So if your decade-old car is worth £2000 and you spend £1000 on servicing it and fitting some new tyres, it’s still worth only £2000. Every year around 450,000 cars are written off in the UK because of accident damage; what happens if yours is one of them?

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Advice and Tips
written off car

Insuring a written-off car

If there are two things that seem to cause more confusion among car buyers and owners  than anything else, it’s how car insurance works along with how and why insurance companies write off cars. So when you combine the two, head scratching galore is guaranteed.

First off, a quick refresher. To drive legally on public roads your car must be insured, and to make sure your cover isn’t cancelled in the event of a claim, you must not tell any porkies when taking out the policy. Lie during that conversation, or deliberately fail to disclose anything that might affect your policy, and your insurer could refuse to pay out in the event of a claim.

When it comes to write-offs, things are quite complicated. Earlier this year we spilled the beans in a blog on the various categories of write-off, which also explained why cars are written off so readily by insurance companies.

There’s a crucial thing to bear in mind when an insurance company works out how much it’ll cost to fix a car after it’s been crashed – it will insist on doing everything by the book with no corners being cut. New parts will be used, the work will be done by a professional bodyshop and when the car is finished it’ll come with a warranty.

With hourly rates so high, and new car parts being expensive, it doesn’t take long for the charges to rack up. So it’s no wonder cars can be written off after a relatively low-speed shunt, especially if they’re getting on a bit, so they’re not worth very much.

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Advice and Tips
keep licence clean

How to keep your driving licence clean

This week the newspapers have been giving plenty of coverage to the fact that next year, it’s likely that the penalty for using a mobile phone while driving will be doubled.

Instead of notching up three points on your licence along with a £100 fine, you’ll instead get six points and your wallet will be £200 lighter. Many people have said the move is long overdue, even though surveys suggest that up to a fifth of us regularly use our mobile phone while driving.

Around the same time that the government disclosed mobile phone use penalties would be increasing, a lorry driver was jailed for six years, for causing a five-vehicle crash when he checked his text messages as he drove. In 2013, there were at least 22 fatalities on UK roads because of mobile phone use while driving.

The problem is that as a new generation of drivers takes to the road, for many, being constantly connected is a must. As those teenagers and twenty-somethings start driving, they’re too comfortable with using their mobiles at the wheel, confident they can multi-task – when they can’t.

Now, in a bid to nip things in the bud, the government has said that within the first half of 2017 it will act, by introducing harsher penalties for mobile phone use. The thing is, using a phone while driving is one of several ways that you can notch up points on your licence – so is it about time some of these other offences were subject to tougher penalties?

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Advice and Tips
car insurance

Why is my car insurance so expensive?

We all hate having to pay insurance, whether it’s on our homes, pets or cars. The thing is, while it’s optional on most things, you get no choice when it comes to your car. And what’s worse, car insurance is never cheap – but why does it have to be quite so expensive?

The simple answer is that insurance companies claim they don’t make much profit out of car policies, even at current prices. Many supposedly run at a loss, the business subsidised by more lucrative insurance areas such as home cover; here’s why they reckon it’s not profitable and why your car insurance costs so much.


Too many people think that defrauding their insurer is a victimless crime. After all, claiming for whiplash in the event of a rear-end imapct is so easy. But everyone with an insurance policy ends up footing the bill so it’s far from a victimless crime.

Whiplash claims are a particular problem as about 1,500 are filed every day in the UK – we’re way ahead of other European countries when it comes to making such claims. They all add up to a massive £2 billion-worth of payouts each year, which is enough to add £90 to the average car insurance premium.

There’s also the spectre of cash-for-crash claims, in which collisions are staged so that claims can be made for personal injury. Nobody knows the scale of the problem but it’s reckoned this type of fraud adds around £44 each year to the typical insurance premium.


The insurance industry isn’t always run as efficiently as it might be. It’s not unusual for a car to be scraped with just some light remedial work required to fix things. Yet the car’s owner could end up with a hire vehicle for weeks while an assessor does their job and the car languishes in a compound waiting for half a day’s work to be done to. Somebody has to pay for all those weeks of car hire, and you can guess who that is…

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Advice and Tips
selling car

When is the best time to sell a car?

Running a car costs money and you can only minimise that cost, not eliminate it altogether. So far so obvious, but it’s amazing how many people spend far more on their transport than is necessary; indeed, overspending is the norm.

One of the easiest ways of slashing your motoring costs is to pick the right time to sell your car, whether that’s in terms of the time of year, or the point in its life when it starts to become too costly to run economically.

Taking the first point – the best time of year – things aren’t as clear-cut as they used to be. Admittedly there’s less demand for convertibles in the winter, but modern drop-tops are so usable all year round, that values no longer fall through the floor once the temperatures drop.

Similarly, while 4x4s used to become hot property as summer turned to autumn, there’s now perennial demand for these most fashionable of cars. Meanwhile, good examples of any family hatchback or estate will readily find a buyer, regardless of the time of year.

But while the season or the weather may not affect your car’s value as much as it once did, its mileage, condition, badge or image will probably have a much bigger effect, as you can read in our blog on how depreciation works .

There is one spike that it’s best to avoid though, and that’s the new-registration points of 1 March and 1 September. At these times, huge numbers of new cars are delivered which means forecourts are awash with used models, making it that much harder for yours to stand out.

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Press Releases
students driving

HPI helps put students in driving seat as they head off to university

As record numbers of students are offered university places for 2016, vehicle history check expert, HPI, is urging students who might be getting their first car to be thorough when doing their homework.

Philip Nothard, consumer and retail specialist at HPI said: “For students who are embarking on an exciting new life in a new city, owning a new or used car can be a real lifeline so it’s important to pick something that’s right, if a car is part of the plan. Many students will be owning their car for the first time so it’s key to remember that September is a great month to bag a bargain in the car calendar with some great finance deals available on new cars and large numbers of nearly new vehicles available in the market.”

Record low interests, coupled with manufacturer discounts on certain models, mean a new car has never looked more attractive.  Financial considerations are important as there are running costs to think about as well as the living costs associated with being away from home for the first time with small city cars an ideal first choice as they are economical, not too flash and great for getting around in.

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Advice and Tips

How to buy the perfect sportscar

If we all bought our cars on a rational basis we’d end up driving a mid-sized family hatchback with a small engine. But for most of us the car we buy is dictated by our heart as much as our head – for many it’s more of an emotional purchase than it is a sensible one.

That’s why sportscars are so enormously popular; we want something that’ll impress our friends and neighbours, make us feel better about ourselves and deliver a healthy dose of performance for those few brief stretches of empty road on the daily commute.

If you buy a decent sportscar you’ll also get behind the wheel of something that’s great to drive even at low speeds, thanks to the fluency of its gearchange, the precision of its steering, the seating position, the engine noise, the view through the windscreen – and a whole host of other factors that just come together to create a brilliant driving experience.

Enjoy even the briefest drive in a Mazda MX-5 or Porsche Boxster and you’ll instantly get why your mundane family hatch will never be truly inspiring to drive – it’s just not designed or built in the same way. But will a sportscar fit into your life?

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Buying Advice
hpi check

What is an HPI Check?

The chances are that ever since you bought your first used car, you’ve read that you should invest in a pre-purchase HPI Check. And so you should. We might be a bit biased when it comes to offering such advice, but there are sound reasons why we have faith in our product; we can give you complete peace of mind. Not convinced? Then let us show you why our assertion isn’t just hot air.

HPI has been providing vehicle history checks since 1938 – almost eight decades ago. Back then, if you wanted to buy a second-hand Austin Seven or Ford Model A, HPI was there to make sure you weren’t stitched up.

At first an HPI Check could tell you only if that Wolseley or Riley you were thinking of buying was subject to outstanding finance, but by 1947 we could also tell you if the car was stolen; by the 1980s we’d also disclose if the car had been crashed. Since then we’ve added a mountain of additional information to the HPI Check, so you get the most comprehensive possible picture of that potential purchase, before you commit to buying it. Just some of the key information an HPI Check will give you includes: Read more

Advice and Tips
car breakdown

How to deal with a motorway breakdown

Motorways are our safest roads. Despite the number of vehicles they carry and the high speeds usually involved, there are fewer crashes and casualties on motorways than on any other type of road.

However, those high speeds and the fact that many drivers leave no room for error mean that you’re generally only safe when you’re whizzing along with everybody else. Get out of your car, even if it’s on the hard shoulder, and suddenly a motorway can be one of the most dangerous places on Earth.

While cars are more reliable than ever, even if you’re a stickler for maintenance you can still suffer some form of mechanical failure, while punctures and blowouts aren’t as unusual as you might think. If things start to go wrong you need to keep everybody safe, including those in the vehicles around you – and here’s how.

Move to the left

As soon as it becomes obvious you’re going to have to pull in, work out how to get to the hard shoulder without causing carnage. Don’t even consider stopping in a live lane or chaos is bound to ensue.

Depending on the problem you may have lost power assistance for the brakes or steering or the engine may have cut out. So you don’t want to slow too quickly if you’re in lanes two or three or you might run out of momentum before you’ve got to the hard shoulder. Once you’re on the hard shoulder make sure you’re as far over to the left as possible, so you’re as far away as you can be from the moving traffic.

What if there’s no hard shoulder?

Instead of widening roads, the government is increasing capacity by building SMART motorways. During busy periods the hard shoulder is opened to traffic which means broken down cars have to pull in to laybys instead. If you can’t get to one of these before your car conks out you’ll need to pull as far over to the left as you can.

SMART motorways are constantly monitored by CCTV, and also patrolled by Highways England officers who should find you very quickly and close the lane to stop your car from being rear-ended.

Stand out

Once you’ve pulled over you must ensure you and your car are as visible as possible, so leave the hazard lights on but not the headlights, as this will just flatten the battery. If it’s dark it might be worth leaving on the sidelights – whatever makes your car as visible as possible.

You should also wear a high-vis vest if you’ve got one – in many European countries it’s a legal requirement to carry one of these. While it’s not a legal requirement in the UK it’s still a good idea to carry one – and keep it handy within the car so you don’t have to get it out of the boot once your car has conked out.

Get out

It’s estimated that up to a third of motorway fatalities are because of people being struck by vehicles once they’ve got out of their broken-down car. When a juggernaut hits a pedestrian there can be only one winner, so you need to stay out of the way.

As soon as you’ve come to a halt on the hard shoulder get everyone out of the car and onto the grass verge, ideally on the other side of any barriers. Make sure everyone gets out on the passenger side of the car.

If you’ve got any pets with you it may be safer to leave them in the car – if there’s any chance of them straying onto the motorway they’re probably safer curled up on the back seat. Just make sure there’s no danger of them overheating if it’s a hot day, so keep the windows partly open to allow some ventilation and make sure they’ve got some water too.

Call for help

It’s at times like these that you’ll be glad you took out vehicle breakdown cover. You did remember to renew, didn’t you? Without this cover you’ll be charged plenty to be towed off the motorway, and suddenly the annual cost of membership will seem like the biggest bargain ever.

What you shouldn’t do is try to fix the problem yourself, unless it’s incredibly minor, you can fix it in seconds, and then get on your way. This doesn’t include changing a wheel for example – you’ll be in danger’s path for far too long for it to be worth the risk.

What you need to do instead is call for help. Every mile along the hard shoulder are emergency phones painted bright orange, which are connected directly to a help centre; pick one up and you’ll be put straight through. Every 100 yards is a post which tells you in which direction your nearest phone is located, to save you walking more than half a mile. What you mustn’t do is cross the motorway to get to a phone on the other side – that’s just inviting disaster, but it does happen.

You can use your mobile phone but it’s not unusual for the operator at the other end to then be confused as to which carriageway you’re on; motorways go in two directions remember. It’s also far from unusual for a stranded motorist to not even know which motorway they’re on. That’s why using the fixed phones is a good idea; they’re free and as soon as you pick one up, the person at the other end knows exactly where you are.

Getting going

Your car may have to be towed to a safer location such as a service area for it to be fixed, or maybe straight to a garage. But if it’s fixable at the roadside you’ll need to get back onto the motorway once everything is working again. When you do this don’t just pull into lane one; treat this as the same as joining the motorway from a slip road. So get your car up to speed, put on a signal then join the traffic having found a gap.

There’s no way of guaranteeing you won’t break down, but you can reduce the chances. Check out our recent blogs on preparing your car for the summer getaway and car maintenance tips. It might just prevent that dream holiday from turning into a nightmare.

Richard Dredge

August 2016

Press Releases
car recall

Car buyers warned to be aware of their rights and check if a vehicle is subject to a manufacturer recall

HPI Safety Recall Check offers consumer peace of mind against buying faulty cars.

Vehicle history check provider, HPI, is urging car buyers to be aware of their rights and remember to check if the vehicle they want to buy is subject to a manufacturer recall.

The warning comes as figures reveal that over six million vehicles have had recalls issued against them in the UK and been returned to dealers since the start of 2011, affecting manufacturers including Toyota, Honda, Vauxhall, BMW, and Fiat.

Fernando Garcia consumer director at HPI, said: “The problem of recalls just doesn’t seem to be going away. What the high figures demonstrate is just how commonplace recalls are now.”

The number of vehicle recalls rose dramatically in 2014/15 to a total of 39, a 30% increase from the 30 recalled in 2013/14, and with many on a major international scale.

The scandal over General Motors’ failure to promptly recall cars with a potentially faulty ignition switch in the US last year may have prompted other manufacturers to recall more quickly and frequently after identifying any likely faults or problems. Read more