Glossary of Terms
Our glossary includes the most common words and phrases you're likely to encounter, and provides a definition, to help you understand the used car purchase.
- Condition Alert
- Condition Inspected
- Document Check
- Export History
- Import History
- Insurance Theft
- Mileage Check
- Outstanding Finance
- Plate Transfer
- Police Stolen
- Security Watch
- Vehicle Ownership
- Vehicle Identity Check (VIC)
- VIN Match
- Caveat Emptor
- Cut 'n' Shut
- Good Title
- Q Plate
- Sale of Goods Act
- Vehicle Inspections by Autolign
- Total Loss
- V5 Registration Document
- CO2 Emissions
- CO2 Rating
- Combined MPG
- Date of First Registration in the UK
- Drive Type
- Driving Axle
- Engine Make
- Engine Size cc
- Extra Urban MPG
- Max MPH
- Number of Cylinders
- Number of Doors
- Number of Gears
- Number of Seats
- Power BHP
- Power Delivery
- Power RPM
- Torque Lb-ft
- Torque RPM
- Urban MPG
- Year Manufactured
Terms used in the HPI Check® explained
This register warns that a vehicle has been subject to an insurance total loss claim, or 'written-off', because of damage or because it has been stolen and not recovered. For vehicles written-off since January 1997, the HPI Check provides insurer damage classification from Category A to Category D ranging from those vehicles which should never go back on the road to those which can be safely repaired. Category A and Category B vehicles are not permitted back onto the road. In the case of Category C the vehicle will have to undergo a VOSA Vehicle Identification Check (VIC) to validate its identity. However the VIC does not check the safety or quality of any repair. There are no restrictions on Category D vehicles being repaired. In addition, you will be advised if the vehicle has been registered with DVLA as having been scrapped. If you are considering purchasing a vehicle on the register, we strongly advise that you have it independently inspected by a reputable company for structural and mechanical integrity prior to purchase. For further information see FAQ
This register was introduced in 1990 and gives details of 'written-off' vehicles that have subsequently passed an independent structural examination. The inspection will have been carried out in accordance with a specification agreed with the Motor Insurance Repair Research Centre (Autolign). The seller may be able to provide an inspection report from one of the approved inspection companies. There may be a separate fee for this report. The HPI Check will identify which company carried out the inspection and the reference number of the report. For further information see FAQ
Stolen V5C registration documents are in circulation. Any vehicle with a stolen V5C is likely to be cloned, rung or stolen. Provide the V5C registration document serial number and issue date and the HPI Check can confirm whether it has been recorded as stolen. For further information view example
If a vehicle is exported out of the UK and then is subsequently imported back in, the record of the export is removed from the vehicle's history by the DVLA. Therefore the HPI Check is unable to provide information on a vehicle's previous export status, once it becomes a UK registered vehicle again. HPI is also unable to provide any information about the vehicles history whilst it was registered and used abroad.
In order to satisfy the World Trade Organisation's concerns over fair trade, the DVLA no longer classifies the import status of any vehicle originating outside the UK. As a result your HPI Check will not provide information on the import history of the vehicle you are checking. We will however, tell you if according to the DVLA the vehicle you are checking has been previously used outside of the UK, as well as the original date of manufacture, and the date of registration within the UK, as registered with the DVLA. (*- if a vehicle is transferred between the DVA and DVLA this date will reflect the date that it was registered with the DVLA and may not be its original date of first registration, you should always check year of manufacture for any discrepancies in registration date and manufacture date, if you have any concerns we recommend you contact the DVLA directly) HPI is unable to provide any information on a vehicle before it was first registered with the DVLA, when assessing how long the vehicle spend registered abroad, the year of manufacturer and the date of first registration in the UK is often a good guideline.
Each year 150,000 vehicle thefts are recorded by insurers. The HPI Check will tell you whether a vehicle you are looking to buy has any outstanding insurance interest recorded against it, which may mean that you can't legally own it, however much you may ultimately pay for it. For further information see FAQ
'Clocking' or turning back the mileage reading on a vehicle is a major problem in the UK, costing an estimated £100 million per annum. HPI operates the National Mileage Register® (NMR), containing over million recorded mileages. HPI cross-references all mileages previously recorded against the vehicle (if any) along with any mileage you provide, and advises you whether a discrepancy has been identified. You should ensure you provide an accurate mileage to avoid any false discrepancies. Click here for more information
Nearly two thirds of new vehicles sold every year are purchased using some form of finance agreement. Some of these agreements will grant the finance company an 'interest' (ie. ownership) in the vehicle which you will need to ensure has been paid off by the previous keeper before you buy it. With over 7 million current finance agreements registered with HPI, you need to make sure that the car you are buying is not subject to one of them. If it is, you can use the details provided to contact the lender and determine the current status of the loan and any interest the finance company may have. For further information see Types of Finance and FAQ
This register indicates whether a vehicle has had a legitimate registration plate change since April 1990. People change plates to personalise their vehicles, but they can also change them to obscure a vehicle's history. The HPI Check includes an enquiry check against all prior plates, to identify other interests that may still be associated with the vehicle you are buying. For further information see FAQ
The HPI Check provides information from the Police National Computer on vehicles that are recorded as currently stolen. These vehicles remain the property of the individual or organisation from whom they were taken. Never buy a vehicle on this register, because you stand to lose it, together with the money you paid for it. For further information see FAQ
This register typically records vehicles at high risk of fraud or theft (e.g. hire cars, demonstrator vehicles and garage forecourt stock). The Security Watch register is primarily used by the Police, finance companies and the motor trade, to ensure that these vehicles can be traced if someone steals them or attempts to sell them fraudulently (for example - perhaps without first settling an outstanding agreement). The registering party will be alerted that an HPI Check has been made, and they should contact you within the next working day, but do contact us if this is not the case. Please note that you should not purchase a vehicle that is recorded on this register, unless you subsequently receive confirmation that it is all clear from either the registering party or us.
This is to help you determine the market value of the vehicle you want to buy. The valuation, where available, is based on the vehicle being in an average condition for its age, that you are buying the vehicle from a dealer and the mileage supplied by you. If you have not provided a mileage, it is estimated to be the equivalent to 10,000 miles per year. The valuation provided indicates the market value of your chosen model, not the actual vehicle being checked and therefore may vary. If no valuation is provided it is because we do not currently hold this data. HPI Valuations are provided by Glass's. For further information see FAQ
There are many circumstances where the 'owner' of a vehicle is not the 'keeper' as recorded on the DVLA V5C document. These circumstances may include the vehicle having outstanding finance, being stolen, or showing on the security watch register.
Vehicle Identity Check (VIC)
Vehicles written-off within categories A, B or C will have a 'VIC marker' put against them by the DVLA. The 'VIC' is a Vehicle Identity Check, and it is a scheme designed to help stop stolen cars being passed off as repaired accident damaged cars - also known as 'ringing'. In certain circumstances (for example, self-insured vehicles) a VIC marker may be applied to a vehicle without an insurance company formally writing the vehicle off.
While a VIC marker remains set, the DVLA won't issue a registration certificate V5C, or vehicle license reminder V11. The Vehicle and Operator Services Agency (VOSA) carries out the VIC test. It's designed to confirm the car's identity and help ensure that the genuine car is returned to the road. Any vehicle that requires or has passed a VIC test will have this noted on the V5. A VIC test is NOT a test on the repair of the vehicle or its road-worthiness.
The VIC test takes around 20 minutes to complete and involves comparing the details on the DVLA vehicle record against the car presented. The VIC is a check of identity, it doesn't look at the quality of the repair or confirm roadworthiness. Once a car has passed a VIC, the V5C issued will be annotated to show 'substantially repaired and/or accident damaged; identity checked on dd/mm/yyyy'.
This confirms the unique Vehicle Identification Number (VIN), usually 17 digits, given to each vehicle during the manufacturing process. The VIN is normally stamped on a plate under the bonnet, in the engine bay or in the doorframe and is often visible through the windscreen. No VIN should ever be changed or tampered with and all the VINs on the vehicle should match the one on the V5C registration document. Please provide the VIN correctly - any mis-match may signal a significant issue with the vehicle (ie. cut and shut, stolen, cloned) and you should not proceed with the purchase.
The VIN number on a motorcycle is located on the crankcase. It is normally written on the bottom of the crankcase.
Used car terms explained
Caveat emptor is Latin for 'buyer beware', meaning the onus is on you (the buyer) to ensure that you know what you are purchasing.
Legal protection in the used car market is limited. Whilst dealer activities are covered by many laws and regulations, the only rule to which a private seller must adhere is that the car must not be mis-described. As there is rarely a written contract in the private market, the seller could claim to have told the buyer a vehicle's true condition and then it is one person's word against another. The solution is to be as well informed on the vehicle's status and history as possible.
Clocking involves reducing the mileage of a vehicle by turning back or replacing the odometer, with the intention of increasing the value and deceiving subsequent purchasers.
This is a common trick used to obtain a higher price. HPI research shows at least 125 vehicles have some sort of discrepancy. The average car does 10,000 to 12,000 miles per year, so if you think the mileage is inconsistent with the age and condition of the car, it's worth investigating further.
A type of 'ringing', cloning takes the identity of a legitimate vehicle that is the same make and model as the stolen one by forging its vehicle identification number (VIN) and vehicle registration mark (VRM). This means there will be two or more cars on the road with the same identity. Like ringers, clones can be hard to spot, but take a close look at all the VINs, just in case.
Cut 'n' Shut
Cut 'n' shut is the term used for a car that is made up of two different vehicles - usually both 'write-offs' - where the back end of one is welded to the front of another.
Often done with considerable skill, the vehicle may look like new but it is likely to be unroadworthy and could prove lethal in an accident. The practice is illegal and the car could be worthless when you come to sell it. The exceptions are 'stretched' vehicles made by specialist coachbuilders.
If a vehicle has good title, it means the owner has the right to sell it, and that the vehicle is not subject to any third party ownership rights, e.g. hire purchase finance.
If a vehicle is exported out of the UK and then is subsequently imported back in, the record of the export is removed from the vehicle's history by the DVLA. Therefore the HPI Check is unable to provide information on a vehicle's previous export status, once it becomes a UK registered vehicle again. HPI is also unable to provide any information about the vehicle's history whilst it was registered and used abroad.
In order to satisfy the World Trade Organisation's concerns over fair trade, the DVLA no longer classifies the import status of any vehicle originating outside the UK. As a result your HPI Check will not provide information on the import history of the vehicle you are checking. We will, however, tell you if, according to the DVLA, the vehicle you are checking has been previously used outside of the UK, as well as the original date of manufacture, and the date of registration within the UK, as registered with the DVLA. (*- if a vehicle is transferred between the DVA and DVLA this date will reflect the date that it was registered with the DVLA and may not be its original date of first registration. You should always check year of manufacture for any discrepancies in registration date and manufacture date. If you have any concerns we recommend you contact the DVLA directly). HPI is unable to provide any information on a vehicle before it was first registered with the DVLA. When assessing how long the vehicle spent registered abroad, the year of manufacturer and the date of first registration in the UK is often a good guideline.
All the MOT tells you is that a vehicle was in a fit condition to pass a test when presented for inspection on a particular day. It is no substitute for an independent inspection.
As of October 2005, all MOT serial numbers have been electronically issued by VOSA to combat the issue of fraud.
Q Plate is a vehicle registration mark that starts with a 'Q', indicating that the vehicle was either not originally registered in the UK and proof of age was unavailable at registration; or that it is a vehicle that has been built using a significant proportion of used parts.
Kit cars usually have a Q registration. Q plates can be used to disguise stolen or 'rung' vehicles, and when it comes to a bike check, you should be especially cautious of motorcycles which bear a Q plate.
Ringing is the practice of using a registration mark taken from a 'donor' vehicle - typically one that's been written-off - to change a vehicle's true identity and disguise the fact that it's been stolen.
Often the vehicle identification number (VIN) or chassis number will also be forged, making professionally 'rung' vehicles hard to detect. But it's always worth checking that ALL the identification numbers stamped into the bodywork, on the chassis and behind the windscreen match.
Sale of Goods Act (1979)
The Sale of Goods Act (1979) obliges car dealers to sell cars of 'satisfactory quality' to which they have good title.
Other important legislation under the Trade Descriptions Act (1968), binding dealers to describe cars accurately; and the Road Traffic Acts which requires all vehicles displayed, offered or sold to be in roadworthy condition. See Buying from the Trade for more advice.
Vehicle Inspections by Autolign
Autolign Inspections are the only UK based company that specialises in the reclassification of vehicles that have been written off by insurance companies.
The HPI Condition Inspected Register holds details of total loss vehicles that have passed an Autolign inspection.
Insurers will describe a vehicle as a total loss if they think that it is beyond repair, or not worth repairing, financially.
V5 Registration Document
The V5 registration document, is issued by the DVLA. It gives the name and address of a vehicle's current keeper as well as the last two registered keepers. It also lists the car's colour, make, model, engine number, and vehicle identification number.
The HPI document check provides you with significant added protection at no extra cost. In order to benefit from this service, you will need both the serial number and issue date of the V5 registration document.
The Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) is the manufacturer's own ID, found stamped onto a plate under the bonnet, under the carpet by the driver's seat and/or etched on to the windows.
Vehicles which are approved for sale in the EU have 17 digit VINs. Imports from outside Europe, such as Japan, may have short VINs. If you see a VIN which starts with the letters SABTVRO, take special care, because this VIN is assigned by a vehicle registration office when the original identity of a bodyshell or frame cannot be determined.
Vehicle Registration Mark, or number plate.
This is a term for a vehicle that has been declared a total loss by an insurer following accident damage or theft.
Although write-offs can legitimately be allowed back on the road, almost half are beyond repair. Look for the ones that have passed an independent inspection, such as those on HPI's Condition Inspected register. Since 1997, the Association of British Insurers (ABI) has provided classification of damage to vehicles that have been written off. Category 'A' or 'B' must never reappear on the road, whilst 'C' and 'D' may do so following proper repair, passing an independent Autolign-approved structural examination.
Vehicle Performance Data explained
The method for getting air into the engine (ie, normal, turbo charged, super charged etc).
The diameter of the cylinders.
The number of grams of CO2 the vehicle emits.
The rating applied to the CO2 emissions amount.
The dominant colour of the vehicle.
The average of the Urban and Extra-Urban figures, as defined by the manufacturer.
Date of First Registration in the UK
The date the vehicle was first registered by the DVLA in the UK.
Whether the vehicle is front, rear, or all/4 wheel drive.
The axle that the power is delivered to (front axle, rear axle, or both)
The manufacturer of the engine.
Engine Size cc
The stated engine cubic capacity in cubic centimetres e.g. 1998
Extra Urban MPG
The miles per gallon achieved on non-urban routes, as tested by the manufacturer using a warmed engine.
The type of fuel used to power the vehicle (petrol, diesel, electric, LPG etc)
The distance in millimetres from a horizontal line touching the highest point of the vehicle roof to the point of contact with the road surface.
The distance in millimetres between a vertical line at the front bumper of the vehicle to a similar line at the most extreme point at the rear of the vehicle.
The 'badge' on the vehicle e.g. 'Ford', 'Vauxhall', etc.
The maximum speed the vehicle is capable of.
Number of Cylinders
The number of cylinders in the engine.
Number of Doors
The number of doors on the vehicle.
Number of Gears
The number of gears the vehicle has, excluding reverse.
Number of Seats
The number of standard seats in the vehicle.
The maximum declared power of the engine in Brake Horse Power (BHP).
Method of delivering fuel into the engine (ie. fuel injection).
The number of revolutions per minute at which the maximum power occurs.
The collective name for a family of model variants e.g. 'MONDEO', 'FOCUS', 'ASTRA'
The distance travelled by the piston along the length of the cylinder.
Torque is the rotational equivalent to force measured in pound-feet and is essentially the Engine 'pulling' power. High torque is of benefit for vehicles needed for towing, or for performance driving.
Torque RPM is the engine speed when maximum torque is produced.
The type of transmission the vehicle has (manual, automatic, semi-automatic etc).
The miles per gallon achieved on urban routes, as tested by the manufacturer from a cold start.
The distance in Millimetres between two vertical lines touching the opposite sides of the vehicle excluding the Wing Mirrors.
The year the vehicle was assembled.
Time taken to reach 60 mph from a standing start.