How to Check if a Car Has Been in an Accident

Thinking of buying a second hand car? You need to know that the car you buy will be safe and dependable to drive. Checking the car’s history will tell you if there are any potential issues that could cause you problems in the future.

In this post, we’ll explore a few ways you can look up a car’s history. We’ll tell you how to check if a car’s been in an accident, how to check if a car’s been clocked, and how to check outstanding finance on a car.

DVLA Owner History

It’s worth asking the seller for the car’s history. They might be willing to tell you everything. But it’s best to make sure you get the full story.

The vehicle’s logbook – or V5C – will show the current keeper plus the previous keeper information.

If the seller bought the car second hand themselves, then they might not be able to give you the car’s full history.

So for total peace of mind, use the DVLA owner history services. Here you can look up, among other things:

  • The vehicle’s MOT history.
  • Whether or not the vehicle’s ever been recalled due to serious safety issues.
  • Whether the seller’s details match the DVLA’s details.

For a full guide to what a DVLA check can tell you, and what sort of information you need to provide, head to the DVLA’s vehicle and driver information hub.

HPI Vehicle Checks

A HPI check can tell you basically everything there is to know about a car’s history, including many things that a DVLA check will not tell you.

Here’s a small example of what you can learn from a HPI check:

  • Whether the car’s ever been reported as scrapped or stolen.
  • The number of previous owners.
  • Whether a car insurance company has ever declared the car a write-off.

A HPI check can also give you a good idea of just how much a car’s worth, so you can be sure you’re getting a good deal. It can even tell you a vehicle’s estimated fuel costs.

The only downside is that, whereas a DVLA check is free, you have to pay for a HPI check. Some places offer free HPI checks, but the results might not be reliable. For information you can depend on, be prepared to pay.

Want to find out a car’s full history? Head here to arrange for a HPI vehicle check.

How to Check Outstanding Finance on a Car

One other important thing to check when buying a used car is whether there’s an outstanding loan or finance agreement secured on the vehicle.

Under the terms and conditions of many loans and financial agreements, the lender retains ownership of the vehicle until they’ve paid their debt. The debt is attached to the vehicle, rather than the borrower.

So if you buy a used car with any outstanding finance on it, the lender may be within their rights to repossess the vehicle, to recover the money they’re owed. In this case you’ll lose the vehicle, along with any money you paid to buy it.

A HPI check can also check for outstanding loans or finance agreements on cars.

The RAC also offers a car history checking service, which includes a test for any outstanding debt.

How To Check if Car Has Been Clocked

Some sellers may manually reduce a car’s mileage in an attempt to attract sellers. This is known as “clocking”, and it’s a criminal offence to sell a clocked car.

This is exceptionally rare but the way that you can tell if a car’s been clocked is by viewing its car service history. The DVLA MOT history checking tool will give you an accurate figure for a car’s mileage through the years. From this, you can figure out precisely how many miles the car’s driven each year. And if this doesn’t tally with the car’s mileage, then you’ll know that something isn’t right.

Should I Buy A Car That’s Been In An Accident?

You shouldn’t buy a car from an unscrupulous seller. In checking a vehicle’s history, you might find out that they haven’t told you the whole truth about the car they’re trying to sell.

But a seller might be completely open with you about the car’s history. And if they tell you that the car’s been in an accident, should you buy it?

Take a look, once more, at the car’s MOT history. This will tell you about any service or maintenance issues the car’s ever had. But crucially, it will also confirm that the car’s repeatedly passed its MOT. And if a car passes its MOT, then you can rest assured that it’s safe to drive.

Reasons Not To Buy A Car That’s Been in an Accident

However, there are two reasons why you might choose not to buy a car that’s been in an accident:

  • Some car accidents cause long-term problems. For example, as a result of the damage, a component might be forced to work harder than it would otherwise, which means it may need replacing much sooner than usual. So even if the car’s safe to drive now, if it’s been in an accident, it may cause you some problems in the future.
  • A history of accidents and repairs will affect a car’s value. So while you may make a saving when buying a used car that’s been in an accident, you may end up selling it for less than you paid to buy it.

Ultimately, it’s up to you. If you commit to regular car maintenance, you should be able to keep on top of any potential issues. And comprehensive car insurance purchased with optional breakdown cover can bring total peace of mind that you’ll be covered no matter what happens with your used car.

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