HPI Warns Santa ‘Don’t Get Caught Out’ by the Christmas Car Criminals

Kylie may have wished for a ‘54 convertible from Santa for Christmas, however with 1 in 4 vehicles checked by HPI still on outstanding finance, HPI is warning buyers to look out for fraudsters keen to take advantage of their festive spirit.

A lucky few will be receiving a car for Christmas from generous loved ones; however they stand to lose thousands of pounds if they make hasty purchases that turn out to be a nightmare on wheels. HPI reminds used car buyers to conduct a vehicle check to guarantee their gift makes for a happy Christmas.

“Santa will be delivering a car as a gift to the garage or driveway of some lucky drivers this Christmas, but despite it being the festive season, buyers should still proceed with caution. According to the latest analysis of HPI data, nearly 1 in 4 vehicles checked by HPI is still on finance, meaning it belongs to the finance house,” says Nicola Johnson, Consumer Services Manager of HPI. “Anyone who buys a car on finance stands to lose the car and the money they paid for it, when it’s returned to the lender. The tough economic climate means this is the biggest threat to used car buyers, but this isn’t the only risk facing consumers shopping for a bargain set of wheels.

“Used car buyers need to remain vigilant, as fraudsters will be looking to make a fast buck over the festive period. Although there might be loved ones they would like to buy a vehicle for, they should still exercise caution when looking at vehicles, and, if they have any doubts over a vehicle, they should walk away. It’s easy to get caught up in panic buying at this time of year, but it’s better to get a late present than a dodgy gift before Christmas. It’s a lot harder to return an unwanted motor if something turns out to be wrong with it!”

How to avoid the Christmas car criminal – HPI lists the top risks to look out for:

  • Outstanding Finance – This is the most common risk facing used car buyers with nearly 1 in 4 vehicles checked by HPI having outstanding finance. For many types of finance, the car actually belongs to the finance house until the debt is settled. If the loan remains unpaid or is defaulted on, the finance house could decide to reclaim the vehicle, meaning the buyer could lose the car as well as the money they paid for it.
  • Plate Change – Over 1 in 5 vehicles HPI checks have had a plate change, which could be for legitimate reasons, but this could also be fraudsters hiding a stolen or cloned vehicle. HPI warns buyers to watch out before they lose out.
  • Stolen– HPI discovers around 19 stolen vehicles a day.  Many are sold as ‘bargains’ to buyers, but the buyers will never truly own the vehicle. When the police track the vehicle down, they will  return the car to its rightful owner, leaving the buyer thousands of pounds out of pocket.
  • Insurance Write Offs – Every year nearly half a million cars involved in accidents are declared by insurers to have been too badly damaged to ever be repaired safely and go back on the road. Some of these however still find their way back on to the road with 4 out of every 100 vehicles checked by HPI found to be written off.
  • Clocking– 6 in every 100 vehicles checked by HPI have a mileage discrepancy. The HPI Check uses the National Mileage Register of more than 130 million mileage records, allowing them to alert car buyers and dealers to potential mileage discrepancies and help to prevent them paying too much for a used car that has more miles on the clock than it appears.

Johnson concludes, “Whilst many people will be dreaming of owning a Ferrari or Porsche this Christmas, the reality is they probably won’t get one.  But they may well get a good quality second hand car which they will love just as much as a sports car.  Our figures serve to highlight the risks and the importance of conducting a history check before parting with your hard earned cash.

“It’s easy to get carried away with a rock bottom price and rushing to find something for Christmas, but if a deal seems too good to be true, it probably is. Buyers need to remember the risks all year round and conduct an HPI Check for the ultimate protection from used car criminals.”