How To Check If A Car Has Been Scrapped

Published on

When you’re thinking of buying a second-hand car, you want to know if it’s previously been listed as a scrap vehicle. You might also want to confirm that a vehicle you’ve sold as scrap has indeed been put through the crusher. Or, perhaps you just want to reminisce about your earlier years of driving and see how your old motor is getting on. All of this can be done online with little difficulty.

However, it can’t be done via the DVLA and you will have to pay for something called an HPI check. Find out more about it below.

Exchanging keys having sold old car

This page covers…

What Is An HPI Check

HPI, which stands for Hire Purchase Investigation, is actually a brand-name, but the acronym is now widely used and you don’t have to exclusively use the original service provider (though you should be wary of scammers offering a fake service).

In a nutshell, after taking the vehicle’s reg number to identify it, a full online HPI check looks through every available piece of information that’s ever been recorded about the history of a car – whether it has outstanding finance, has been involved in an accident, has ever been reported stolen and more, including perhaps most importantly, whether it’s ever been written off and/or scrapped.

Shorter, less thorough checks may be free but any of the important information you actually can’t get hold of easily is unlikely to be included. The paid service could set you back around £20 to £30, but if you’re serious about investing in a new motor, it’s a small price to pay to know you’re getting a good car.

After all, you don’t want to buy a car only to find out that you’ve just acquired a heap of MOT-failing problems, or worse, criminal connections.

What Does ‘Scrapped’ Actually Mean?

When reading through your HPI check findings, it’s important to understand the distinction between certain terms. For example, did you know that there’s a difference between a vehicle being ‘scrapped’ and a vehicle being ‘written off’?

It’s true that often, a written off car will end up being scrapped – many of them will, by law, be required to be destroyed. But, if a written off vehicle has been assessed as a ‘Category S’ or ‘Category N’, then it can legally be repaired and put back on the road. Does that mean you should by it? Maybe… maybe not. You can read more about the salvage categories here.

SORN (Statutory Off-Road Notice) is another term that can often confuse people. There are some negative connotations that come with SORNing vehicles. They might be falling apart at the seams or they might have failed an MOT, or even that they might only be good for scrap.

That’s not at all the case; SORNed motors are simply being kept off the road for an extended period of time. Some might be in poor condition, but try telling that to your neighbour with his classic Jag that he keeps locked away for nine months of the year!

Still confused by the SORN process? Our in-depth guide can be found here.

Buying An Old Car And Want To Check The History?

Checking the history of an old car before you buy is dead easy with a HPI check. Typically, the only information you’ll need to give the HPI company is your vehicle registration. Then, they’ll be able to identify your motor and check if it’s been scrapped, amongst many other things.

What Should I Do If A Vehicle Has Been Scrapped?

If you run a check on a car and find that it’s been scrapped, walk away. Do not buy it. A scrapped vehicle cannot legally be used on the road, nor should it ever be sold with the intention of becoming anything besides scrap metal.

Naturally, this shouldn’t really be a problem if the car or van has actually been destroyed by an Authorised Treatment Facility. These ATFs are professionally licensed vehicle disposal experts who do things by the book.

But, there are scammers within the industry that will try to make some easy money from a gullible car buyer who can’t tell the difference between a previously scrapped piece of junk and a decent, working motor. If in doubt, get a HPI check!

Don’t fall prey to one of the worst automotive scams there is – the ‘cut & shut’. Learn how to avoid it here.

Want To Check The Status Of A Car You’ve Scrapped?

If you’ve previously sold a vehicle for scrap, you should have been given a Certificate of Destruction (CoD) by the ATF that disposed of it. In some cases you may need to request one, but this is the documentation that proves the vehicle is no more. Some companies offer services similar to HPI checks that check only for CoDs.

Of course, if you didn’t or can’t get a CoD for whatever reason, you could opt to HPI check your old car. Remember, all you need is the vehicle registration number. Just bear in mind that you might need to wait a bit longer for this status to update; in other words, the HPI or CoD might not be sorted as soon as you hand over the keys.

Can I Transfer My Private Number Plate From The Scrapped Car?

If the vehicle has already been scrapped, no. Once the car is gone, the plate is gone with it. You can, however, reacquire the rights to this plate, but it could result in you having to buy it again.

The best thing to do when scrapping a car with private plates is to submit a completed V778 retention document. This will allow you to keep the rights to the plate ‘on ice’ so you can use the reg number on a different car later. More information on how to do this can be found here.

Want To Look Up An Old Car You Once Owned?

An HPI check can also fuel a little nostalgia trip, if you don’t mind paying the £20-plus for it. Put the plate number of one of your old cars into a HPI checker and you’ll be able to see what your old motor is up to now… or not up to, if it’s already been scrapped since you sold it!

Understandably, you might not want to pay that much for something like this, so consider an alternative instead:

  • V888 Form – This can be done via the DVLA, but it’ll still cost you £5. The V888 form is a request for information about a particular vehicle and can be submitted even towards motors you no longer own.
  • MOT/Tax Check – Another DVLA service, this one is free, but will offer you much less information. You can find out if a vehicle is taxed or MOT’d which, if it is, is a sure indication that the car is still on the road.
  • Online Archives – A bit of a long shot, but if you’re hunting down a particularly special motor, it might have been uploaded onto an archive by later owners.
  • Owners’ Clubs – Like archives, owners’ clubs will be a good source of information if you’re looking for a unique vehicle.
  • Dealer Enquiry – Remember who you sold the vehicle to? Try asking them if they know where it went after they moved it on.
  • Social Media – It’s connected long lost family members, so who says it can’t reunited a motorist and their car? Advertising your search on social media will help someone with information find you.