Important data checks

A Total Car Check Gold Check provides over 80 data points of information to help protect car buyers. Below we outline the vital key risk checks that should be made on any vehicles before they are viewed and which of our checks provide this information.

Outstanding finance check

An increasing number of consumers and businesses use finance to buy or lease vehicles. In 2022 84% of private new car registrations in the UK were financed [1].

It is therefore important that you check to ensure the car you are buying is clear of finance. Our Gold Check provides this information including details of the finance provider and the loan.

What is outstanding finance?

Where the car was purchased using a motor finance loan which has not yet been fully paid off. Until the outstanding finance has been settled the car is legally owned by the finance provider.

What are the risks when buying a car with outstanding finance?

The finance provider will seek to repossess the car from you and it is very likely that you will also lose the funds you used to pay for the car.

Is selling a car with outstanding finance fraud?

Yes it is, because the seller doesn’t own the vehicle so they are selling something that is not theirs.

Could a car show as holding outstanding finance for any another reason?

If the seller has settled the outstanding finance recently there may be a short delay before Total Car Check is notified and our database is updated. Typically this would be no more than a few working days. The timeframe depends on the finance provider’s clearance process.

What should I do if a Gold Check report shows the car as holding outstanding finance?

If the seller claims they have only just settled the outstanding finance then Total Car Check provides a dedicated service, through our partners at Experian, who will contact the finance provider on your behalf to confirm the status of the vehicle. Please contact 0330 3430 023.

Otherwise it would be sensible to avoid and look for another car.

To check for outstanding finance now enter the registration number and select a Gold Check.

For further information on outstanding finance see our blog article.

Glossary of data fields

Stolen check

Over 35% of vehicles listed in our database fail our rigorous data inspection. One of the most concerning of these is where a vehicle has been reported as stolen.

Our Basic, Silver and Gold Checks will all tell you whether a car has been reported as stolen to the police. Our Silver and Gold Checks will also tell you if insurers have registered the car as stolen.

What leads to a check flagging the car as stolen?

The car would have been reported to the police and insurance company as being stolen. This then leads to a record being created on the Police National Computer (PNC) and a central insurance database. Total Car Check receives data from both of these sources which feeds through to the reports we provide.

What happens if I buy a stolen car?

Your car will belong to someone who has had it stolen from them. Once the police identify the location of the vehicle they will act to seize it and return it to the rightful owner. This means you will likely lose the car and the funds used to pay for it.

What about a cloning, what is it and how is linked to stolen cars?

Cloning is where criminals change the registration plate on a car to hide its true identity, typically where it is stolen. Criminals apply registration plates of a similar make/model/colour of a legitimate car. The network of ANPR police cameras across the UK’s roads, and held within police vehicles, would then not directly flag any issues associated with the car to police forces. Our free basic report enables you to check a Vehicle’s Identification Number (VIN) against its registration, and you can also use our stand alone VIN checker which also provides more information about the VIN. These tools will help you to rule out the risk of cloning. Our buyer guide also provides further guidance on how to protect against cloning by using a Total Car Check report.

What should I do if a Total Car Check report flags the car as stolen?

Do not buy the car and (if safe to do so) report details of the seller to the police by calling 101.

To run a stolen car check now register on our website or app, enter the registration number and view our basic report. If you need further information you can upgrade to our Silver or award-winning Gold Check.

Glossary of data fields

Write-off check

A sample of 100,000 records on our database show that 24% have been written-off [2].

Some written-off vehicles must be scrapped and cannot be resold. Other less damaged written-off vehicles can be repaired and resold - but the fact they have been written off should be disclosed when advertised. All written-off vehicles must be reported to the DVLA.

Our Gold Check will tell you if the car you are looking at buying has previously been in an accident and written-off.

What is an insurance write-off?

It’s where a vehicle has been in an accident that leaves it unrepairable or costs the insurer more than the vehicle’s value to have it repaired. The insurer pays the policy holder (or the finance provider – if the car is financed) the value of the damaged vehicle and becomes the legal owner. Depending on the category of write-off the policy holder may elect to buy the car back from the insurer and get it repaired and restored to a roadworthy condition. Alternatively the car may be scrapped, which is required where it cannot be repaired.

Write-off categories

Insurers will assess a vehicle for damage and define the write-off under the following categories:

Category Repairing the vehicle Using the vehicle
A Cannot be repaired Entire vehicle has to be crushed
B Cannot be repaired Body shell has to be crushed, but you can salvage other parts from it
C Can be repaired, but it would cost more than the vehicle’s worth You can use the vehicle again if it’s repaired to a roadworthy condition
D Can be repaired and would cost less than the vehicle’s worth, but other costs (such as transporting your vehicle) take it over the vehicle’s value You can use the vehicle again if it’s repaired to a roadworthy condition
N Can be repaired following non-structural damage You can use the vehicle again if it’s repaired to a roadworthy condition
S Can be repaired following structural damage You can use the vehicle again if it’s repaired to a roadworthy condition

What are the risks of buying a written-off car?

There could be serious safety concerns particularly if the vehicle has not been repaired to a high standard. The value of the car will also be much lower than the market value of an equivalent car that has not been written-off.

What should I do if a Gold Check report shows the car was written-off?

Cars showing as category A and B on our reports should never be purchased, the vehicles are not legally allowed to be on the road and pose serious safety concerns.

If the seller has not disclosed that the car was written off then you should have reservations about buying it, even if it is safe to drive given the risks outlined above.

If you are considering purchasing a vehicle advertised as a reconditioned Cat C, D, S or N write-off then you should think about doing the following:

  • Asking for paperwork confirming who has repaired the vehicle and outlining the repairs that have been undertaken.
  • Asking for a paper trail of how the write-off process was handled, including details of the insurer(s) involved.
  • Arranging for an independent assessor to inspect the vehicle to ensure it meets UK safety standards.
  • Ensuring the price reflects the fact the car was written off.

To run a write-off check now enter the registration number and purchase our award winning Gold Check.

Glossary of data fields

Scrap check

Every year thousands of cars are crushed in the UK and their parts sold as scrap in breakers yards and through specialist auction sites. This might be because they have been written-off as a result of an accident or have reached the end of their usable life. All scrapped cars must be reported to the DVLA.

Our Silver or Gold check will tell you if a car has been scrapped.

Risks of buying a scrapped car?

The car is likely to be structurally unsafe and would be very dangerous to drive. The value of the car will be negligible as it cannot be sold on if recorded as being scrapped.

What should I do if a Gold Check report shows the car was scrapped?

Avoid the vehicle. You will be unable to drive it and if you did you would be putting you and any passengers at serious risk. The seller is likely to have committed fraud and should be reported to the police (if safe to do so) by calling 101.

Scrapped, unscrapped and salvage history

Our Silver and award-winning Gold Check provides data on all of these data fields, but what is the difference between them? You can find out by looking at our glossary on the link below.

To run a scrap check now enter the registration number.

Glossary of data fields

Mileage check

A study we conducted in 2020 showed that 1 in 18 vehicles between 2005 and 2020 had been ‘clocked’ – whereby mileage had been reduced on average by 46,000 miles. Clocking, or vehicle mileage fraud, has become more and more common in recent years. See our blog for more information on this issue and why it has become prevalent in the UK.

All of our checks provide mileage data and will flag up if there is an issue with a car’s mileage. This data is obtained from DVSA MOT records.

Risks of buying a clocked vehicle?

The vehicle will have more wear and tear than it should do for the mileage displayed. This means it could be more susceptible to faults and mechanical failure and could be unsafe to drive. It will also likely be worth less than what the seller is selling it for, leaving you out of pocket.

What should I do if a Total Car Check report highlights a mileage issue?

Unless the seller can provide evidence that demonstrates the mileage reading is legitimate then the vehicle should be avoided.

To run a free mileage check now enter the registration number and purchase our award winning Gold Check.

Glossary of data fields

[1] Based on data published by the Finance & Leasing Association

[2] Based on data analysed in March 2022