Best car check websites 2020

We reveal which vehicle check sites provide comprehensive and cost-effective car data checks

Having a car stolen is a traumatic experience, but thousands of people run the risk of having their vehicle taken away from them perfectly legally – and there’d be no hope of claiming for your loss on insurance.

If your pride and joy is found to be nicked or still owned by a finance company, then the police or a bank will want it back. The simplest way to avoid becoming a victim is to do a vehicle check by carrying out an online data check before you buy a car. 

These are routinely used by dealers, but can now be done cheaply by anyone, with prices ranging from free to more than £20. 

Even if they’re not stolen or have outstanding finance, plenty of cars have an ‘interesting’ history, which is worth investigating before you part with your cash. 

So which is the best tool to check your car's history? We tried eight to find out. 

Verdict

The best site for you will depend on how many cars you want to check and how much information you need. 

TotalCarCheck’s prices are among the lowest for both single checks and a package, yet the data it provides is comprehensive and easy to understand. We also loved the way it offered some crucial information for free, which allowed us to weed out dodgy cars on our shortlist without having to pay. 

Cazana’s single checks are pricey, but it makes a lot of sense for a multi-check package. It takes second place here, just ahead of the AA’s bargain-priced rebrand of the HPI site.

  1. Total Car Check
  2. Cazana
  3. AA Car Check

Reviews

AA Car Check

The AA’s data check proudly proclaims it’s ‘powered by HPI’. In fact, it’s almost identical to the HPI check in every way, except for some AA branding and a much lower price. 

That means it’s among the most comprehensive here in terms of data, including the ‘Fraud Guard’ section, which allows you to check the V5 serial number and car’s VIN against DVLA records. 

Our only irritations were the lengthy sign-up process, scant valuation data and the £2.99 charge for recall data – especially given this is available for free on the DVLA’s MoT check site.

Total Car Check

The first surprise about the TotalCarCheck site was how much data it gives away for free. It flags stolen cars, gives MoT info, mileages, recall and technical data without you having to pay a penny. 

This is great for browsing through adverts and making a shortlist, and from there an £8.99 Gold Check adds finance status, insurance write-off listings and a series of valuations. 

The only minor black mark is the mileage information – it’s only MoT data and doesn’t include figures supplied by the DVLA. But TotalCarCheck was among the cheapest for single and packaged tests, so is our solid favourite.

Cazana

  • Price (single check): £14.99
  • Price (five checks): £19.95
  • Rating: 4.5/5
  • Contact: www.cazana.com

Cazana’s site isn’t initially quite as user-friendly as the best rivals, and very little data is supplied for free, but upgrading to a full check brings a wealth of information. 

The most interesting was the scan for previous adverts of a car, allowing you to see the price and description if it’s been advertised before. Cazana also suggested a valuation, but it seemed optimistic in all of our examples. The estimated mileage figure seems to be based purely on MoT data, too. 

For just one check, Cazana is pricey, but a package of five is four pence cheaper than our test winner (opposite).

Caranalytics

It doesn’t look like the slickest of websites and has the occasional minor error, but Caranalytics offers one of the most comprehensive sets of check data. 

In addition to all the expected information, you’re also given eight valuations, ranging from what you’d pay on a dealer forecourt, down to a trade-in price. Mileage information comes from multiple sources, too. 

A single full check is cheap enough, at £8.95, and all subsequent checks are £6.99 each. This is fine if you’re only looking at a couple of cars, but will soon become expensive if you’re checking more than three.

Green Flag

The breakdown service provider describes its checks as an “HPI check alternative”. It’s certainly much cheaper; a single is £13.99, but a £22.99 package of five makes more sense. It’s not the cheapest here, but certainly good value for a trusted ‘brand name’. It takes a while to sign up, though, which might be an issue if you are checking details while looking at a car. 

The data is presented clearly and there’s a full VIN check available. But the valuations were overly optimistic and the check missed a mileage anomaly for one of our samples.

RAC

We initially presumed the RAC service was just a rebranded version of Green Flag’s check site because the sign-up and format are eerily similar. As with Green Flag, it has a full VIN check and includes common breakdown data for the model. 

But the RAC report turned out to provide more accurate data, with better valuations covering trade-in and forecourt prices. It also picked up on our sample’s mileage discrepancy. That could be worth the extra £1 the RAC is asking per report, but it’s still expensive compared to some rivals here.

HPI

  • Price (single check): £19.99 
  • Price (five checks): £49.95
  • Rating: 3/5 
  • Contact: www.hpicheck.com

As with Hoover and Sellotape, the HPI brand has become a generic term for car data checks. It looks slick (along with the AA rebrand version), with a logical layout to the report and clear information. There’s also a ‘Fraud Guard’ area, which allows you to check serial numbers against HPI and DVLA databases. 

However, a single check costs as much as five from our Best Buy winner. A package of three gets a discount, at £29.97, but that’s still pricey.

Instant Car Check

While HPI’s checks are expensive, its parent company offers this budget alternative. A ‘Basic’ check flags cars which are stolen, written off, scrapped or have had plate changes. The £5.95 ‘Gold’ pack adds a VIN match and valuation. 

It looks good value, but the Gold pack doesn’t include the crucial finance or mileage checks, and adding those is £7.98 extra per car. More comprehensive reports elsewhere offer better value.

Have you used a car data check tool? Let us know how you fared in the comments below...

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