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Summer lovin’ with the top down

23rd July 2013 Print
Car buyer checking a car

Mercury’s finally rising, spelling the arrival of summer and sending used car buyers out on the hunt for that cool cabriolet, with recent figures showing that a quarter of Britons list a convertible as their dream summer purchase. But appearances can be deceptive when it comes to buying a used car, vehicle information expert HPI warns consumers. Whilst the prospect of cruising in the sun could make it tempting to rush into a purchase, there are dangers that can’t be detected by the eye alone. Conducting a vehicle history check, such as the HPI Check offers consumers vital protection.
“One in three cars checked with HPI have something to hide,” says Daniel Burgess, Managing Director of HPI. “The last thing anyone buying a used car needs to discover is that they’ve made a bad decision, which could see them lose the vehicle and their money.
Convertible Repossession
In recent years outstanding finance has been the biggest threat to used car buyers, and with 1 in 4 cars checked by HPI still on a finance agreement, that threat is not diminishing. If the finance company decides to reclaim a vehicle on outstanding finance, the new owner could see their new convertible disappear along with the money they paid for it.
Not all vehicle data checks include finance data. As the UK’s most comprehensive financial agreement database, HPI currently holds details of over 7 million live finance interests. This information is used to confirm if a car is still on finance or not, for added peace of mind.
Stolen in the sunshine?
More than 28 stolen vehicles are uncovered every day through HPI Check reports.  Buying a stolen vehicle is a ‘lose-lose’ situation, as again the buyer stands to lose the car and the money they pay for it. Convertible buyers should also watch out for criminal tricks like ‘cloning’ (disguising the identity of a stolen car by using the identity of another, legitimate, car) because it’s easy for unsuspecting buyers to be duped.
As well as informing the purchaser if a vehicle has been recorded as stolen by the Police, the HPI Check is the only history check that comes with clone cover as part of its guarantee, and includes a stolen V5C document check as standard. The HPI Check includes a Guarantee (3 providing up to £40,000(3) financial reimbursement in the event of the car not being everything it seems – including a clone.
The top comes off, but does anything else?
4 in every 100 of the vehicles that are checked with HPI are recorded as an insurance ‘total loss’, more commonly known as a write-off. It’s easy to be taken in by shiny paintwork – especially on an attractive convertible – but buyers need to beware, just because they can’t see damage it doesn’t mean it isn’t there.  While some damaged cars can be safely repaired and returned to the road, others will only be fit for scrap. Due to the nature of a convertible’s roofless body, convertibles are less structurally sturdy – meaning any that have been written off and repaired badly could be even more dangerous than standard cars.
HPI uses data from the Association of British Insurers (ABI) and theMotor Insurance Anti-Fraud and Theft Register (MIAFTR) to help buyers spot the difference between a bargain and a death trap on wheels.
Clocking back the miles
6 in 100 cars checked with HPI have had their mileage altered.  Dodgy sellers see clocking as an easy way to push up the price of their vehicle, so buyers need to watch out for cars with mileage that’s going backwards.  Not knowing the true mileage could also mean there’s a risk of missing critical maintenance tasks, such as full servicing that include important part replacements.
The HPI Check service uses the National Mileage Register (NMR), featuring over 150 million records, to ensure that a car’s mileage is accurate.
“Traditionally, convertible prices have risen as the weather heats up, however with the unpredictable weather we’ve had this year, they actually dropped** - meaning a bargain could be out there for buyers. However, the danger of buying a dodgy car still lurks. We urge used car buyers to do their homework to ensure they don’t come a cropper of used car criminals out to make a fast profit. With an HPI Check, there’s no need to take the risk. We help buyers arm themselves with the facts, allowing them to shop with confidence and reduce the danger of losing their money on a car that has a murky past.”
HPI’s Tips for Buying a Convertible
1. Check the seal
Any type of convertible roof can be liable to leak after a time – even hardtops. Test by spraying water over the roof, looking for any leaks. Aim at the points where the roof hits the windshield and where glass hits the roof along the sides.
2. Give it a go 
Although it may seem obvious, but make sure you test how the roof operates, as stiff latches or a small mechanical glitch could easily become very troublesome over time – especially if you are caught in the rain and need to put it up quickly!
3. How’s the housing?
It is easy to overlook the well where the roof is stored. Most convertibles have a removable top that locks into place. Inspect this carefully and see if there are any signs of rust, as this could signify that leaks are getting into the well and may eventually damage the roof. Also check how securely top snaps into place, as loose tops can add to the moisture problem – not to mention the roof flying off at high speed!
4. Give it a spin
Convertibles have improved dramatically in recent years, however the nature of the structure of a convertible can lead to a loss of rigidity – known as the ‘cowl shake’. The base of the windscreen will shake more in a convertible than a normal car, leading to inference on the steering wheel. Check you are comfortable with this.
5. Mechanical Maladies
Every car will have some sort of mechanical problem during its lifetime; however convertibles can be a more temperamental than regular vehicles. A mechanised roof can stop working and, as the car is generally more exposed to the elements, the operation of interior parts can be affected. It is a good idea to have the vehicle inspected by an independent company such as the RAC.
6. Check the history
Shiny convertibles aren’t immune from sellers trying to pass off a dodgy car as a bargain, in fact quite the opposite – the allure of buying a convertible can often blind buyers to problems with it. Make sure you check the history with HPI to be certain.
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Car buyer checking a car