New research from consumer vehicle data provider MyCarCheck has revealed that over one in five used cars have either been previously stolen, written-off or have an outstanding finance agreement in place.

21.69% of used cars checked by MyCarCheck during June 2014 were reported to have at least one adverse history marker, which was an increase of over 2% from June 2012 (19.46%). The percentage of checks showing a ‘written-off’ marker had increased from 14.01% in June 2012 to 15.04% in June 2014, whilst the number of outstanding finance agreements had increased from 4.71% to 6.55% during the same period.

Roger Powell, Divisional Head at CDL Vehicle Information Services which owns MyCarCheck.com  commented: “Since we first posted on Facebook in the summer of 2012, we’ve seen an increase in the percentage of cars with adverse history, particularly in the previously written-off and finance debt categories.”

“Whether you check via MyCarCheck.com or the MyCarCheck app, we hold up to 70 fields of data for each car number plate in the UK. Dealers conduct these checks as a matter of course so, given how affordable they are now (our basic check costs £2.95 and our most popular check, including finance, costs £9.95), it amazes me that more consumers don’t do the same. You wouldn’t buy a house without a survey, so why buy a car without knowing what you’re getting into?”

In light of the increasing number of vehicles with outstanding debt, Roger has a stark warning for motorists. “The vehicle provenance industry used to be all about confirming if a car had been written-off or stolen. Today a major part of our business is flagging up that a vehicle has finance debt against it. Used car buyers need to be aware that the registered keeper of a vehicle – the name on the V5C form, the logbook – is not necessarily the legal owner. Unlike a personal loan, under both PCP and HP the finance company often retains legal ownership of the vehicle. For us, there is nothing better than stopping a customer from making an expensive mistake.”

MyCarCheck.com’s parent company, CDL Vehicle Information Services, performs over a million look-ups a day for companies including AutoExpress, CompareTheMarket, Confused.com, Go-Compare, Moneysupermarket, Swiftcover, Tesco Compare and WhatCar?.