Quick answers to 10 tricky questions about online car auctions

At RAW2K, our mission is to make buying a salvage car as quick, easy and simple as possible. That said, we understand it can still be a little daunting for first-time buyers, as there are a lot of regulations, licences and technical terms to get to grips with. While some of these are addressed in the main FAQ section of our site, we thought we’d take a moment to address the (slightly less) frequently asked questions, getting you up to speed on everything you need to know before you start bidding. 

1. What is an ELV?

If a car has been written off, failed its MOT, or even suffered a fatal mechanical failure, it may be classed as a ELV, or End of Life Vehicle. It’s exactly what it sounds like - a vehicle that has come to the end of its useful, functional life. You won’t find any ELVs in our online vehicle auctions here at RAW2K, for the same reason that you won’t find any Category A vehicles - nobody would want them!

2. Can I re-insure a car that has been written off?

Yes, but it depends on the type of car. When the car was written off, its insurance policy will have been terminated. Cars that are classed as Category A or Category B are (by definition) too badly damaged to be legally put back on the roads, so no insurer will cover them. However, cars that have been classed as Category S or Category N can sometimes be re-insured. It’s worth bearing in mind, though, that most insurance providers will see the vehicle as a higher risk, which means premiums are likely to be much higher than they would for a brand new vehicle. 

3. Can anyone buy a car in an online auction?

Yes - at least right here at RAW2K! We sell auction cars to a broad range of customers, from VAT registered companies to private customers looking for a bargain on their next motor. We do a lot of business with professional dealers and mechanics looking to flip cars for profit. 

4. What does it mean to flip a car?

Flipping a car refers to the practice of buying a cheap, discounted or second hand car, and then selling it onto a new buyer for profit. Sometimes, this involves making certain repairs or restorative work, but ideally this will be kept to a minimum. Work that requires large amounts of time or particularly intensive labour will naturally start eating into the profits that would be made from selling the car. 

5. Is flipping cars legal?

Yes, as long as the seller doesn’t intentionally engage in fraudulent practices. However, the art is notoriously hard to master, and it demands a certain amount of specialist skill, equipment and expertise - not to mention plenty of patience! For that reason alone, many amateurs find it extremely difficult to consistently make a profit. Even those who do manage to make money often find that the profit margins are very slim when they take the time and cost of their labour into account. 

Just to complicate things, it can be very easy to fall afoul of UK regulations too, including any tax implications, so if it’s something you plan to do full time you’ll need to know how the HMRC legally defines what constitutes a business, and what they expect from you if they think you’re running one. It’s one of the many reasons that here in the UK, most car flipping tends to be done by highly experienced dealers, qualified mechanics, or similar registered business owners. 

6. Why can’t I drive my car from site?

In short: the car might be too damaged, and even if it’s not, it won’t have a valid MOT or insurance, which makes it illegal to drive away. Structural damage like a twisted chassis or worn brake pads can have a serious impact on the safety and driveability of the car, making it unsafe to drive away. Even if not, all our cars are classed as salvage, which means they’ve had their insurance policies terminated. Therefore, you can’t drive them away. If you need more detail, we’ve explained more fully in this recent post about why you can’t drive salvage cars away from the yard

7. What are Breaker Only vehicles?

These are cars that are deemed to be so badly damaged that they can never be put back on the roads. They’re sometimes known as Category B vehicles. These are the most badly damaged cars we’ll stock here at RAW2K, and are typically only useful to professional mechanics so that they can take them to pieces for spare parts to use in other vehicles. 

8. What is an HPI Check? 

Essentially, an HPI Check is an extensive background check on a particular vehicle, providing all known information about its history, previous owners, and any changes to its status. In the UK, this service is provided solely by a company called HPI (which was formerly known as Hire Purchase Information). Its service covers all aspects of the car including:

  • Outstanding finance
  • Outstanding finance
  • Its salvage category
  • Whether or not it’s been stolen
  • Its mileage
  • The number of previous owners
  • The number of registration plate changes
  • Vehicle Identification Data (including its VIN)
  • Whether it’s been used as part of a ‘logbook loan’
  • Whether it’s been imported or exported
  • Any colour changes to its paintwork
  • Its current MOT
  • Road tax status
  • Estimated fuel costs


HPI furnishes customers with a very specific, comprehensive service that only it can provide, but it’s worth knowing that sometimes other companies and businesses use ‘HPI Check’ as a catch-all term for a general history check, in much the same way that Google has become a verb synonymous with a general internet search. If you want the most comprehensive service though, make sure that it’s actually HPI you’re dealing with! 

Although at RAW2K we can in theory guarantee that there’s no outstanding finance on cars we stock, it’s never a bad idea to conduct your own research just in case, as the final responsibility rests with you, the buyer. That means it’s your responsibility to satisfy yourself of its condition and history, before you finally take it off-site. 

9. Can I drive a car with a salvage title?

Yes, as long as it’s been taxed, insured and is in a fit condition to be driven on British roads. Remember, vehicles aren’t classed as salvage because they’re wrecked - they’re classed as salvage if they’re uneconomical to repair. That means as long as you can get over the hurdle of the cost-benefit analysis, it’s perfectly possible to take them out on the roads again. As we’ve covered above though, doing this in a cost-effective manner generally requires specialist tools and knowledge, which is one of the reasons that professional mechanics and restorers tend to be in the best position to make such a tidy living with flipping cars. 

10. What is a VIN and why is it important?

VIN stands for Vehicle Identification Number, a 17-digit code that provides detailed information about the car’s identity. The VIN can provide expert eyes with a whole raft of vital information, including:

  • The location in which the car was built
  • The car’s manufacturer (and their official security code)
  • The vehicle’s brand, size and engine type
  • The car’s model year
  • Which plant assembled the vehicle
  • The serial number


Think of it like a fingerprint, and one which tells you the car’s specifications and features. Just like a fingerprint, a VIN is completely unique to the car, and can therefore be used to trace it. That means it can be used to track recalls, registrations, warranty claims and insurance coverage, and it’s a key tool in cracking down on vehicle crime and theft. This is part of the reason it’s checked so carefully by the HPI checks we’ve mentioned above.

Got more questions?

No problem. We’ve got a full FAQ section here on our site, providing you with quick, easy answers to any questions you might have about registering, IDs or licences. On the other hand, if you’re already clued up with everything you need to know about online car auctions, you can start bidding for your next car immediately! Feel free to browse through our online auctions from a range of leading manufacturers, including Audi, Ford and Peugeot. Why not take a look around, and see what you can find?