How can I check to see if a car has ever had a major insurance claim or if there is an outstanding ISA agreement on it?

The HPi check is a national vehicle database run by Transunion - the same people that publish the Auto Dealers Digests. It will tell you whether there are any outstanding Instalment Sale Agreements on the car; whether the car has ever had a major insurance claim; been written off; been scrapped; or been stolen; or stolen and recovered. It also logs progressive/sequential dealer inquires where mileages are noted. It will confirm that the engine, chassis and registration numbers are correct as well as the year of first registration. 

The cost of this check is about R 180 (at time of writing) and available through the AA or through

Regardless of how certain I am of a good buy, I still do this check. It gives me peace of mind and helps me to sleep well at night. It is money well spent to check any potential purchase out on this system. It will also inform you if the car is a gray import or an illegal import.