Vehicle Checks

How to check vehicle history

Car check: How to check vehicle history and buying used

Car check: How to check vehicle history and buying used 1000 667 Jack

Car check & buying used

The process of buying a used car can be notoriously intimidating and stressful. You are investing thousands upon thousands of your hard-earned cash into a years-old machine that you’ve never seen before, and without a single clue how it was treated. It’s understandable, then, why people choose to play it safe and purchase a brand new car on some form of finance.

However, systems and tools exist to make your purchasing decision that bit less risky. A vehicle history check enables you to check a car’s past, and allows you to make sure it isn’t hiding any hidden nasty surprises. Buying a car without checking its history could potentially mean you’re a mere dozens of miles away from a catastrophic disaster. With that in mind, let’s take a look at some of the most serious reasons why you should check the history of your next future purchase.

Outstanding finance

It is illegal to sell someone a car that has outstanding finance without telling them first. It is however not illegal to advertise a car for sale which has outstanding finance meaning somebody may list their car for sale while it still has outstanding car finance. If you purchase this car unaware of the outstanding finance, you run a serious risk of losing the vehicle – and thus also losing all your money.

A vehicle under finance is still under ownership of the lender until all of the debt has been cleared. Somebody may choose to sell the car, and then not use the money from the sale to pay off the debt. It’s not their problem anymore – it’s yours. A vehicle check would flag up outstanding finance.

Not all outstanding finance flagged should be alarming however. Vehicle’s sold by a vehicle trader or dealership usually have ‘Unit Stocking’ finance which is a temporary short term type of finance given to a dealership or trader, allowing them to purchase forecourt stock (vehicle’s readily available for them to sell). This type of finance is usually settled as soon as the vehicle is sold but we always recommend you confirm this is the case with the relevant dealership or vehicle trader, especially smaller independent non brand specific traders.

Accident damage and insurance write-off

When a vehicle has a serious enough crash to make the repair uneconomical, it will often be ‘written off’ as either category A, B, C, D, S, or N. Category A and B vehicle’s are beyond repair and can only be scrapped or sent to breakers for salvage respectively. Older categories C and D as well as newer categories S and N vehicle’s can be repaired and put back on the road if repaired to a roadworthy condition.

Someone hiding the fact their car for sale is a Cat C, D, S or N write-off could suggest a repair job has been done with corners cut or the seller is trying to get a higher price than what it is worth. Accident damage could significantly affect the value of a vehicle and a cheap bodge job in repairing it could pose future problems further down the line, so be sure to see if the vehicle hasn’t been written off in the history check.

Scrapped or exported

Additionally, the DVLA hold several points of data about vehicles that you can use to your advantage. You can check number of previous owners (a car with many owners in a short space of time could indicate it may have an underlying problem or is expensive to maintain), if it’s had a number plate or colour change in it’s history, if it’s been scrapped in the past or exported (exported vehicle’s are registered as no longer being in the country and this flag could indicate a vehicle has been cloned). All of these can suggest a dubious past in some circumstances.

Number plate changes

Number plate changes are common and in most cases are nothing to worry about. Some owners prefer to mask the age of their vehicle with a non age specific registration (a vehicle cannot be made to appear newer than it actually is by assigning a registration mark that is younger than the vehicle) or personalise the appearance of their vehicle with a company branded or catchy vanity plate (for example – RA20 NGE on a Range Rover).

In some instances a number plate change could be used to hide the fact a vehicle has outstanding finance. Our vehicle check not only checks outstanding finance against the number plate but also the VIN (Vehicle Identification Number) which is a unique permanent identifier for every vehicle and cannot legally be changed.


The police and motor insurers hold records of all reported stolen vehicles. If you buy a stolen vehicle, it will not be in your legal ownership – even if you paid in full for it or unknowingly bought it. You will lose both the car and your money if you purchase it, so be sure to check before hand.

MOT history check

In the UK, a private vehicle must get an MOT (Ministry of Transport) test every year from the third anniversary of its registration. An MOT test is a roadworthiness test which checks important parts of a vehicle to make sure they meet the minimum legal standards. It does not cover the condition of the engine, clutch or gearbox. Each car is different with some better looked after than others. A car with consistent failures and faults each year could give an indication of a poor upkeep history and may be worth steering away from – as the vehicle ages, it’s not likely to get any better!

A vehicle’s mileage over the years could highlight its primary usage and ownership. High mileage could indicate a vehicle has previously been used as a pool car or used for long distance or business travel. Cars mainly driven on the motorway are usually well run in and show less wear on the interior but don’t fair as well on the exterior front end which usually takes a beating from stone chips and road debris.

On the other hand, a vehicle with extremely low mileage may seem like a good bet, however various components of the vehicle may naturally degrade (tyres, lubricants – oil, brake pads etc) with time. Also, when an engine is idle for months or years, it doesn’t get up to optimal running temperature, and moisture in the air or condensation can eventually get into the engine leading to the formation of sludge and eventually corrosion.

Buy with confidence

These have been some examples of what you can check, but it’s by no means the full list. For your peace of mind (and to protect your wallet!), for just £1.99 you can check a vehicle’s history, check if it has been reported stolen, written-off by a motor insurer or recorded as having been exported.

A full vehicle check at £9.99 will also include outstanding finance information listing details of any lenders who may have a financial interest in the vehicle. If you’re considering multiple vehicle’s, check them all and save money with a multi check; allowing you to check the full history and outstanding finance information of any UK registered vehicle for the price of a regular coffee – £3.99 each with our Multi check 5 full vehicle history check.

Given how catastrophic the consequences can potentially be, it’s a no-brainer to check a vehicle’s history before parting with your cash to buy it.

Free vehicle check

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