History can be tough to figure out.

Checking a car’s history is essential to protect buyers and the car industry from fraud. An unfortunate – albeit small - side of the industry still exists where cars are not advertised properly.

From odometer rollback fraud to spotty MOTs, discover how to check used car history here.

How to check the history of a car

You can check used car history by completing a car history report, which will provide you with any information on where the car has been before your ownership – all you’ll need is the vehicle identification number (VIN).

Alternatively, you can collect the information yourself by creating your own used car history report, following the steps below.

Check the DVLA database

The first step is to check if the information a seller has provided matches details on the DVLA database. This is essentially a free vehicle check by registration number.

Simply input a vehicle’s car registration, then the database will be able to provide the following:

  • Tax information
  • MOT expiry
  • Registration date
  • Year of manufacture
  • SORN status

Other information is available, but the above will give you a good starting point to work from. 

Check the MOT history

Following that, you will need a car’s MOT history. Again, ensure these details match what the seller has given you.

Using the DVLA’s data, you will be able to check a car’s MOT history, its mileage, which parts failed the MOT previously, and when the MOT is due next.

If a seller is trying to hide something wrong with the car, then this is where you’ll find that out.

One particular aspect you should look for when looking at an MOT history is its mileage. Odometer fraud is still a big issue in used car sales.

Since mileage is an important selling point, some fraudsters will try to reduce the mileage by tampering with the odometer (an instrument for measuring the distance travelled by a vehicle). This is less of an issue with digital meters, but ensuring the advertised mileage matches a seller’s records is of paramount importance.

Conduct an outstanding finance check

When a car is purchased via finance, a lender expects the full value to be paid back before the car is sold on.

Sometimes, however, people will attempt to sell a financed car without paying them back. In the eyes of the law, this means the car still belongs to the finance company, so if they find out that you’ve purchased it, they may expect you to pay back the finance yourself.

You will be protected by the law if you can prove the car was purchased without prior knowledge. An easier option, though, is to undertake an outstanding finance check. These are paid-for checks which are available from several organisations.

Conduct a car write off check

Some sellers may try to offload a car that has been written off, and, if this write-off is within Category A or B, then it isn’t fit for the road. Buying a vehicle like this not only rips you off, but may also place your life in danger. If the car falls under Category S, meaning that it has suffered structural damage but is still repairable, the total loss is deemed safe and legal providing it has undergone and passed its MOT.

Similarly to an outstanding finance check, this screening is available through several third-party organisations.

Is the car registered as stolen?

Finally, check if the car has been registered as stolen. If you accidentally purchase a stolen vehicle, you still aren’t the legal owner, therefore you will lose the money and the car if it’s rightfully returned to its original owner.

While this is more complicated than a basic government check, there are free methods available. For example, you can ask to see the logbook to see if it matches the details given. When looking at the logbook, check for the V5C registration which must have a DVL watermark.

You should also take a look at the engine and vehicle identification numbers and see if these match the logbook. If they don’t, it’s a strong sign the vehicle may be stolen.

Why are car history checks important?

The car industry and consumers are hurt in equal measure by fraud. Nobody wants to see their money wasted, and used car sellers do not want their industry tarred by a few bad eggs. As such, car history checks are a two-way endeavour between buyer and seller.

A responsible seller will provide as much information as possible, but having a buyer check every nook and cranny ensures the industry stays safe, clean and fraud-free.

Car history checks are important as they keep sellers responsible, and buyers educated.

Buy from a trusted source

Here at findandfundmycar, we pride ourselves as being a trusted source. We want to make buying used cars feel safe. Our dealers are handpicked to ensure they meet the high standards we expect.

This means our listings will convey as much information as possible to maintain transparency, while our dealers will always be happy to answer questions.

Furthermore, our dealer oversight team keeps our listings clean, clear, and trustworthy.

So, now you know how to check the history of a used car, discover our used car listings with full history checks today.

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