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How to check a car’s history

Getting a vehicle history check can help reduce your chances of buying a car that is being sold illegally. You can make several different checks through the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA), a private history check and an MOT check.

This page explains how you can find out about the history of a used car.

Top tips

It doesn’t take long or cost much to confirm the car’s history. Doing some simple checks before you buy could save you a lot of money and distress in the long run.

Checking the car’s identity

The DVLA’s online database can tell you a car’s:

  • year of manufacture
  • date of first registration
  • engine capacity
  • colour
  • current tax disc expiry date
  • tax rate (known as vehicle excise duty rate).

If the details on the database don’t match the car or its registration certificate (V5C), the car may have been given another car’s identity. This is known as ringing and is against the law. You should walk away and report the seller to the police.

As well as confirming the identity of the car, these details can give you useful information about how much the car will cost to tax.

The database is free to use. You will need to know the car’s registration number and its make.

  • Make a vehicle details enquiry on GOV.UK website at www.gov.uk

Telephone (premium rate):
0906 185 8585 for information about the car
0906 765 7585 for the expiry date of the current tax disc only

Getting a private history check

A history check, sometimes known as a data check, can tell you whether a car:

  • has been reported stolen
  • still has finance owing
  • has suffered serious accident damage
  • has a discrepancy between the mileage it shows and what's held on a central database.

You can find a company that carries out history checks in the telephone directory or internet. The company will charge you for providing this service. Check your agreement with the company carefully, as they may not be responsible for the accuracy of the information they supply.

Checking the MOT

In England, Wales and Scotland you can check a car’s recent MOT history through the Vehicle and Operator Service Agency (VOSA). This can be useful if you're not sure whether the MOT certificate is genuine.

You will need the car’s registration number and the MOT test number, which can be found on either:

  • the current MOT certificate (called the VT20)
  • the current MOT refusal certificate (called the VT30)
  • the vehicle registration certificate (called the V5C)
  • Check a car’s history on GOV.UK at www.gov.uk

Next steps

More information about

Citizens Advice

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