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How to Check Used Car Documentation

If you’re buying a used car, checking the documentation is essential for making sure you’re getting a good deal. It’s also vital for making sure you’re buying what the seller says you’re buying.

Vehicle documentation can tell you how road worthy the car is, how well it’s been looked after and if it is actually owned by the seller – helping to combat the illegal sale of stolen cars.

So here are the three main documents a used car should come with and how to check them.

Registration document (V5C)

What is it?

The registration document is an official record of who is the registered keeper of the vehicle. It also records who the last two owners were. If the seller’s name is on it as the registered keeper, then they are legally entitled to sell it.

What should you check?

  • That the document is original (complete with official watermark) and has no modifications
  • That the seller’s name and address match
  • That the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) recorded matches the VIN stamped inside the car

MOT certificate

What is it?

When a car is three years old or more it must undergo a yearly inspection – this is called an MOT. It checks the car is in a roadworthy condition and meets road safety standards.

What should you check?

If the car is over three years old, the current owner should be able to show you a continuous run of MOT certificates. Call the Vehicle and Operator Services Agency’s MOT status line on 0870 330 0444 to check the certificates are valid and if anything is missing or doesn’t add up, this is when you should be asking serious questions.

Service history

What is it?

Whenever a car is taken to a garage for repairs, the receipts and invoices come together to make the car’s service history. The current owner should be able to present you with evidence of any servicing the car has undergone.

What should you check?

Look out for any long gaps in the service history, which could indicate a problem the seller is trying to hide. Also look out for reoccurring problems that may not have been fixed. Make sure the service history tells a consistent story and if in doubt, contact the garage to verify the details.

As the buyer, you are well within your rights to thoroughly check the used car documentation. Don’t hesitate to ask the seller questions or consult an expert if something doesn’t add up.

And if you’ve got any other tips to share, let us know below!

January 7, 2014