Checking the paperwork of the car you are looking to buy is just as important as taking it for a test drive.

Here we have collated the key pieces of paperwork to check before coming to any agreements, including what to look out for and what you should know.

V5C Registration (or LogBook)

Always check for how many previous owners the car has had, and whether they are companies or private owners.

It is also important to know what the previous owners used the vehicle for. High mileage on motorways can be less wearing on the engine than shorter journeys, especially for diesel cars.

If the car has been used as a company car, or is a lease car, then it is likely to have been serviced on schedule as this is part of the lease agreement.

Service history

When researching the car it is useful to find out the manufacturer recommended service interval.

Check if the service history has been completed in accordance with the recommended schedule.

Look for any time of work that has been carried out on the car. Some companies, for example Lex Autolease, may be able to provide additional details of work completed on each service e.g. cam belt or water pump change. The seller may have receipts for work completed, or provide a print out from the lease company.

Typically cars require a significant major service at about 100,000 miles to replace water pump, cam belt, clutch etc.

Check when the next service is due and if it is a major or minor service. Typically a minor service costs between £100-150, while a major service is around £250-300 plus any additional work required.

MOT history

You should check when the MOT is next due, which is possible to do without the V5C reference. This also displays the road tax due date.

Tax is no longer transferable, however, it can be useful to check the tax due date, as it indicates when the dealer bought the vehicle.

If the car is due for an MOT imminently then you can ask the seller if they are willing to put the car through an MOT before buying. Otherwise you would be at higher risk of having something wrong with the car.

You can check the full MOT history online if you have the V5C reference number or MOT certificate number. This shows if there have been any advisories on previous MOTs and also tracks the car mileage, so you can see how many miles were driven each year.

As new cars do not require an MOT until they are three years old, there is limited information for nearly new cats.

Check car history

Many dealers will perform a car history check - typically through HPI or Experian Autocheck. They should be able to show you a copy of this information.

If you cannot get this information from the dealer e.g. if they don't perform the check or you are buying privately, it is a good idea to complete the check before making the final decision to buy.

It should include:

  • Whether any finance remains outstanding
  • Accident claims registered with insurance companies
  • Any record of theft
  • If the car is registered with the DVLA


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