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MOT and service history guide when buying a new car

MOT and service history guide when buying a new car

When you buy a used car, you will want to know it has an MOT and a good service history.
A reputable dealer like Rockpoint in Staffordshire will make this part easier for you.
All their cars have an MOT. And they also check each car’s service history.
But if you are buying a car privately, you will need to do your own checks.

How to check if a car has a valid MOT
To check if a car has an MOT as well as to look back at its MOT history is very straightforward.
Go to this government website and input the car’s registration number.
You will be able to see MOT tests carried out on the vehicle in England, Scotland, and Wales since 2005.
You could find out if it passed or failed, the mileage recorded at the time, which parts failed or had minor problems and when the next MOT is due.
If you want to also find out where the tests were done, you will need the 11-digit number from the vehicle’s logbook (V55C).
This search is free.

Vehicle service history
Cars should be serviced to the correct standards and can vary depending on the manufactuer.
A car which has always had its services carried out, at approved service stations with an official stamp, has a full-service history (FSH).
Partial service history means it was taken to a non-approved service station at some point, missed a service or does not have all its stamps, for example.
FSH is best but not having it does not mean that anything will necessarily be wrong with the vehicle, it just means you may not have a full picture of its history.

Service history books
In the past, vehicles had a service history booklet with all the information about when and where it received its routine services.
Each entry would have a stamp from a garage plus details of work carried out and the car’s mileage.
Service books can easily get lost, or paperwork go missing.

With newer cars, digital service books often relace physical ones with the services recorded electronically.

Tracking down the service history in both cases can take some detective work.

How to find out the service history of a car or other vehicle
It can be frustrating to try to piece together the service history of a vehicle.
But there are several steps you can take:

  • 1. If buying from a dealership, they may be able to help you – ask the question.
  • 2. Manufacturers also keep an online record of a car if it’s serviced by a franchised dealer.
  • 3. Contact the garage who usually services the vehicle as they should keep records and may be able to supply you with missing documents. If you don’t know which garage or garages have been used, then perform the MOT check mentioned above, from the government’s website. Look at the MOT test locations – they are likely to be the same garages used by previous owners for services. Contact them to see if they hold any service records for the vehicle.
  • 4. Go to the DVLA’s website and fill out a V888 form here. It costs £5 and allows you to find the previous owner’s details, who may be able to help you.
  • 5. For digital service books you must complete an online registration form to gain access.
  • 6. For a car that’s three years or younger, the service records should be held on a central database with the manufacturer.
  • NB: You will often need to prove that you are the vehicle owner when researching its service history either by showing a payment receipt signed by the previous owner. Or by showing the vehicle’s log book (the V5C) and knowing the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN).

    Winter car maintenance guide – our 9 top tips for safe motoring in cold weather

    Cars breakdowns and accidents are far more likely over winter, so it is important to give your vehicle extra attention when the weather gets colder.

    Follow our checks and precautions to get your car winter ready.

    1. Car service

    If your car is due a service anyway, it is sensible to book it in before the winter.

    Alternatively, some garages offer free winter car checks so look out for offers.

    2. Tyres

    Tyres affect both braking and steering so are among the most important parts of your vehicle to check.

    It is especially important when roads are icy or wet that your vehicle can stop as quickly as possible.

    Ensure that tyres are not worn – experts say tread depth should be 3mm during the winter for a good grip.

    Also, check tyre pressure. Winter tyres should be inflated to 0.2 bar higher than summer. Do this outside, not in a warm garage.

    3. Battery

    Car batteries work much harder in the winter months so make sure to check them.
    And if your car battery is struggling to start, have it replaced if necessary.

    4. Lights

    Cars get dirty in the winter, not least from road grit/salt.

    Dirty lights are not as bright so it is important to check them, along with rear reflectors and indicators to make sure they are clean and working.

    5. Windscreen wipers

    Windscreen wipers on an icy car

    Check your wipers – replace worn or damaged wiper blades to give you maximum visibility when the weather is bad.
    Make sure to turn them off when you park – if they are left on automatic and try to move when frozen to the windscreen or when there is still ice on the screen, they may be damaged.

    6. Screen wash

    You will use your screen wash a lot more in winter so keep it topped up.

    The water jets shouldn’t block as screen wash has a lower freezing temperature than water, but it can happen.

    7. Antifreeze

    Make sure your car is topped up with antifreeze, which stops the water in the engine’s cooling system from freezing.

    You can test how effective it is using an antifreeze tester, which are cheap to buy.

    8. Journeys

    Check the weather forecast before setting off. Allow extra time for winter journeys and plan routes around major roads, which are more likely to be cleared and gritted.

    Clear all windows using a scraper and de-icer and wait until the windscreen’s fully demisted before setting off.

    9. Be prepared

    Keep emergency supplies in your car such as extra warm clothing, boots and blankets along with a torch and shovel.

    Make sure you have a mobile phone and a charger, a de-icer and scraper, food and drink.

    Keep topped up with fuel just in case your journey takes longer.


    When buying a used car, choose a reputable, trusted dealer like Rockpoint in Tamworth, Staffordshire.

    Visit our website to see all the latest quality stock or call 01827 283496.

    Please get in touch with any other questions you would like us to answer, email james@rockpointbmw.co.uk