Your Guide to Vehicle History Checks


When you are looking at a used car, you might be a little scared by the fact that it can be difficult to spot a bad car. To the untrained eye a used car that runs, is polished and makes no sounds is good enough.

Getting a vehicle history check gives you back control in the buying/selling process of a used car. As a buyer, you can see if there are any major issues with the car that may not be easy to know such as is it recorded as stolen or does it have outstanding finance – both of which can cause you a lot of headaches if they are correct and you are not aware of it.

A car history check ensures you know the little details that can make a big difference in the value of a car and the long-term outlook for running costs. Spotting mileage anomalies will help to pinpoint a car’s true value plus any potential problems with mechanics too.

How to get a free check?

You can head over to a trusted car checker platform that is linked up to all of the relevant data providers that include the DVLA and DVSA.

  • Enter the car’s VRM (number plate) into the car checker.
  • The system will then check the VRM against the DVLA database.
  • This will be done instantly so you will know: the full MOT history and status including mileage and fail/advisory notices too.
  • General vehicle specification data will also be provided alongside fuel, CO2 emissions, performance data and running costs too.

All of the above is provided for free by car checking platforms and the DVLA too.

What is included in a basic car check?

Getting yourself a basic car check which most car checker platforms provide gives you some additional information on the car’s history. This data can be useful in getting a little more understanding as to the true history of the vehicle that you are viewing.

Below is a list of some of the common checks that a basic car check will provide you with and some additional in-depth details to explain the check more.

All of the free check data is included with a basic car history check.

Keepers History Check: This check provides you with the number of owners that the vehicle has had since first registration.

This is an essential check and one that can point to any potential issues with the car. The general consensus is that the fewer owners that a vehicle has had, the higher the valuation it will demand.

Reviewing a car’s history of keeper’s ensures that you know if it has been potentially been unreliable or if there’s something else wrong with it such as being stolen. The point here is to ensure you understand what a high number of owners could potentially mean about the car.

That being said, newer cars may have multiple owners in a short space of time simply because it’s a common thing to do for some people. Buy a new car and it will ultimately get sold every year for a newer model. This can be a sales rep’s car and it’s worth asking about the history of the car.

Number Plate Change History: Generally speaking multiple number plate changes do not happen with cars. Apart from novelty plates and birthday presents it is rare to find a car that has had more than one number plate change in it’s lifetime, especially newer models.

Knowing how many times a car has had a number plate change could point to something more devious such as a stolen car. A number plate change really only happens because of a desirable configuration that matches somebody’s car make and model or their name, for example.

So consider this if you happen to be viewing a car that has had multiple number plates in it’s lifetime.

Colour Change Count: See how many times a car has had the colour changed on it. Again, most cars do not go through multiple colour changes in it’s lifetime. So knowing if the car has had any changes is ideal to help you ask some more questions around it’s history.

Multiple colour changes should be considered just as suspicious as multiple number plate changes. If there are multiple changes of both number plate and colour of the car, you need to leave that car alone as it will probably have a bad history.

Scrapped: Check if the vehicle has been recorded as scrapped with the DVLA. If this is the case then you cannot get any road tax, MOT, or insurance. So if you buy the car you will inevitably be left with an expensive piece of metal that you cannot do anything with.

VIC Inspected: This ensures that the vehicle you are looking to buy has not been issued with a V5C for a stolen or scrapped vehicle. A VIC inspection is generally conducted after heavy repairs were completed and the work need to be signed off as road worthy.

VIN/Chassis Number: This is considered a basic and easy check that can instantly tell you if the car that you are viewing has a major problem or not. A mismatched or missing VIN number will stop you from getting a full check or at least provide you data for a completely different car. Either way it’s important and needs to be run as a basic check.

Engine Number: Again mismatching numbers could mean that something is not right. As mentioned above with the VIN number – this is a crucial check to help understand if the car is OK or not.

What is included in a full car check?

All of the free and basic check data gets included into a full car check which is considered the best value for money. The vehicle history provided ensures plenty of information for peace of mind.

There are additional vehicle history checks that are included which includes:

Outstanding Finance Check: Owning a car that has outstanding finance means that you will have the car taken away by the finance company. You will not be compensated or given any cash for this either. Therefore, checking if a car has outstanding finance is crucial to avoid losing a lot of money.

Police Stolen Check: If a vehicle is stolen and you are in possession of it, the police will firstly take the car and then you will need to make it very clear that you never knew that the car was stolen. This is stressful and something that you do not need to have hanging over you just because you wanted to buy a car.

Running a police stolen check shows you if the car has been recorded as stolen and is in the police computers. If it is, don’t touch it and report it to the police if need be.

Certificate of Destruction: If the vehicle has been recycled by an ATF (Authorised Treatment Facility) it will have been given a certificate of destruction meaning that you cannot drive the car, insure it, get road tax for it or get it an MOT.

Insurance Write-Off Check: An insurance company will write a car off when the repairs are too expensive in comparison to the vehicle’s value. This means that in most cases the car was involved in a crash and it was given a category depending on how bad the damage is. There are categories that are not as severe such as Cat D which is normally light crash repaired and sold on.

High Risk Check: A car that is flagged as high risk is generally related to a financial issue that revolves around the ownership of the vehicle. This high risk check means that a 3rd party is tracking it so that it will be prevented from getting sold on. As you can imagine a high risk flag is one that should send you on your way.

Mileage Anomalies: It is becoming increasingly common in the UK for car’s to get their mileage changed from the true number. The reason is to simply increase the value of the car, generally speaking the fewer miles the car has the higher the valuation it can command. Mileage anomaly checks flag up any discrepancies from MOT tests that might be an issue. You can then dig deeper to find out what happened as it could be a genuine product fault.