How to find your car’s service history

Written by Hejab Azam

6 December, 2019

Checking a car’s service history is one of the most crucial steps when buying a vehicle. A service record is a log of all the work that has ever been carried out on a car and when it was done, and is important for prospective buyers (and sellers) who want to know the true value and condition of a car before investing. The service history works to reassure drivers that the car’s mileage is accurate and to highlight any repairs made during a service. 

A service is carried out on a vehicle periodically to keep it in the best condition possible and ensure roadworthiness. Maintenance work can range from major jobs such as cam belts, tyre changes or engine problems to minor issues such as fluid inspections and oil changes. Drivers can either go for a full service annually or an interim service every six months. Every bit of work carried out is recorded in either a computerised or physical log by a licensed garage.

Why is a service history important?

When considering buying or selling a car, it’s important to make sure that the car has a full service record of all of the work carried out on it. If the service history is incomplete or missing, you risk buying a car with faults that require immediate attention, or greatly affect the final price if selling. Selling a car without a full service history is likely to lower the value of the vehicle, as buyers will gravitate towards a car with a repair history for peace of mind. 

So, how can you find your own car’s service history and make sure it’s up to date?

Check the DVLA website

Though it may not detail all of the service history, the DVLA website does provide access to some key data. Visiting the DVLA’s Vehicle Information Checker lets you see information such as:

  • MOT details (including due date)
  • Car tax (and due date)
  • Tax rates
  • Date of registration
  • Fuel type
  • Engine size
  • Vehicle status
  • CO2 emissions

There’s also a tool that allows you to view the car’s MOT history, including the mileage recorded when it was tested, whether it passed or failed, and when its next MOT is due. It allows you to check up on your own car as well as the status of any cars being advertised, although results are only available for tests done in England, Scotland or Wales since 2005. All you need to check the status of a car is its registration number and 11-digit number from the logbook to see the MOT test location.

Find the logbook

Most cars come with a logbook that is included in a pouch, alongside a handbook and other useful documents – often kept in the glovebox. The logbook proves that you’re the registered owner of the vehicle and is the traditional way to keep track of a service history. When your car goes into the garage, mechanics will record any work done on the car along with the date, the current mileage and any other relevant information in the logbook. 

This helps to keep track of what work has previously been done for future reference, and works as a point of reference when the owner sells the car on. It’s crucial to keep track of your logbook, as selling a vehicle without a V5C certificate means new drivers won’t be able to tax it. As a result, the DVLA explicitly advises motorists not to buy a vehicle if it doesn’t have a logbook. Applying for a new logbook takes around six weeks and costs £25.

Contact the manufacturer

Many car manufacturers now keep online service records of any car maintained at a franchise dealer. This helps avoid unnecessary paperwork and keeps everything secure, allowing drivers to access their car’s history at the touch of a button. The only issue is that this relies on the car being serviced regularly by the original dealers, which can often be a more expensive way of maintaining a car. If you use an independent garage, you won’t be able to find a service history through the manufacturers, but there should still be a paper trail with that same garage if they keep a record of their previous jobs.

Contact the previous owner

If you’ve bought a second-hand car and are without a service book, you may need to get in touch with the previous owner to find out if they’ve kept it by accident. If you’ve purchased the car online and there was the acronym ‘FSH’ featured in the advert, there should be a full service history alongside the car. They’ll be under no obligation to help you trace the documents, but it’s worth a try in an attempt to piece together the history of the car.

Selling a car with no service history

If you need to sell your car but can’t find the service history, don’t panic. If you’ve contacted the manufacturer and asked them to tell you what they can about your car using the VIN number (located on the car’s door frame or in the engine compartment) and pieced together MOT data online, there may be enough to go on for prospective buyers to feel comfortable purchasing the vehicle. If you can, your best option is to purchase a new logbook and have your car serviced prior to listing it for sale, as cars with a service history generally go for 20% more than their unregulated counterparts.

In summary...

Selling a car with no service history can be risky and result in a reduced price, but it’s not impossible to do if you have the car’s logbook and the vehicle looks to be in good condition. If you’re unsure about purchasing a secondhand car with an incomplete or missing service history, you may want to consider buying or leasing a new car. 

At AMT, we’re committed to providing a quality service that’s tailored to you. If you’re looking for a new lease car, contact our dedicated team today on 0113 387 4241 to find your ideal match.

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