We know it may sound like a lot. But we’re here to help you out. Here’s all you need to know about doing a car registration check.

What is a car reg check?

Whether you call it car reg check, car registration check or a vehicle history check, it’s the process of researching a cars history, its owners, its servicing, any outstanding finance or write-off. Simple.

How to do a car registration check?

Doing a car reg check sounds more complicated than it is. In fact, you can run some basic checks on government sites like the DVLA and the DVSA, the first one if great to check tax and MOT status, and the second will give you a comprehensive MOT history of any vehicle.

For more in-depth vehicle checks there are plenty of companies who offer them. The HPI check is one of the industry’s favourite and the one that Motors.co.uk work with.

DVLA vehicle check

The most basic car registration check is the one you can do using the DVLA website. It’s free and really straightforward. Here you will be able to check:

  • Tax status of the car you want to buy
  • MOT status
  • Basic information about the car: registration date, engine size, fuel type and colour.

All these things will come in real handy when you want to validate a car’s past. Just remember to have the car’s registration number (aka. the number plate) handy before doing a DVLA vehicle check.

MOT history check

The DVSA website is another useful government tool. This one gives you a free full MOT history of any vehicle. You will need the car’s number plate and the 11-digit number from the vehicle’s log book to the test location.

Having the MOT history of a car gives you a very accurate indication as to if the car has been looked after, it lists when the model has failed and details any advisories it has had, which could be a bargaining point if the issues haven’t been sorted.

You can also use the MOT history check to verify the car’s mileage and to make sure it’s not been ‘clocked’ with a lower mileage. To top it all, this government tool is easy as pie to use.

Check if the car has been recalled because of safety issues

Checking if a car has been recalled at some point of its life is part of an MOT History check. Again, easy and free to check. You may want to make sure you also check for that, free of charge, on the government site.

Check if the logbook isn’t for a stolen vehicle

When you’re doing a car registration check with the DVLA it will show you the V5C vehicle registration certificate and its serial number. When you go to see the car check that the log book has a ‘DVL’ watermark and the serial number and details match the ones the government site has given you. If it doesn’t and the serial number is between BG8229501 to BG9999030, or BI2305501 to BI2800000, then the vehicle may be stolen and you should call the police as soon as it’s safe to.

You can check the vehicle registration number on the gov.uk website.

What is an HPI check?

An HPI check is the industry standard for vehicle history checks and it stands for ‘Hire Purchase Investigation’, the name of the company that does it and that is one of the first to provide this service. At Motors.co.uk we work with HPI to check the car you want to buy. That way there won’t be any hidden surprises.

You can do a more in-depth full check from HPI for around £20. It’s really good value for money and will give you peace of mind that the car you are buying has no hidden secrets.

What sort of information does an HPI check give you?

  • If the car has been stolen
  • If the car has been scrapped
  • If the car has been written off by an insurer
  • If the car has been imported or exported
  • If the car has its original number plate or it has been changed
  • The car’s original colour
  • The car’s mileage
  • The car’s previous owners
  • VIN/Chassis numbers
  • MoT status
  • Road tax / Fuel costs

For more information on how Motors.co.uk works with HPI, have a look at our car History Check guide.

What physical documents do you need to check in a car registration check?

You should basically look out for two physical documents in any car registration check:

  • A full and up-to-date service history
  • The V5C registration document

The V5C document is a slip of paper that only the registered owner or dealer should have. If you can’t see it and it is nowhere to be found, be wary of the vehicle and its owner since it could mean that the car is stolen.

Other checks

Once you’ve done your DVLA, MOT and HPI check you may want to do some further checks on the car you’re interested in. We’ll discuss here physical car checks and car insurance checks. Let’s go!

Physical car check

When you see the car physically, it’s time to check a few more things before you buy it.

  • VIN Number (Vehicle Identification Number): you need to make sure that the 17-digit number stamped on the chassis, at the bottom of the windscreen and on stickers in the door openings matches the one you got on your HPI vehicle check. If these don’t match, don’t buy the car.
  • Damage: it may sound obvious but checking a car for damage is something that should be done. Check for dents, scuffs and scratches.
  • Mileage: does it match the condition of the vehicle? Is the car very old but has low miles on the clock? Make sure you’re getting what you’re paying for and no one has tampered with the mileage.
  • Body panels: do they match? Are they the same colour? Has the car been repainted?
  • Mechanical checks: it never hurts to bring along someone who knows about car mechanics to check over a car before purchasing it.

These days more and more people are buying their cars online. You’ll still have to do all the necessary checks listed in our guide to buying a car online.

Car insurance checks

More than checking whether the car owner has car insurance (they should, by the way), ask yourself if your existing car insurance covers you on other cars. If you’re planning on test-driving your potential new vehicle, then you should be. If not, you can always take out a short-term policy so that you are covered.

Now that we’ve covered all the basics of vehicle registration checks you’re in a much better place to buy your next car without missing anything.