When buying a used vehicle, you should always do a car history check. It’s cheap to do and it’ll give you lots of really useful information. In addition, a vehicle history check will help you spot car scams and if the vehicle’s stolen too. But that’s not all. There’s lots of info in a car check and some of it can be used to negotiate a better deal. So, join us as we explore everything you need to know about a vehicle history check, from what they are, to why they’re important.

What is a vehicle history check?

A vehicle history check provides a detailed look into the car’s past using its registration number to compile information. This info is usually taken from the DVLA, its service history, police databases, insurer information, and private databases. Basic car history checks, which are usually free, will tell you:

  • The make and model and colour of the car
  • The engine specification
  • MOT history and details
  • Tax status and due date
  • The insurance group
  • The car’s CO2 emissions

More detailed vehicle history checks cost a small fee, but are definitely worth the cost. Why? Because these will give you the above info and a whole lot more. Typically, this includes:

  • If there’s outstanding finance on the car
  • If the car’s reported as stolen
  • If the car’s been classed as an insurance write-off
  • If the mileage is incorrect
  • Logbook verification
  • Whether VIN numbers and the V5C match

Why should you do a vehicle history check?

If you’re buying a used car, you should always do a vehicle history check. It’ll give you peace of mind and reassurance when buying and a whole lot of info to boot. Car history checks can also check car service history and tell you if the vehicle’s been involved in an accident and if it’s been scrapped. It’s one of the best ways to avoid car scams, but also your best bet to get a detailed picture about the car’s past. This invaluable info can help you steer clear of dodgy deals and vehicles with troubled service records.

At the same time, the information could also be used to negotiate a better car price. For example, let’s say you we’re looking to buy a used Ford Fiesta, you could use its registration to check the MOT history of the car and see if it’s had any recurring problems or faults. It could give you a good indication if the vehicle’s been looked after or not. And you could potentially use this knowledge as a haggling point with the car’s seller.

Similarly, if you weren’t sure which one of two cars to buy, say the Hyundai Tucson and Nissan Juke, you could do a history check to help you decide. Looking into the past of the two, you can see which one has had the least problems.

How to check a car’s history?

How to check car history is easy to do and it can save you a lot of potential hassle down the line too. You’ll want to follow these steps when buying a used car to check the condition and status of the vehicle. To check a car’s history, you should:

  1. Run a car history check online
  2. Do a free MOT history check (more on that later)
  3. Use the mileage from the above to see if it corresponds to the car’s mileage
  4. Find out if the vehicle’s been involved in an accident or stolen
  5. Check if the car has outstanding finance
  6. Always view the vehicle in person to see if it matches its history

In addition, you should physically check the car and make sure the Vehicle Identification Numbers (VIN) match to ensure its true identity. We have an expert guide that’ll tell you all about VIN numbers and where to find them. You should also check there is a full service history and that the V5C vehicle registration is listed with the current owner and that it is legitimate with the DVLA watermark.

How to check vehicle history for free

You can do a free car history check at Gov.uk, which provides information from the DVLA. It’ll give you the basic info about the car – such as its make and model, colour and fuel type – plus, whether it passed its MOT and whether its taxed or not. It’ll also tell you when the MOT expires and when the tax is due. To do this free vehicle history check, simply:

  1. Visit Gov.uk
  2. Click ‘Start now’
  3. Enter the car’s registration number
  4. Click ‘Continue’
  5. Check the details and select ‘Yes’ if correct
  6. Hit ‘Continue’ – and you’ll be shown the relevant info

It’s that easy and definitely worth taking the time to do. There are additional online firms that offer free vehicle history checks too. These typically provide the same information as above, but with the option to purchase a more detailed car history check.

Nonetheless, they’re still very useful. No matter what make and model you’re buying – whether it’s an Audi, a Hyundai, a Skoda, or a Volkswagen – always spend some time looking over the car’s history.

How to check a car’s MOT history?

Check a car’s MOT history in these 6 easy steps. It’s simple to do and it’s completely free. It’ll give you lots of handy info all about the car’s past MOTs, whether there were any faults and whether it required servicing. You can do this free MOT history check at Gov.uk for all cars tested from 2005 in England, Scotland, and Wales. Simply:

  1. Have the vehicle registration number ready
  2. Log on to the free MOT history check at Gov.uk
  3. Click the ‘Start Now’ button
  4. Enter the car’s registration number
  5. Click ‘Continue
  6. And voila – you’ll be taken to the car’s MOT history

Again, it’s quick and simple to do. On top of that, the information can help you get a better picture of the car you’re looking to buy. From its condition, its owner’s care, to any recurring problems.

What’s in a car MOT history check?

The free MOT history check at Gov.uk gives you all the info from the car’s past MOT checks. It’s invaluable knowledge for when buying a used car, so you should always take the time to do one. The information includes:

  • If the car passed or failed its MOT
  • The mileage recorded at the MOT
  • Where the test was done
  • Any problems and what parts failed
  • When the car’s next MOT is due
  • If there’s a manufacturer recall

Where can I get a free vehicle history report in the UK?

How to check car history for free is easy. You can visit the aforementioned Gov.uk sites for the free MOT history check and DVLA information. Paired together, you’ll get a wealth of invaluable info on the car’s past.

You can also get a free car history report online at a number of popular firms. These typically provide the same information that’s offered by Gov.uk, with more detailed info available for a modest fee. Again, they’re well worth doing to help you build a complete picture of the used vehicle’s past.

Why should you do a paid vehicle history check?

Whilst you can get a vehicle history check for free, the info that it provides will be basic, although still very useful. Paid car history checks, like those offered by HPI Check – the first to introduce the vehicle history check – go into a lot more detail. They’re inexpensive too, and definitely worth the small fee. Such car history checks will tell you if the vehicle:

  • Is stolen, scrapped, or an insurance write-off
  • Has any outstanding finance on it
  • Has any discrepancies in the mileage
  • Has been imported or exported
  • The number of previous owners
  • And a whole lot more


They’re also really helpful against car scams. Plus, some include safety recall data too. So, you can find out if the specific car has been recalled by the manufacturer due to a critical safety issue.


How much do car history checks cost?

Naturally, you won’t pay anything for a free vehicle history check. For the car history checks by the likes of HPI, it usually costs around £10, with a more comprehensive check with even greater information at around £20. There are other companies that offer a history check for as little as £2 to £4, but these might not provide as much info. Be sure to check what’s included before you buy.

Checking a car’s history on Motors.co.uk

Whatever make and model you’re looking to buy – or even if you’re looking to sell your car – we offer greater peace of mind with our very own vehicle history check. We work with industry leaders HPI Check to confirm the identity of all the cars listed on our site. We check to see if all cars listed with us are classed as stolen, scrapped, or written-off. This means you can buy with confidence, knowing the vehicles you search with us have been through a thorough screening check.

Remember, you should still check all the details of the car listed by and with the seller. And we still recommend you do your own research and vehicle history checks too. Doing so, will make it a habit when shopping for a car and make you much less likely to fall victim to car scams. You can read more about our History Check to see what’s included, what we don’t check, and what our symbols mean.

Car history checks are a useful thing to do before buying a used car, as they’ll give you lots of handy info about the car’s past. Paid vehicle history checks for a small fee will also tell you if the car’s stolen or been scrapped – protecting you against car scams.