Last updated December 22, 2022
When buying a second-hand car, it is important to check the service history of the vehicle. This way, you can be sure that all necessary maintenance has been performed and that any potential problems have already been addressed.
In this guide, we’ll cover how to find the service history of a vehicle and the steps you can take to piece together a missing service history. We’ll also explain why service history matters, whether you’re selling your car – or shopping for a new one.
To obtain the service history of a UK-registered vehicle, you’ll need to know its registration number. If you have the names of any garages or dealerships where your vehicle has previously been serviced, you may also be able to contact them to obtain your vehicle’s servicing data.
This can allow you to put together a complete (or at least partially complete) service history for the vehicle. If you do not have the names of the relevant garages or dealerships to hand – or are unable to find all the information you’re looking for, don’t despair – there are other methods available to obtain service history records.
There are numerous free and paid car service history checking services available online that may be able to assist you in retrieving some (or all) of a vehicle’s service records.
Using your vehicle’s registration number, these tools scour the internet for any service history records that exists online.
It is also worth running your vehicle’s registration number through our free car check tool, which can reveal whether it has a hidden history.
There are several ways to check whether a car has a complete service record. One way is by checking with your mechanic or garage before buying the vehicle. Your mechanic should be able to provide details of any work that has been carried out - and any parts that have been replaced.
You can also learn more about a vehicle by referring to its Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) – this is unique to every car and contains details such as its age, place of manufacture and engine size.
There are several avenues you can explore when searching for a car’s missing service history:
The first step is to collect as much information as possible about the vehicle's past owners and any services carried out. If you bought the car second hand, contact the previous owner to see if they have any documentation or receipts they can provide.
You can also try searching online databases such as DVLA Vehicle Records that contain details of past MOT tests, which can then be used to contact garages and dealerships that may hold some of the vehicle’s service history details. When using the DVLA website, you’ll need the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) to then obtain the previous MOT testing locations.
In the UK, reputable car dealers should provide evidence or documentation of any servicing work that has been carried out on any used cars they are selling. This could include an invoice from a garage with details of the services, or confirmation from an independent inspector that repairs have been carried out correctly.
If these documents cannot be provided, then this may raise doubts about its authenticity - although not necessarily for nefarious reasons; sometimes paperwork gets lost over time.
Regular servicing is essential to ensure that your car performs as it should. It also helps to prevent and identify any problems that may arise due to wear and tear over time.
Having a full record of the work carried out on your vehicle allows you to quickly troubleshoot any issues with the knowledge that qualified mechanics have looked at it previously.
This can save a great deal of money in terms of repairs in the longer term – and provide assurance when driving or when the time comes to sell the vehicle on.
After all, an incomplete service history will affect the price and appeal of your vehicle on the second-hand market. To find out how much your vehicle may be worth with a full service history, enter its registration number into our free car valuation tool.
If you are considering purchasing a vehicle without any service records, it's important to remember that you won't know what kind of maintenance has been done on the car throughout its life.
You could be buying a vehicle that's never been serviced at all – meaning that there may be underlying issues which have gone unnoticed until now. Additionally, without any proof of servicing from experienced mechanics, you won't have any way of knowing whether parts have been replaced correctly or if the work carried out was up to standard.
‘Full service history’ generally means that all scheduled servicing has been completed as recommended by the manufacturer at regular intervals throughout the life of a vehicle. This includes both minor and major services from any garage, providing the work was carried out in line with the requirements set by the manufacturer.
Main dealer service history refers to services carried out at an official dealership – usually one affiliated with the make or model of your car. These dealerships are authorised to carry out maintenance according to manufacturer specifications and use genuine parts where necessary. Although not always essential, having a main dealer service history can add value when you come to sell your car in future.
Buyers may find themselves having to pay more for future repairs or servicing should they encounter hidden faults after the point of purchase. So, while a missing service history may reduce the initial price of a vehicle, buying a car with no service history could prove costly and potentially dangerous further down the line.