As many of us can’t afford to buy a new car outright or don’t have a sufficiently high income to be able to afford the monthly repayments on a leased vehicle, we’re left with the prospect of buying our next vehicle on the secondhand market. Although there are many reputable used car dealers that offer cars with full service histories, there are still some that will sell you a car with a slightly more sketchy history… or none at all.

This, of course, applies to buying a second-hand car from a different source. If you’re looking at changing your car, you may consider buying from a local car auction or it could be online websites like Gumtree, eBay or Exchange and Mart, to name just a few. Aside from the risk of buying a “lemon” (which is a car with serious mechanical faults or other worrying defects), you could be about to part with your cash for a car whose true mileage is far higher than the speedometer suggests or that has a lot of problems that you’ll only discover when its next MOT test is due. This can be tricky if you’re buying an imported car as it’s more difficult to verify the car’s history but here in the UK, there’s an easy and free way to do it.

Reliable online MOT and mileage checking

If you’ve recently bought a car or are considering buying an economical runaround that doesn’t have any old MOT certificates to prove the mileage or history, you may not be aware that you can find all the past information quite easily on the Government’s website. All you need is the vehicle’s VRN (vehicle registration number) which is more commonly known as its number plate. Armed with this single but crucial piece of information, you can view every single MOT the car has ever had since 2005. This includes what it’s previously failed on and any current or former advisories that weren’t serious enough for it to fail on. You’ll also get the car’s mileage listed for every MOT too. This will at least give you a better idea if the car is likely to have a prolonged life or will soon be ready for the scrap heap.

How to check

To do this, simply visit this page, of the Gov.uk website and click “Start Now”. This will take you to the next page where you’ll be able to enter the registration number of the vehicle. Once done, hey presto!, you’ll get a ton of really useful information completely free, that can help you decide whether or not the car you want is all it’s cracked up to be. One final thing to bear in mind is that you’ll only get results for any tests that were done in England, Scotland or Wales since 2005.

A summary of what you’ll be able to find out for free:

  • if the vehicle passed or failed
  • the mileage recorded on the speedo when it was tested
  • the location of where each test was done (only available you have the 11-digit number on the vehicle’s log book (V5C)
  • what parts failed at each of the tests, and if there were any parts that had minor problems
  • when the vehicle’s next MOT test is due

Knowledge is power

It’s worth mentioning that, when armed with accurate information regarding all of the above, this can greatly improve your bargaining power when it comes to the nitty-gritty of haggling with the seller to get the best price. In other words, if you can point out that the car may need a new exhaust, bush replacements or some welding in the future due to rust, you’ll be able to negotiate a lower price if the seller is aware that you know what you’re letting yourself in for. Also consider the time of year to buy, as some sellers will be looking for a quick sale before Christmas or before their summer holiday starts so they can raise some extra cash.

We hope you’ve found this post useful and are reassured that you won’t need the services of Sherlock Holmes and can simply do your own sleuthing when it comes to buying your next car.

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