How to Check a Used Car’s History Online Before Making a Purchase

There are countless benefits to buying a used car, but it’s very important that you know exactly what you’re paying for. You should always check the car’s history, as this will give you a good idea of how well it’s been looked after and how much more life is left in it.

Dealerships will usually be able to give you an extensive history of the car in person, but this requires you going into the dealership, when you might not even be that sure about the car.

Another easier and faster way to check a used car’s history is online. You can get an extensive history of the car from the comfort of your own home without purchasing it, or even enquiring further with the dealership.

Remember the Number Plate

The more information you have about the car for the history check, the better, but the only thing you really need is the number plate. Most dealerships will have photographs of the car along with some basic information. Once you’ve identified the car you are the most interested in, then you are ready to take the next step.

The number plate can reveal a lot
The number plate can reveal a lot

Find a Company

There are numerous websites online that you can use to find out different parts of a car’s history. Below is a guide to some of the top websites to look out for and what they can help you discover.


The DVLA (Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency) is a completely free database to use and can tell you the year of manufacture, date of first registration, engine capacity, colour, current tax expiry date and the tax rate.

If the details listed on this database don’t match the vehicle then the car may have been given another car’s identity. This is illegal, though not completely unheard of amongst used cars. This is one reason you should buy from a reputable dealer, as this seriously reduces the risk of this identity fraud occurring.

One of the other most helpful facts you can learn from the DVLA website is how much the car will cost in tax every year.


A history check, sometimes referred to as a data check, can inform you of whether the car has been reported stolen, still has finance owing, has suffered any serious accident damage in the past, and the mileage.

Cars with a lower mileage are more desirable, so people may fraudulently turn back the mileage reader on the car to make it look like it has done less miles. Checking through websites such as the AA or RAC will let you know the official mileage of the car.

All you need to complete this check is the car number plate. However, this service isn’t free. There is a discount available if you want to check more than one car, otherwise you’ll be looking at paying approximately £15-£20. There will be other websites that appear to be cheaper, but the legitimacy of those websites may be unconfirmed.

Finding out a used cars history is important
Finding out a used cars history is important

Vehicle and Operator Service Agency 

Finally, by logging onto the Vehicle and Operator Service Agency (part of the website) you can check a car’s MOT. In the UK it is a legal requirement to have an MOT every year.

You can check the current MOT certificate and the vehicle registration certificate through this website, completely for free. This is only available for cars in England, Wales and Scotland, as Northern Ireland is not yet covered.


Checking a used car’s history online is an easy way to find out more information about a potential car without even having to leave your home. There is a wealth of information available about used cars and their history online so why not check the facts from the comfort of your own armchair?



Image credits: woody1778a and rptnorris