Top Tips on checking a used car history part 1

Before you buy a new or second-hand car, you need to do a little homework and find out the used car history.

faulty ford galaxy on the back of an AA breakdown truck

My Ford Galaxy, 23 days after I bought it.
The turbocharger blew

I hate buying a car, I hate it with a passion. I’ve bought so many dodgy used cars where I didn’t know my legal rights or didn’t research the used car history or the dealer that I’ve learnt the hard way what checks need to be done. I am sharing all this in the hopes that you will avoid the pitfalls and disasters that I faced and hopefully help you find the perfect car.

Researching a Used Car History

Once you’ve found a car you like the look of and you’re interested in buying. Maybe you saw it on a website or maybe on the forecourt of a garage as you passed. Before you go to look at it, it’s time to do a little research to help you decide if it is worth going to look at a car.

There are free checks you can do, which are always the first checks I carry out before going to look at a car, these checks will help you find the used car history.

We’re looking for a new little runaround for hubby to get too and from work, whilst our faulty people carrier still sits waiting for our day in court with the dealer. This means I can share our experience as we search for the perfect car and check out the used car history, researching the dealer and finally to visiting and checking out the car and maybe buying it.

On his way home from work hubby spotted some cars outside a dealership that were within our price range. Admittedly with all our finances tied up in our people carrier and with hubby just starting a new job after being unemployed since November, our price range isn’t very much. His current car, which was only bought until we got a people carrier, is on its last legs and isn’t going to last much longer.

Hubby managed to make a note of the cars registration plate as well as the make and model, which is vital information to research the used car history. He took a picture of the back of the car, which clearly showed the licence plate, make and model and even the trim. Just by the one picture he took, I was able to see the make, model and trim of the car, as well as the licence plate.

Comparing the cars and checking the MOT history

The two cars were a 16-year-old  Ford Mondeo Zetec and an 18-year-old Vauxhall Tigra.

2002 Ford Mondeo vehicle detailsThe first step was checking out the  MOT and Tax Status and entering the registration number into the website. This gives you the current tax and MOT status. It also gives you the vehicle make, date of first registration, year of manufacture, cylinder capacity, co2 emissions, fuel type, export marker, vehicle colour, vehicle type approval, and wheel plan.

The MOT for the Mondeo runs out on the 18th March 2018 and it is taxed (although nowadays you cannot pass the tax on with the vehicle so it doesn’t really matter that much). The Tigre MOT expired in December 2017 and it is declared SORN (Statutory Off Road Notification). It could be that the dealer has already put an MOT on the vehicles but it isn’t showing yet on the website. So I need to ask the dealer if he is going to MOT it before I buy it or has he recently MOT’d it. Either option would mean the vehicle has 12 months MOT. If he hasn’t, then I risk buying a car which fails its MOT and I have to spend more money getting it through the test. Therefore, unless the dealer puts and MOT on the vehicle, I will not buy it.

2002 ford mondeo mot historyThe next step is to find out more about the MOT history. You can see if the car had any advisories or warnings on its last MOT as these might not have been repaired and the mileage of the car when the MOT took place which will give you an idea of the current mileage. You can also check the MOT history, including the mileage and whether there are any recurrent warnings, for the last 13 years.

mot history mileage discrepancy exampleWhen checking the mileage, check for any discrepancies. My last car, a Renault Grand Scenic had to have the dashboard replaced at one point and because of it, the mileage was out by approximately 40, 000 miles. This showed up on the MOT history check as the mileage from one MOT to the next lowered. The website showed the mileage 35,861 in 2009 and then 8,996 in 2010. Luckily the car came with a service history with all the paperwork and this showed that the dashboard had been replaced by Renault and that had wiped the electronic mileage. In this case, there was a genuine reason why, but sometimes it could be caused by someone tampering with the mileage.

The Next Step

Once you’ve looked at the cars MOT history and you’re still interested, it’s time to find out more about the car. For this, I use Parkers website to get an idea of the cost to buy a similar car, how many miles to the gallon the car can do, a rough idea of the cost to tax the car,  the power of the car and other car information.

For the Mondeo, I can see that the car;

Ford Mondeo (200-2007 hatchback Parkers Rating 4.0 Pros - Spacious, great to drive, comfortable ride, wide choice of engines and trim levels. Cons - Heavy depreciation

  • Used Price range £165-£985
  • Fuel Consumption 37 mpg
  • Insurance Group 17
  • Annual Road Tax £240-£280
  • Power 123bhp
  • Top Speed 127mph
  • 0-60mph 10.6 secs
  • Torque 170Nm
  • CO2 Emissions 182 g/km
  • Euro Emissions Standard 3
  • Miles Per Tank 472 miles
  • Engine Size 1798cc
  • Cylinders 4
  • Valves 16
  • Fuel Type Petrol
  • Transmission Manual
  • Gearbox 5 Speed
  • Drivetrain Front Wheel Drive

For the Tigre, I can see that the car;

Vauxhall Tigra (1994-2001) Parkers Review Pros - Cute styling. Cons - Dull to drive, cramped back seats, sluggish performance

  • Used Price Range £135-£740
  • Fuel Consumption 36mpg
  • Insurance Group 25
  • Annual Road Tax £245
  • Power 104bhp
  • Top Speed 126 mph
  • 0-60 in 9.5 secs
  • Torque 148 Nm
  • CO2 Emissions 183 g/km
  • Euro Emissions Standard 2
  • Miles per Tank 364miles
  • Engine Size 1598cc
  • Cylinders 4
  • Valves 16
  • Fuel Type Petrol
  • Transmission Manual
  • Gearbox 5 speed
  • Drivetrain Front wheel drive

Parkers will then review the car for you with the trim options, what comes as standard, possible upgrades and then a score (out of 5 with 5 best) for occupant protection and Interior & Boot Space etc.

Next Step

After researching all this information, I found myself leaning towards the Mondeo. I spoke to the dealer, who is a local and respected dealer and I have heard good reports from people who have bought a car from him. He put a full 12 months MOT on the car and gave us money off for our old car and he also told us that if there were any problems to get in touch. As the car looked tidy inside and out, especially for its age, with the fresh MOT and at a price we could afford. We went for it and hubby is now the proud owner of a Ford Mondeo.

2005 Nissan Micra behind a 2002 Ford Mondeo

Hubby’s old car, the Micra in the background and his new car, the Mondeo

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