How to do a background check on a car

How to do a background check on a car

We explain how you can easily do a background check on a car you may buy and what info you can get from it.

If you’re looking to buy a particular car, then you can arrange to have a background check run on it to ensure that there are no major issues or dodgy history lying beneath the surface. This type of check is far more popularly applied to used cars than new cars, but you are likely to find it most useful when looking at a ‘nearly new’ or pre-registered car.

In this guide we explain how you can run a background check on a car and what information you can learn from such a thing.

Information needed to run a check

You can run a background check on a vehicle either online or by using an appropriate phone app. DVLA online is one website you can use to run a background check on a car.

Before you start such a check on a car you’re interested in however you should find out its registration number, make and model and (if appropriate) its MOT test number from the seller. You’ll want to check that all of these details match up with what the seller says when you run the background check.

You’ll need at least the registration number and vehicle make to run a check and you can optionally add the V5C document reference number to check the car’s tax rates and the date it received its latest V5C certificate.

What a background check tells you about a car

A background check will not only confirm what vehicle the licence plate you’ve put down is assigned to, it will also reveal some past history, plus some things about its current status.

The details should include when the car was first registered, its colour, if it has been imported or exported, engine size, CO2 emissions and the year it was manufactured. Also shown will be when the car’s current tax expires, when its MOT expires, its SORN (Statutory Off Road Notification) status and current vehicle tax rate.

Depending on which provider you are using, you can also be informed on how many previous owners the car has had and whether the car you’re investigating is considered stolen, recorded as scrapped, or is an insurance write-off.

If the car you’re looking at is considered a write-off then it could still be fine if it’s considered a category C or D write-off, provided proper repair work has taken place. No car considered a category A or B write-off should be on the road or sold to unsuspecting motorists though.

If a car you’re considering buying turns out to be a category A or B write-off or stolen, then it’s time to walk away from the offer and inform the police.

Bear in mind that a background check can only tell you about what has been officially reported on a particular car. Just because a car has not been classed as an insurance write-off, that doesn’t guarantee the car has never been in an accident of some kind.

While a background check can provide some extra reassurance, it’s still worth being vigilant when buying a car and it's important to ask all the questions you need to confirm its authenticity.

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