How to check a car before you’ve seen it | AA Cars

If you’re buying a used car, it’s always useful to get as much information on the vehicle you’re after as possible, as it can be a good bargaining tool and give you extra power when buying the vehicle.

Checking a vehicle’s history has never been so simple, as you can find the vehicle you’re after and put the number plate into an online checker to find out almost everything about a car.

We take a look at how you can access this all-important information, and find out what kind of condition it’s likely to be in, before you even seen it in person.

What information do you need?

If you’ve found a vehicle that on the surface you’re happy with and you feel that checking out its past online will give you extra peace of mind, you need to ask the current owner for as much relevant information about the vehicle as possible.

For most checkers, you’ll need the make and model, as well as the number plate – and with those details you’ll be able to get a good idea of how the vehicle has done in MOT tests, if it’s been taxed, and whether it’s still registered to be on the road.

Online history checks

The internet is home to multiple vehicle checkers that can provide almost all the information you’ll ever need about any car on the road. 

The best way to get extra details on the vehicle is by using online vehicle checkers, which are offered by the government or through private services – both types provide almost all the information on a vehicle you might ever need.

It’s best to start your research with the government’s vehicle information checker. This takes data from the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) and confirms whether the car you’re looking at is the one paired to the registration number. It also gives you information on when the vehicle was first registered, the MOT and vehicle tax expiry date, Statutory Off Road Notification (SORN) status, and even the engine and car colour.

AA checks

Assuming you’re happy with the basic information from the government sites, and that there are no serious inconsistencies with the car as advertised, then you may want to consider a more detailed history check. The AA Vehicle Checker shows you almost everything there is to know about a car for just £6. You’ll see the vehicle’s full history, including:

  • Outstanding car finance or loans
  • Reported as stolen
  • Insurance write-offs
  • Incorrect mileage
  • Number of previous owners
  • Number plate transfers
  • Scrapped by the DVLA
  • Registration certificate (V5C) match
  • Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) match
  • Logbook information verification
  • Imported or exported
  • Over 72 other pieces of information

After the check, you’ll receive a full report on the vehicle, and you can see how that would look by viewing a sample version here.

After seeing all that you need to know about the vehicle’s past, you can then have the car fully checked over by an AA engineer through the Vehicle Inspection service.

MOT checks

By getting the vehicle’s registration number, you’ll also be able to see how the vehicle has performed over the years through its mandatory roadworthiness test. If the car you’re looking at is less than 3 years old though, it won’t have been through an MOT yet.

By going to the government’s MOT history checker and by typing in the vehicle’s registration, you’ll be able to see whether the car has passed or failed its MOTs throughout its time on the road.

The site will also show what caused the vehicle to fail and, following the MOT regulation change in 2018, what advisories the vehicle has so you can keep an eye on what may be an issue going forward with the vehicle.


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