How to check a car's full service history

How to check a car's full service history

Posted: 02/03/2021

You spent days trying to find your perfect used car and you are now ready to buy it, but you have that feeling that something just isn't right. Is it the price? Does the seller seem trustworthy? Does it have all the paperwork and service history? With so many scams and fake documents how can you reduce that feeling and get some peace of mind before buying the car?

In this post we are going to highlight any flags to look for, and what to do if you see one. We will also go through what checks you can complete online to help verify any history of the car.

What is Service History?

A vehicles service history is the collection of paperwork that shows a potential buyer what maintenance work has been carried out on a car and when. You will often find this paperwork is provided or stored along side a service book, this booklet should also be stamped by the dealerships or garages where a service is completed and vehicle was maintained.

In the perfect scenario the seller would have a FSH (full service history) where every document is present and maintenance is carried out to the manufacturer’s requirements.


How to spot fake Cars Service History Documents?

In recent years, there has been an increase in the amount of fake maintenance documents. Unfortunately, there is not a one-size-fits all, and we cannot say all you need to do is X to spot a fake. However, they are a few steps you can take and with a bit of common sense you will be able to spot anything that raises your eyebrows. So let’s start with the basics:

Ask to see a copy of the service book

Many used cars have a physical service history book which you should be able to view. Please be aware a newer car now have an online service history booklet. You are still able to view these digital service books before buying, but it just requires a few extra steps. Some manufacturers have sections on their website where you can request this, or you can also contact the local dealer directly. If you are unable to access this, you could ask the seller to provide this to you.

Carefully check the details in the service history book

If something doesn't seem right make notes of the garages listed on the service logs or take a picture. If the seller won't let you take a picture of this, this could be a flag that something is wrong and they are trying to hide something. Some people may not use well known garages or a main dealer to complete a vehicle service, so having this information will help you research the garage on Google. A common scam is to use real garage information but with fake service history details. As you have this information you will be able to contact the garage directly and check with them if they have completed any vehicle maintenance on the vehicle on the date shown on the sellers documents.

Check the Mileage

As a general rule of thumb, a shrive should occur around every 10-15,000 miles. Check the dates and the mileage between each service to help highlight and find any discrepancies. Please be aware for high performance sports cars, this should also have an initial 'running-in' service after a few thousand miles.

Check MOT details online

All MOT information, since 2005, can be viewed online by entering the 11-digit number for the V5C vehicle logbook into the Government website. This allows you to cross reference details paperwork held by the seller, such as the date and location.


Service History Abbreviations

Whilst most sellers, both private and trade, will show you the service history if requested. However, UK law states that trade sellers are required to advertise basic service history on any advertisement. This has lead to many abbreviations, these are:

FDSH – Full Dealer Service History

This can sometimes be referred to as a Main Dealer Service History (MDSH). This is when a car or vehicle has always been serviced by the vehicle manufacturer. For example, an Audi car always serviced at their local Audi dealer. This is the best type of service history, however, you can end up paying more for a used car with this.

FSH – Full Service History

This is when the vehicle has all of its service history documents. The service can be completed at a main dealer or private garage, however, no service has been missed or encountered a service fail.

PSH – Part Service History

This is where the previous owners have only fulfilled part of the service obligations. This can mean that the vehicle has missed service appointments, or have lost service documents.


Should you buy a used car with no service history?

In terms of the UK, it is imported to note that there is no specific law stating stating you must have a full, part or any vehicle service history when selling a vehicle. Therefore you could sell a 25 year old vehicle without any services or a 10 year old vehicle with no service records. If buying a used car without any service records or service history you do need to be very careful.

When it comes to vehicles, you generally spot a good owner from a poor owner. A good owner will generally keep the vehicle in good condition, and keep receipts (for larger vehicle items) and service records together. They usually keep this with their MOT, TAX and insurance documents. This allows you too quickly check service records. Where as a typical poor owner would not be bothered about the condition of the car and will often not keep good vehicle records.

Can I save money by buying a car without a Full Service History?

According to recent research, a vehicle with no or part service history tend to sell around 23% less than a vehicle with full service history. However, buying a vehicle with limited service history can be a larger risk. Car buyers love to see a used car with a full service history, but not every piece of missing history documentation can be automatically classified as a red flag. They are sometimes genuine reasons behind missing paperworks such as lost during moving homes.

How to find lost Service History or MOT documents to increase your cars value

As well as buyers wanting to complete a vehicle's service history check, sellers may also want to do this to increase the value of the car. By spending a little time tracking it down, it will give buyers more reassurance and potentially increase the vehicles value and make selling the car far easier.

Most garages have computer records where they can check the service records and reprint any documents. As long as you know where the car was serviced, it shouldn't be too difficult to build the history back up. If these missing documents are caused by previous owners, have a look at which documents they did have, and contact the garages to see if it was serviced there. For example, if they have a record of a service in 2015 and 2018 at Garage XYZ, but missing ones in-between its likely it was also done at the same place.

Is there such a thing as a ‘Full Service History Check’?

There is no such thing as a one stop shop to complete a full service history check from us or any other provider. Whilst you can gather some service documents yourself, and contact garages to check the service records. If you want to check for other hidden factors which can help make you decision easier and bring even more peace of mind you can complete Reg Check with us simply by entering the car registration number. This will check against things such as outstanding finance, police records, insurance write off information, import and export information and so much more.

Summary: There is not a one stop shop to complete a service history check. Gather as much information as you can from the seller, and take notes/pictures of the service documents to allow you to cross reference these. It may seem like a lengthy process, but by checking the service book, log book and completing a simple Reg Check you can reduce the risk of buying a vehicle which problems and save you money in the long term.