Vehicle check blog

Using free and paid database checks to learn used car history

A step-by-step guide to checking a second hand car

Private motorists can access a range of useful data and check any vehicle that is currently registered in the UK with DVLA. This includes imported car, vans and motorcycles although available information may be more limited to those registered in Britain, from new.

What information is available?

Depending on reasons for needing vehicle history, there are a number of open source databases that divulge particulars.

DVLA (now managed by Gov.uk) provides the main source for car history checks.

Get information about a vehicle from DVLA

To access services, you need a VRM to start (vehicle reg mark). Motorists use this service to check the follow vehicle specs:

  1. Vehicle details
  2. Vehicle road tax including expiry date, road tax costs/rates, CO2 output
  3. MOT information including expiry date, MOT history including causes of past failure and advisory notes
  4. First date of registration in the UK – be mindful, vehicles imported into the UK have a first date of registration as it relates to import. The date of reg does not always dictate age
  5. V5C Registration document issue date – DVLA provides issue date of the latest V5C
  6. Vehicle type approval category
  7. Manufacturer year – this excludes imported cars, vans and motorcycles
  8. Engine size in cc
  9. Fuel type (petrol/diesel/hybrid/electric)
  10. Vehicle weight
  11. CO2 Driving emissions levels as per European status

To get all of the information, visit DVLA via Gov.uk with a car reg number to check.

Motor insurance database checks

This free vehicle check service is helpful. askMID is a part of the Motor Insurance Bureau (MIB) and discloses if a vehicle is insured by one of the authorised general insurance companies in the UK, of which 340 are UK-authorised and 563 are located outside of the British Isles.

How does this help?

If you buy privately, the vehicle should always be insured and have a valid road tax. There must also be a current MOT if the vehicle is three years old.

By checking a car via askMID, you get to see if the car is held in a legal capacity. That’s important if you plan to buy.

Exceptions to road insurance, tax and MOT

DVLA provides a custom SORN service. Statutory Off Road Notification allows a registered keeper to keep their vehicle without tax, MOT and insurance. The car must be kept off-road at all times during SORN.

Car dealerships and askMID database

Dealers have motor trader policies so don’t expect to see a dealer car held on askMID.

Use this link to visit askMID

Visit Gov.uk for SORN status

To registered a vehicle as SORN

Premium vehicle checks

There is a range of free and paid-for vehicle check services, the most common of which is HPI Check.

Useful information about car data check services

  1. Providers tend to get data from the same places. This includes:
    DVLA for vehicle details
    MIAFTR (Motor Insurance Anti-Theft Theft Register)
    MIB (early mentioned)
    Asset registers such as Experian finance
    Police theft markers
  2. Prices differ greatly, ranging from £10 for a full check-up to £20
    With this in mind, the main differences are how reports are presented, customer service and recommendation
  3. Online car checks are different to vehicle-check inspections that involve a vetted mechanic inspection
  4. There are bogus check providers that siphon information illegally.

List of vetted and trusted providers

Hpi Check – paid only
Total Car Check – free and paid
RAC Passport – paid only
CarVeto – free and paid
AA Car Check – paid only (part of HPI check services)
My Car Check – paid only
Car Analytics – free and paid
Carpilot free check – free and paid
Rapid Car Check – partially free and paid
Car Check – free and paid
VCheck – paid only
Further notes on these providers.
AA car check is a whitelisted service underwritten by HPI check. It’s the same check as HPI but formatted differently. It was also £5 cheaper.

Total Car Check offer the cheapest basic information at just £1.99 but you do need the upgrade to look out for outstanding finance. This makes their full check near the same price as the others.

CarVeto check offers a free car buying guide with their Platinum report. That’s priced at £12.50 so presents the best value of the bunch. They also boast excellent customer services.

The remaining providers

There are lots to choose from and most are interlinked with others. Here is a list but we cannot verify these services as fully legitimate although they may be.

My Car Check
Car Analytics
Instant Car Check (believed to be another form of Hpi check)
Free Car Check
Rapid Car Check

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