Buying a car can be one of the more stressful things we do. As well as ensuring it’s mechanically sound, you need to make sure the paperwork is fully in order. But what if you’ve fallen in love with a car that has no service history?
Questions to ask if a car has no service history
A service history enables you to build a picture of how the car you’re buying has been looked after. It is the documentary evidence of this. Ask the following:
Why is there no service history? You want to know if the service history has gone missing at some point in the recent past or if the car has never had one. Remember it might have been serviced on time, every time, but the owner/garage just didn’t fill in the service book.
How many owners has the car had? You can find this information out on the V5C registration document. It may even help you to work out when the service record went missing.
Do you know where the car was serviced? The car might have been serviced with a local garage that has a record of what it did to the car and when. If so, it might be able to supply you with copies of the bills. If the car was serviced by a manufacturer franchised garage, it might still have the record.
Do you have contact details for the person you bought the car off? If the service history is missing, you ideally want to try to build a picture of how it was looked after. You never know: a person who owned the car down the line might still have the service paperwork.
Look up its MOT history
You can check a car’s MOT history on this website. This will tell you if the car has ever failed its MOT. It says why and should then say that it passed the retest. This enables you to see when the components that the car failed its MOT on were replaced. And you can build an idea of its past and which parts (such as brake pads) might need replacing in the near future.
Have an independent inspection
We’d always recommend you buy a car with a service history. And double that if it’s a performance car. Of course, if the service record is missing it doesn’t mean the car is a dud. It just means you don’t know how it’s been looked after.
The car could well be sound. We’d advise you have an independent mechanical inspection just to be on the safe side.
What is a service history?
First of all, think of a service history as your car’s medical record. It should detail when and where it’s been serviced and what work has been done throughout the car’s life. A service is different to an MOT. The MOT is an annual roadworthiness and safety test, demanded by the authorities for cars that are three years old. It includes checking the lights work, tyres are legal and so on.
I’ve been writing about cars and motoring for more than 25 years. My career started on a long-departed classic car weekly magazine called AutoClassic. I’ve since pitched up at Autosport, Auto Express, the News of the World, Sunday Times and most recently the Daily Telegraph. When I’m not writing about cars and motoring, I’m probably doing some kind of sport or working in my garden.