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Checking the Paperwork of Your New Car

Buying a used car is daunting for some people. If you’re not a car enthusiast and you don’t know how to spot problems, it can seem a bit like trying to understand another language.

One of the most important things you need to understand and consider is the paperwork. Test driving the car and inspecting it is important, but the paperwork and history could alert you to problems you have no way of spotting.

The V5C Log Book

The log book is the car’s legal registration document. You need to check that all the details in the logbook match the car’s actual details, such as the registration number and VIN (vehicle identification number). If any previous owner has purchased a personalised number plate for the car and changed the plates they should have received a V750 Certificate of Entitlement and registered the plate change.

The logbook has a part specifically for new owners. You need to take this section and keep it until the new logbook is sent to you by the DVLA.

MOT Certificate

If the car you’re buying is under 3 years old it won’t have an MOT Certificate. However all cars over 3 years old need an annual MOT. When this is completed successfully (or if the car fails but necessary repairs are made) the owner will receive a certificate to say the car’s roadworthy. You need to check that the certificate was issues within the last year – also if it’s about to expire you might want to think carefully about that and see if the owner will get it MOTd before selling. If not they might be trying to get rid of the car rather than pay for repairs.

More recent computerised MOT tests can be viewed online so you can check that the certificate is real.

Service History

You should get a copy of the car’s service history when you buy it. If the seller has lost it (which can happen) you can order a new copy. Provided that work has been carried out by good garages you will be able to get a full history. You should be able to see the mileage increasing at a steady rate, and mileages should match up across all documents.


Unfortunately, documents can be forged or they simply don’t tell you the full story. An HPI check will reveal a car’s full past, such as if it has outstanding car finance on it, if it’s been stolen or registered as written off with an insurer, and is a further check to uncover mileage discrepancies.