Doing the paperworkEvery car has documents which outline its history, roadworthiness and ownership. When buying a car it’s crucial to check this paperwork carefully.

V5C Registration Certificate (logbook) | Service history | MOT | Receipt

V5C Registration Certificate (logbook)

The V5C Registration Certificate is more commonly known as the logbook and is issued to anyone who has registered or taxed their car
• The logbook lists many details about the vehicle, which you should check match the car itself
• Carefully check the registration number and Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) matches the car in question
• You’ll need to ensure the appropriate parts of the logbook are completed and sent to the DVLA. You should retain the new keeper’s part of the document as this is your proof of ownership until the new, updated document is posted to you

Service history

New cars are supplied with a service booklet which is to be stamped and dated when the car is serviced and should be supplied when the car is sold
• Some service books get lost over time, but can be ordered from your local main dealer – they should also be able to tell you when the car was serviced by any main dealer in the country
• Dealer stamps can be forged, so receipts are more useful – they also indicate what work has been done and when
• Arrange the history in chronological order and check the mileage listed on each document increases and is in line with the mileage displayed in the car – if not, the car could be clocked
• Make sure major work like cambelt changes were carried out at the correct time – a main dealer can advise you on when the work should have been completed
• If the car is supplied without any service history, it can be hard to know its past – it may not have been regularly maintained or it could be clocked
• Cars supplied without a full history, or one that’s only partially complete are worth less than cars with a full history
• Some sellers will charge a premium if the car has undergone all of its servicing at a main dealer, rather than at independent garages


Every car over three years of age has to pass an annual MOT test to ensure its roadworthiness.
• Closely examine MOT certificates to ensure they are originals
• Before April 2005, MOT certificates were hand-written; post April 2005, they are computer print-outs in order to reduce fraud
Computerised MOTs can be checked online, making it possible to see the date of the last test, when it expires and the last recorded mileage
• MOT tests are only a guarantee of a car’s roadworthiness at the point it was tested, so a current MOT is no substitute for your own thorough checks
• As with service history, a collection of past MOTs should show the vehicle’s mileage increasing as you would expect


When you buy a car it’s important to create a receipt – if the seller hasn’t already – which should include:
• Car make and model
• Car registration and VIN
• Car mileage at time of sale
• A written statement that the seller has accepted the agreed cash sum for the vehicle, and acknowledge receipt of the money
• Signed and dated by the purchaser and seller
• Copies to be kept by both parties

How Auto Trader can help:
Vehicle Check
Car valuation

More in-depth buying advice:

How to choose the right car:
Buying a used car | Buying a new car | Setting your budget
Comparing new and used cars | Choosing the right car
Buying an imported car | Buying a classic car

How to buy a car:
Contacting the seller | Inspecting a used car | Test driving a car
Haggling with sellers | Doing the paperwork

How to pay for your car:
Understanding car loans and finance | Checking your credit rating
Returning a car