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Vehicle history checks and why you need one

Before buying a used car, it’s important to make sure the car’s history is clean so you have no nasty surprises down the line. Find out how a vehicle history check can ensure your car is safe and legal to buy.

You can find some great deals in the used car market, but every now and again, a deal comes along that seems too good to be true. That’s why it’s important to get a vehicle check done. Vehicle checks can reveal everything you need to know about a car’s history, giving you access to hidden or missing information, like whether the vehicle has been stolen or clocked.
Once you buy a car, it becomes your responsibility. This means you’re liable if the car has outstanding finance or other issues, so it pays to have all the information at your disposal before you buy. Every car listed on Auto Trader undergoes a free five-point background check which covers whether the car has been stolen, scrapped, written off, imported or exported so you can buy a car online with a certain peace of mind. A full vehicle check goes further by providing additional checks – including outstanding finance, previous keepers, mileage, colour and plate changes – so you know what, if anything, you’re getting into. Let’s take a look at what a vehicle check includes and how you can use them when buying a used car.
Vehicle inspection
Vehicle inspection
Buy a car online with Auto Trader
Buy a car online with Auto Trader

What is a vehicle check?

A vehicle check is a document that shows you the history of a vehicle including the number of previous owners, date of first registration, mileage details and other key details.
The information is gathered from a variety of sources including the police database, DVLA, insurance companies and finance houses. A full vehicle check from Auto Trader provides you with a 26-point independent report that ensures peace of mind through Auto Trader’s key vehicle spec and data check at a guarantee of up to £30,000. The guarantee ensures a safety blanket that covers your purchase price up to the value of £30,000 for up to two years after purchase, in the event of any inaccuracies in the data provided to you. Besides the standard car check of whether the car is stolen, scrapped, written off, imported or exported, Auto Trader’s vehicle check looks for crucial data related to any outstanding finance, registration plate changes, number of previous owners, risk of third-party trace, along with other information such as date of first registration, engine size and number, current keeper of the car, Co2 emissions registration plate changes and other data. See what a Vehicle Check report by Auto Trader looks like.
Couple getting a vehicle check on a used car
Couple getting a vehicle check on a used car
Man getting a vehicle check on a used car
Man getting a vehicle check on a used car

Why should I get a Vehicle Check?

We’ve all heard cases of cars being stolen, but did you know that once these cars get stolen, many find their way back to the market with an identity change? If you accidentally buy a stolen car, the police can seize it.
Besides cases of used cars being stolen, some are clocked (the mileage recorded is reduced to increase the car’s value) or cloned (a car’s given a stolen number plate of another same make and model car). If you buy a used car with pending finance payments, you’ll inherit any pending debt, and it’ll be your responsibility to settle the debt. Therefore, it’s important to check vehicle details when buying a used car, as they can be used to ensure the car matches its description, you’re paying a fair price and a full history including whether there have been any paint changes or work done to the vehicle. Through the car checks carried out on Vehicle Check in 2020, it was found that: • One in six vehicles had outstanding finance • 2,873 vehicles had mileage anomalies • One in 10 vehicles were written-off • 79,390 vehicles were reported stolen in 2020, as per Police National Computer (PNC)
Family getting a vehicle history check on a used car with Auto Trader
Family getting a vehicle history check on a used car with Auto Trader
Couple celebrating a clean vehicle check
Couple celebrating a clean vehicle check

What does a Vehicle Check include?

• Safety - Buying a vehicle without checking its history puts your money and your safety at risk.
• History check – Vehicle check the car’s background and tells you if the car is stolen, has outstanding debt, is written-off or scrapped, any third-party trace risk, number plate or colour changes, imported or exported, and number of previous owners • Mileage check – Vehicle check ensures that the mileage recorded is correct and not tampered with and reduced to make the deal look more attractive • Legal requirement - It helps in keeping you out of legal trouble by checking that the car is legally allowed to be driven • Car pollution – with the car check, you can get to know the car’s Co2 emissions, environmental impact and if it’s ULEZ compliant • Car specifications – the report double checks specific details provided to you about the car such as the car’s make, model, colour, transmission, number of gears, fuel type, body type, and engine capacity • Money-back guarantee of up to £30,000 or purchase price for two years Learn more on how to spot and avoid dodgy cars here
Used car being inspected and cleaned
Used car being inspected and cleaned
Woman getting a quick and easy vehicle check through Auto Trader
Woman getting a quick and easy vehicle check through Auto Trader

Vehicle checks on Auto Trader

To help you make an informed decision, Auto Trader has partnered with Experian, the leading global information services company, to provide vehicle checks on all of Auto Trader’s adverts. Every car for sale on Auto Trader undergoes a free five-point background check, which covers whether the car is stolen, has been scrapped, written off, imported or exported. You can see how this appears on Auto Trader’s adverts in the image below.
In addition to a five-point background check, some dealers perform a full vehicle history check on cars they’re advertising. This means you’ll also be able to see if the vehicle has outstanding finance, if a third party is tracing the vehicle, if a third party is tracing the vehicle and, more such crucial information. You can see how these checks appear on our adverts in the image below. Auto Trader takes every precaution to ensure that the data supplied to you is correct and complete. However, due to the complexity of the data provided, it is possible that a piece of information is not passed to us. Data can always change, so to ensure that you do not suffer a financial loss due to incorrect or incomplete data, we strongly suggest you buy a full vehicle check which includes a data guarantee of up to £30,000.
What a basic history check looks like
What a basic history check looks like

How do the free checks on Auto Trader adverts differ to buying a full vehicle check report?

The free basic checks you see on adverts are a summary of what’s included if you bought a full report, and it doesn’t include hidden information that could see you having to fork out further down the line.
A full vehicle check report will cover 26 points and give a lot more detailed information, including the number of previous owners, details about any plate changes and historical mileages recordings. You will also be able to check MOT history of a vehicle, and check vehicle insurance history, which will tell you whether your pre-loved car has been taken care of properly over the years. The main difference with buying a full vehicle check, is that you get a Vehicle Data Guarantee of up to £30,000 or the purchase price (whichever is lower) for two years. This guarantee is provided on the car you eventually purchase, not every car you check. Once you’ve checked out a few cars and made your decision to purchase one of them, you should check the terms and conditions to ensure that you will be able to qualify for the guarantee. As soon as you’ve purchased the car you should log in to register your Vehicle Data Guarantee to protect yourself in case anything goes amiss. You will need to state the date purchased, the amount paid and whether it was a private sale, from a motor dealer or an auction.

How to check vehicle history

Getting a car history check with Auto Trader is quick and easy. Simply head over to Auto Trader’s vehicle check page, enter the registration details of your car at the top of the page and away you go.
If you’re in the market for a used car and you want peace of mind to ensure the car of your dreams (or the car that’ll get you from A to B) has a clean history, get a full vehicle history check with Auto Trader today.

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