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What documents should I get when buying a used car?

There's very little paperwork needed to buy a used car. Everything you do need is included in our checklist of all the documents you need to buy a car.

Nimisha Jain

Words by: Nimisha Jain

Ivan Aistrop

Additional words by: Ivan Aistrop

Last updated on 28 January 2021 | 0 min read

The final step to buying a used car is sorting out all the documents needed. The good news is you don’t need to provide much paperwork when buying a used car, but the papers you do need are all vital as you won’t be allowed to drive your car home without them.
These essential documents are: • Driving licence • Insurance Policy • Road tax • Payment documents Once you’re ready to purchase your car, make sure you’ve got all the information you need from the seller as well.

Driving licence

Make sure you have your driving licence to prove that you can legally drive the car and to prove your identity, so that the seller can match your details with the buyer’s.

Insurance policy

While buying a car doesn’t require you to have an insurance policy in place, driving the car that you’ve bought back home does.
You’ll only be legally allowed to drive the car when you’ve insured it. Setting up an annual insurance policy can take some time, which is why some dealers may offer you a driveaway insurance. This will cover you for the first few days at an extra cost. Learn more about car insurance.

Vehicle tax

When buying a new or used car, the vehicle tax is not transferable from the previous owner to you, even if the seller says the car is taxed.
This means you’ll need to tax the car before you can start driving it. You can do this online on, by post or using the DVLA’s 24/7 phone service by calling 0300 123 4321. When you buy a car, the seller will provide you with a ‘new keeper’ slip (V5C/2). To tax the car, you’ll need the 12-digit reference number from this green slip.

Payment documents

Make sure you’ve got all the necessary paperwork with you when making the payment, especially if you’ve taken a loan or bought the car on finance.
Learn more about the different types of car finance, and which one will be the best suited for you.

What information should I ask for from the seller?

1. Logbook

You’ll need reference numbers from the car’s registration document - the logbook (V5C).
Not only does the V5C prove that you’re the registered keeper of the vehicle, but it’ll also be handy if there is any problem or dispute further down the line. So, make sure the owner hands this over to you. In case the seller has lost the V5C form, you can apply for a replacement using the V62 form. Make sure that the V5C form provided to you by the seller has a ‘DVL’ watermark. Also, check the serial number provided on the logbook – if it falls between BG8229501 to BG9999030, or BI2305501 to BI2800000, the logbook might be stolen.

2. Seller’s details

If you’re buying a car from a private seller and their name and address don't match the one on the car's V5C form, you should start asking questions.
Likewise, if any of the other details on the V5C don’t match the car in front of you such as the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) and engine number, ask some more questions. Also, make sure you see the original, watermarked documents, and not the copies.

3. Service history

Ask to see the car’s service history, records of any work done and the vehicle’s handbook.
Check that the service book contains all the information related to the date, name and address of the garages, miles covered when the car was serviced, and the work done and its cost. It should also be duly stamped – exemption being if the service record has been maintained digitally. Not only will this reassure you that the car has been looked after, but it will also indicate that the mileage is genuine and that there are no recurring problems. You can also check the vehicle's history online using professional services such as Auto Trader’s ‘Vehicle Check’ service. Related:Do I need a vehicle history check?

4. MOT status

All cars require a mandatory MOT test after they’ve become three years old, to ensure they’re still roadworthy.
You should ask the seller for the most recent, as well as the older MOT certificates of the vehicle. If you notice that the vehicle has failed any MOT tests in the past or if it has been recalled for any major safety issues, you should start questioning the seller. You should also check for any advisory notes written in the MOT certificate as the mentioned problems would need fixing soon. The car's MOT status can also be checked online – match the information given to you by the seller such the registration number, vehicle make and model and MOT test number with the information available online with the DVLA.

5. Proof of purchase

When the deal has been done, it’s also important to get a receipt and ensure there are copies for both buyer and seller.
The receipt should include full details of the buyer and seller such as name and address, date of purchase, the vehicle’s specifications (including its registration number and mileage, as well as the basics such as vehicle make and model), and confirmation that the seller has received the agreed amount of money for the car. This receipt should be signed by both and kept as proof of purchase and payment.
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