Steps to a thorough service history check


Latest, free car history check guide to buying a genuine vehicle

Get to the truth about any UK registered car


To accompany checks around car ownership and MOT history, this service history check is another valuable method to understanding if a car is genuine, how well it has been maintained and if upkeep investment is needed over the coming 12 months.


checking the service history of a used car


Alongside this, you can check car history via my sister website, CarVeto. Just enter a car registration number below to get underway.


car reg field


“If service history is sparse (a handful of receipts or workshop invoices) and little more, I am unlikely to buy the car unless I’m head over heels in love with it. In many instances, there will be scores of similar cars with full, franchised service records.”


How to check for fake service history

Counterfeit service records are easy enough to create. It takes a simple rubber stamp made with the name, address and phone number of a workshop alongside a duplicate service book from a supplying dealer. Both can be had for less than £50.00

Forged service history can mask mileage discrepancies and increase resell value (and profit margins). Note, this type of deception occurs with private and trade sales, so it is important to act with caution.


vehicle service history check method image


Maintenance considerations when buying a second-hand car:

  • When was the car last serviced?
  • Was it a major or minor service? (does the car need money spending on it?)
  • Who serviced the car? (Main dealers or a local garage?)


To complete a thorough service history check note down this information.

Next, examine the service book and the intervals at which the car was serviced. In many cases, the car has been serviced every 10,000 miles or annually. Modern vehicles (particularly diesel) may have a “long life” service schedule of 18,000 or 24,000 miles or every 2 years.

Has the car been serviced at decent intervals throughout its life?

For example, it’s fine to buy a car that has missed one or two services but I tend to steer clear if there are significant gaps in service information.

Not only are you contending with a car that is not well maintained but a question mark appears over mileage and how long the engine and other working parts are going to last before major investment is needed.


Bonus maintenance records and signals of a genuine car

Are other workshop invoices or receipts in the service pack (also check in the glove box and amongst the drivers manual)? Do they provide evidence of services that are not included in the service book?


Keeping a mental note:

  • Is the car otherwise in good condition?
  • Was it recently serviced?
  • What colour is the current engine oil (black or transparent?) Black oil on diesel engines is common and not something to be too concerned about, unlike petrol engines.
  • Is the car competitively priced?
  • Does the engine sound smooth? Ensure you listen cold and hot.

Avoid basing a buying decision on just one element – look at the whole picture.


If you’re still interested in buying make a note of a few workshops that have serviced the car. You’ll find their contact details on the rubber stamps within the book (note, if there are invoices to back up the service stamps there’s no need to carry out this step.)

If there are no supporting maintenance invoices I like to telephone a couple of workshops that have serviced the car. Quote the vehicles registration number and ask when they carried out service or repair work. Mention you plan to buy the car and need to ensure it has been taken care of.

Specifically, correlate the dates and exact mileages when work was completed. Is there a match?

If not, I always reject the car.


Cambelt changes

Call workshops that state they have replaced the cambelt. This critical function of the car may be the difference between a great buy or a problematic and costly one.

Cambelts or chain driven engines

Some cars have belts and others have chains.
Generally, belts need replacing at manufacturers intervals and chains last the life of the engine. If you are uncertain contact a supplying dealer and ask. If a cambelt is fitted check the recommended mileage and time intervals. Might be good to see the cost of supplying and fitting this engine component.

Cambelts are pricey so expect a quote between £300 and £600.

To confirm, call a workshop and get details of when the belt was replaced and the exact mileage. Account for any subsequent costs involved here and balance those against the asking price.

If discrepancies are flagged up I remain cautious and reject the purchase every time.


If you want to run a vehicle history check for free use my sister website, CarVeto.


Marcus Rockey
Used Car Guy

Free Car History Report

All accessible data for any UK registered vehicle
Mileage problems, theft, finance, accident damage, VIC, mot history, import, export, insurance check, owner data and more


car reg field


CarVeto logo for buying a second hand car


If you are looking for more detailed guides on car history have a look at the links posted below


  1. Car check free – CarVeto is my flagship service for checking the history of a car for free. This is my guide to using the service compared to some of the industries leading brands
  2. Autotrader vehicle check – Well, this article focuses more on hpi than Autotrader but highlights a series of misconceptions about online checking services and shows how to save money should you want to use a paid service
  3. Mot history check – Ministry of Transport history checking makes up an important part of car service data. It’s free with just a car reg and this guide walks you through getting the most from the service
  4. Free vehicle check history – If Used Car Guy is known for anything, it’s car ownership. Even if you stumble on the page by accident it is certainly worth a few minutes of your time
  5. Car service near me – A detailed look at car servicing garages including mobile mechanics that promise to service, mot or repair your car with a unique pick up and drop service. Ever heard of it?