Useful car checks you can do at home

Useful car checks

If you’ve ever bought a used car, then you’ll know that finding an honest one can be a bit of a minefield. Even when you think you’ve found an honest example you can’t guarantee that you’re not going to find issues when you go to view the car. By then it’s likely that you would already have wasted some time and money.

Fortunately, there is some due diligence that you can at home before even viewing a car. With a few simple (and free) online checks you’ll hopefully be able to filter out some of the worst examples, leaving only cars that are worth the time and effort to view and test drive.

Of course, you don’t have to be in the market for a used car to use these checks. You can use them to check things about your own vehicles or even if you want to be a bit nosy and check someone else’s vehicle.

MOT History check

The MOT history of a car is important because it gives a good indication of how well the car has been maintained. It can also help you detect any potentially large and expensive issues that may be rearing their head in the not-so-distant-future.

By browsing the MOT history of a car you’ll be able to see whether it has recently failed any MOTs, or whether there are any advisories that need to be actioned. A car with the same advisory mentioned on more than one consecutive MOT is unlikely to have been maintained to a very good standard.

If a previous MOT mentions corrosion then it’s also a sign that the car is going to need significant repairs to keep it on the road in the future.

The previous MOTs are also a great way of indicating whether or not a car has had it’s mileage altered. If any previous MOT shows a decrease in mileage from the previous year then alarm bells should start ringing.

You can check the MOT history of a vehicle on the Gov website. All you need is the vehicle’s registration number.

MOT and tax status check

Can’t remember whether you have taxed your car, or when the MOT runs out? Then the MOT and tax status check is a great way of finding out. Again, all you need to do is type in the registration number of the vehicle you want to check. On the next page you’ll be asked to confirm that the vehicle details are correct..

You’ll then be shown whether the vehicle has a current MOT and is currently taxed or on a SORN. The check also reminds you when the current MOT expires as well as when the tax is next due.

You can also find out a few extra bits and pieces of information. For example, when the last logbook was issued for the vehicle. Or the date of registration, weight, colour and engine capacity.

The tax and MOT status check is also available on the Gov website and is completely free to use.

Car history check

A car history check is vital if you’re about to pull the trigger and buy a used car. A car history check will provide detailed information on the history of a car, van or motorbike. It will bring any potentially worrying information to your attention. It does this by using information from records held by the DVLA, police and other authoritative bodies within the motoring industry.

A car history check costs just a few pounds, and many online providers even offer a free, less-comprehensive check. Such a check can tell you if a vehicle has previously been reported stolen. It can also let you know if it has been subject to an insurance write-off. Therefore it’s a great check to do when you’re about to buy a second hand car. It can give you that extra peace of mind.

ULEZ Compliance check

London’s Ultra Low Emissions Zone (ULEZ) has been officially expanded as of 29th August, 2023. This means that you’ll have to pay £12.50 per day to use or keep a vehicle within the zone.. This applies to anyone who lives within the zone as well as anyone who frequently travels into it. Therefore whether a car is ULEZ-compliant or not is going to be an important factor that will influence your purchase. Fortunately it’s easy to check whether your vehicle is ULEZ-compliant on the TFL website.

Insurance check

If you want to check whether your car is insured, you can see if your registration number is on the Motor Insurance Database (MID). The MID is a national register of all the insured cars on the road in the UK. By filling in the form on the MID website, you’ll receive a response with a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer. This is enough to tell you if your vehicle is insured. You won’t be able to see any details of your insurance though. You can only use this service to check the insurance on a certain cars. Namely, cars that are owned by yourself or your employer.

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How we reviewed this article:

Our experts continually monitor motor industry news & research, and we update our articles when new information becomes available.

  • 6th September 2023
    Current Article - By Gary McKrill
  • 6th January 2024
    Checked & Reviewed - By John Mikler
  • 6th September 2023
    Copy Edited - By Gary McKrill
  • 25th February 2024
    Reviewed - By Gary McKrill

Car Monkey has strict sourcing guidelines and we try to rely on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and motoring associations where possible.

  1. https://www.gov.uk/check-mot-history
  2. https://www.gov.uk/check-vehicle-tax
  3. https://tfl.gov.uk/modes/driving/check-your-vehicle/
  4. https://www.mib.org.uk/managing-insurance-data/requesting-your-data/

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