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How to check a car’s service history?

Checking a car’s service history

Mehdi Punjwani
Written by  Mehdi Punjwani
5 min read
Updated: 08 Jan 2024

You can think of your car’s service history essentially as its medical record or credit report - it should give a summary of your car’s maintenance and services since it was manufactured and first bought. It can include details of when things like oil changes and various checks were undertaken, as well as invoices and receipts for services, and authenticity stamps from dealerships. Here’s how you can check a car’s service history.

How to find a car’s service history?

You should be able to find your car’s service history in multiple locations, however it isn’t always easy to piece its entire service history together, particularly for older cars. If you don’t have a full record or you’ve lost it completely, this is how you can start your search:

  1. Contact your car’s manufacturer, service centre, or dealership: Franchised dealerships are likely to keep records in a centralised database, and they should be readily available as long as you have the required information to prove ownership. Independent outfits might not have all information as easily accessible, but it’s worth a try.

  2. Search for a free online vehicle history check: You can access different motoring organisations and companies that offer car service history checks, with information relating to mileage alterations, insurance write-offs, outstanding finance and more.

  3. Contact the DVLA through the government website: You’ll need a V888 form. However, you can only do this for a car you own or have owned previously, not a car you’re looking to buy. You can also use the government website to search for a car’s MOT history - facilities that carry out MOTs can also carry out a full service.

  4. Contact the previous owner: Finally, you can try to contact previous owners to see if there is any more information available.

car seats

Why is a car’s service history important?

A car’s service history is important because it provides evidence that the car has been looked after with regular checks and maintenance. Servicing helps extend your vehicle’s lifetime and helps you catch any issues before they become an expensive burden.

Here’s why a car’s service history is important if you’re buying a car:

  • You’ll be able to see if there are any recurring issues you need to be aware of

  • You’ll have assurance that the transaction is legitimate

  • You may be able to use any gaps in its history or issues with the car to leverage a lower price

  • It can help when making a claim on your car insurance as a full service history lets your insurer more accurately determine its value if it needs to be replaced

  • You may be required to show a full service history if getting your car repaired under warranty

If you’re selling a car, having its full service history offers the following advantages:

  • If you can provide a full service history it should be easier to attract potential buyers

  • A service history that demonstrates the car has been well-cared for can have a positive impact on its value

What is meant by a full service history (FSH) and partial-service history?

Full service history (FSH)

A full service history, sometimes abbreviated to FSH, is evidence that the vehicle has been regularly maintained and serviced, sometimes once a year but often in line with the manufacturer’s own service schedule. Manufacturer’s service schedules vary by the model and can be based on periods of time or number of miles driven.

A full service history should also ideally include details of what work has been undertaken, from regular maintenance to more significant repairs. You’ll be able to get a full service history by ensuring the vehicle is serviced to the manufacturer’s guidelines, even by a non-approved dealer. However, if you use an approved dealer you’ll have what is known as a full main dealer service history, which can be even more valuable.

The more information included the better, as it can ensure sellers can get more value for their car and buyers have peace of mind and full awareness of their new, used vehicle’s condition.

Partial service history (PSH)

A partial service history or part service history (PSH) indicates that the vehicle has missed a service or the servicing hasn’t been carried out to the manufacturer’s guidelines. This is often a risk when you use a non-approved dealer to do your car’s service.

If your car only has a partial service history, or you’re thinking about buying a car that has a PSH, it shouldn’t be an automatic dealbreaker. It doesn’t necessarily indicate that the car has any serious issues, as it could result from an admin error such as missing details or paperwork.

While buyers should be vigilant and careful when purchasing a car with a PSH, it can be an opportunity to negotiate a better price with the seller.

What can I do if I lose my service book?

If you’ve misplaced your physical service book, you’ll need to have a few details to hand in order to get your car’s service details again. You should have your car’s registration details and its vehicle identification number (VIN) so you can verify that you own the car.

You can get in touch with the last place that serviced your car, as they should have their own records. Additionally, most dealerships and approved garages will keep information on a centralised online database. If your car is serviced by a franchised dealership then your record should be kept by the local dealership as well as the manufacturer itself.

It can be difficult with older cars as the records are more likely to be kept on paper rather than online. The same is true for cars that have been serviced at independent garages as the information may not be easily or readily available.

What’s included in a vehicle service?

A standard service for your vehicle should include the following:

Checks on brakes, suspension, steering, lights and exhaust

Checks on oil and other fluids, and an oil change if necessary as well as an air-conditioning regas

Safety check

Checks on the engine, transmission, and other parts

Replacements of parts like filters and spark plugs if necessary

Checks on bodywork

Checks on the car battery

Wheel realignment and balancing

Components for electric and hybrid cars like charging ports and cables

Identifying any major issues that need addressing