How to check your car’s service history

A full service history can add value to your car: here’s how to check it, and where to look for the information.

vehicle service book

If you’ve been looking at used car listings recently you will have been likely to come across the phrase ‘full service history’, sometimes written as FSH. This indicates that the current owner has complete records of the maintenance carried out on a vehicle over the course of its life. 

It’s important to look for a full service history when buying a car: you want to know for certain that a vehicle has been properly looked after, and that the seller isn’t trying to hide any mechanical issues that could come back to haunt you at a later date.

Sometimes there are legitimate reasons for a car’s service history being incomplete. The paperwork could simply be lost, or service stamps may be spread across the car’s service book and garage invoices.

But if you’re worried about gaps in a car’s history, there are ways of tracking down the missing information. You just have to know where to look.

Service history: where to find it

Ideally, a car will have been issued with a service book in which the garage performing each service will log the vehicle mileage, detail the completed work and authenticate the information with a stamp.

Some drivers also ask for a receipt or invoice that itemises each job carried out and the costs incurred. Over time, this forms a detailed history of the maintenance conducted on a car, allowing you to track which parts have been repaired or replaced, and when.

These days, manufacturers also keep an online record of any car that’s serviced by a franchised dealer. These can be retrieved by any dealership in just a few clicks.

How to track down missing service history info

If some of a car’s service history is missing, you may be able to recover it. If you know that it has been maintained by a franchised dealer, your local showroom may be able to produce all of the documentation relating to the car’s maintenance. This is more likely to work for newer vehicles, as older motors are less likely to have records stored online.

You will need to prove that you are the vehicle owner, ideally by showing a payment receipt signed by the previous owner. Producing the car’s log book (also known as the V5C) won’t be enough, as this only identifies the registered keeper. You’ll also need the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN).

If your car has been serviced by an independent garage, you can ask them to produce copies of any documentation they hold regarding your vehicle, although they won’t necessarily have these on file.

Bear in mind recent General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) privacy rules mean garages may be cautious, and less willing than they once were to share service records, however.

If you don’t even know which garages have serviced your vehicle, you have two options. The first is to perform an MOT check on the government’s website, for which you only need your car’s registration number. You can then view the test location for each of the car’s MOTs by entering your 11-digit V5C number: this could give you some clues as to where a vehicle was serviced.

Check out our used car guide for more advice for buyers...

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