Whether you’re shopping for a lightly used Mercedes or a Mini with almost 200,000 miles on the odometer, the service history of a car can be a valuable asset. As a potential buyer, you can unlock insight into how well the car has been looked after over its lifetime. This can give you an idea of what to expect in terms of performance and the cost of future repairs.

According to a leading automotive parts and repair service provider, almost 50% of car owners maintain they wouldn’t purchase a used vehicle without a complete service history. The remaining 50% said they would expect a discount of around 20% on vehicles without a complete service history.

It’s clearly an important decision-making tool and rightly so. Want to know more? Read on for our complete guide on how to find out the service history of a car.

What is the service history of a car?

A service history is a fingerprint of all the services that have been completed on a vehicle over its lifetime. This includes a variety of general services, including tyre changes and brake fluid replacements.

Is it legal to sell a car with no service history?

Yes, in the UK it’s completely legal to sell a vehicle with no service history. For example, an individual or dealership can sell a 25-year-old car with no proof of repairs or services. However, as a buyer it’s your responsibility to understand the risks and do everything you can to make a smart, informed decision.

What is a Full Service History of a car?

A Full Service History (FSH) proves that a vehicle has been maintained according to the service schedule set by the manufacturer. Usually, this involves a general service every year or every 12,000 miles.

All servicing and repairs should be backed by official documents, either from a manufacturer-operated garage or an approved service centre.

A full service history of a car is always coveted as it proves the vehicle has been well looked after.

The role of a service book

Most new vehicles are sold with a service book designed to help owners keep track of general maintenance. After every service, the book should be stamped by the mechanic. It’s worth noting that many cars manufactured within the last five years have swapped paper service books for digital copies. This is designed to make it easier to keep track of the service history of a car.

What is a Full Dealer Service History?

A Full Dealer Service History (FDSH) applies to vehicles that have consistently been serviced by manufacturer-operated garages. Also known as a Main Dealer Service History (MDSH), this guarantees the vehicle has always been serviced by an expert. Some people consider a FDSH to be the gold standard while others don’t give it as much weight.

What is a partial service history?

If a service was skipped one year, the vehicle was serviced at a non-approved service centre, or the service book is missing a stamp, a FSH is void. Instead, the car must be sold with a partial service history (PSH).

This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as cars with a partial service history don’t always have issues. However, you have no way of knowing how well the car has been serviced over the years.

How can I find the service history of my car?

The easiest way to find out the service history of a car is to look at the service book. Of course, this isn’t always an option. Service books can be lost, misplaced or withheld on purpose. If you find yourself in this situation, you have a few options:

Ask the owner to contact the regular service provider

Most service providers keep detailed records of services and repairs. If the owner knows what mechanic the car is usually taken to, they should be able to pull up records.

Contact the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA)

The Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency is a great resource when it comes to tracking down the service history of a car. On the DVLA website, you can use the V888 form to request information about the previous owners of a vehicle. As long as you have a ‘reasonable cause’ for making the request, the DVLA may be able to supply their contact details, which you can use to get in touch with the previous owners and request more information about the service history of a car. There are no guarantees you’ll find out any useful information but it’s always worth a try.

Watch out for forged FSH

Sellers know the value of a FSH and unfortunately, some choose to forge documents to secure a higher price. Despite clampdowns, fake service histories are all too common in the UK. If you have any suspicions about the service history of a car, it’s worth contacting the listed service provider to confirm the information is genuine.

For cars less than three years old, service records should be stored by the manufacturer on a central database. A quick call to your local manufacturer-operated service centre should be all that’s needed to confirm the FSH is legitimate. Another good tip is to ask to see receipts, invoices and paperwork, rather than blindly trust the service book. This should help establish authenticity and give you peace of mind.

The bottom line on accessing a service history

Ultimately, there’s no one-click solution when it comes to accessing the service history of a car. Instead, you need to take the initiative as a buyer and put in a little groundwork. With a few calls and questions, you can unlock valuable information about the condition of a vehicle.

Now you know more about how to find out the service history of a car, it’s time to start shopping for your new set of wheels. Budget is a big factor for most buyers, which is where our car loan calculator steps up. With just a few clicks, you can crunch the numbers and get a clear idea of what price range to browse and what to expect in terms of repayments.

For more information, get in touch by email or give us a call on 01246 458 810.

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