You have searched high and low and you think you have found the perfect car, you have arrived at the seller’s address but there is still one more vital round of checks you still need to conduct.. the Paperwork
So What Paperwork do you need to check when buying a Car Privately?
In Short the V5C (Log book), MOT History, Service Records & invoices, HPI check and ID documentation from the seller.
Let’s have a look at all these in more detail
Registration Document (V5C)
Also known as the Logbook, this is a booklet which registers the car with the DVLA. It contains important information about the vehicle such as the date it was first registered, the colour and the engine size plus many other things.
Some of the key things to cross check on the V5C
Name & Address of the Seller
Be sure to check the name and address of the person selling the car to you is accurate and genuine.
You need to establish of the car is in the current owner’s name, there are instances where people try to sell you cars and they are not the registered owner!
There can be occasions where the Logbook is not in the current owner’s name, for example, if the car is being sold to you by a trade buyer it’s common the Logbook will remain in the previous owner’s name.
The bottom line here is you need to be satisfied the person selling you the car is the owner, if there is any don’t about this then we suggest you walk away from the deal.
Vehicle identification number is a unique number used by the automotive industry to identify each car, the VIN is also printed on a few places on the car, depending on the vehicle such as in the bottom corner of the front windscreen and the engine bay.
It’s important you match up the VIN on the car to the VIN on the V5C to ensure it belongs to this vehicle. There have been occasions where people have attempted to sell stolen cars with cloned log books or have put in stolen car parts into other vehicles and attempted to sell them. It’s rare but If the VIN on the V5C and the car do not match, we suggest you walk away from the deal.
Number of Previous Owners
A higher number of previous owners can reflect on the value of a used car, sellers will sometimes fail to disclose how many previous owners there are on a car thinking it makes their car look bad.
This information is displayed prominently on the front page. A higher number of owners may be fine depending on the type of car it is, for example, a high-performance sports car does get passed around more often due to them being expensive to keep maintain and insure.
However, if you are looking to buy a 12-month-old car which has already had 5 keepers, then perhaps you may need to do a little more investigation as to what the reason for this could be.
This one may seem obvious, however, there have been occasions where sellers have changed the colour of their car and not informed DVLA. The V5C contains the original colour of the car when first registered with the manufacturer. There have been mistakes made by DVLA on the V5c such as noting cars down as ‘Grey’ when they are silver etc however if you fo to view car which is canary yellow and the log book states it should be red, then perhaps there are few questions to ask a seller
This can be quite common as sellers often misplace or lose the V5c or never apply for one when they take ownership of the car. Not having a V5c is not a red flag in itself and we feel you should carry out a more thorough check of the car and the seller. A new V5c can be applied for by the new owner and an admin fee of around £25 will need to be paid. We feel this cost should be factored into the car or the seller be paid to pay you the amount for you to apply for a new one.
What Part of the V5C Do you Need to Fill in When Buying the Car?
- You need to sign the declaration in section 8 (back of the front page) and the seller will also need to sign this.
- Complete section 10 (Known as the green slip) tear this section off and you keep it, the remainder of the V5C remains with the seller, you can use the green slip to tax the vehicle.
DVLA has introduced an online version of being able to register a vehicle almost instantly, this saves you the hassle of having to post things off to them, the online process literally takes a few minutes and you will receive a new V5C in the post.
The process is a simple step by step process
You can get to it via mobile phone at the seller’s house by going to:
You can use the process to send confirmation emails of the sale to yourself and the seller
This is our preferred method.
If the seller can present you the MOT history then have a look through it, check to see if the mileage tally’s up through the years and matches the current mileage on the vehicle
Check out our article on how to determine if a car’s mileage is genuine.
Check to see any recent advisory notes on the MOT, these are suggestions the mechanic who last inspected the car made.
This is good opportunity to check if any highlighted problems at the MOT still exist e.g if the last advisory noted an oil leak, then you need to be checking if the car is still leaking oil or if it had been repaired.
If the seller cannot present you with the MOT documents you can still all the recent history online by going to:
We suggest you make this part of your ‘Pre-check’ before you even go out to see the vehicle and once you arrive cross check the MOT documents with the online information to see if it all tally’s up.
Service History & Invoices
A car with a full comprehensive service history will hold more value than one without
Be sure to check the service book thoroughly
Start of my checking the first few pages of the book which are usually stamped by the main dealer on the pre-inspection checks, confirm the registration on the service book matches the car.
We have been made aware of scams where wrong service books have been sold with cars giving the impression they have a full-service history
Next check through the dates of each stamp in the book, the majority of the cars should have been serviced yearly or around every 10,000-12,000 miles.
Carefully check what boxes were ticked in the book to see what work has and hasn’t been done.
Some local garages will hand write notes next to their stamps which may say something like ‘timing belt changed’ we strongly suggest you call the garage away from the seller and confirm if this is genuine.
Next check each invoice if available to see what work has been carried out to the car, if the seller claims certain upgrades or repairs have taken place then there should be an invoice to prove it
Our motto with this is ‘ If it’s not on paper then it didn’t happen’
we will rarely accept something that cannot be visibly confirmed has taken place such as a clutch replacement, timing belt change etc just on the seller’s word.
We would always expect to see proof, which is imperative you keep hold of your invoices.
This is more of a pre-check before you go out to see a car, however, this should be conducted on EVERY car before you hand over any money at least
Our recommendation is to use the Gold check from Total Car check
Here is why you MUST do a HPI check
It will highlight if the car has had any accident damage recorded against it, the number of cars we have discovered that have been in previous accidents and are been sold as pristine is scary. Sometimes sellers will genuinely not know, however more often than not it will be a deliberate omission from the add.
- It will show if the car is stolen or scrapped
- It will confirm the number of previous owners
- It will highlight any mileage discrepancies between previous MOT’s
- It will inform you if the car has any outstanding finance on the vehicle
If this is the case then you must ensure any outstanding finance is cleared with proof before you take ownership of the car
Ultimately for a small investment in the HPI check, it could have you thousands of pounds worth of losses.
If the HPI check comes back as a fail, then we strongly suggest you consider looking elsewhere.
There is nothing wrong with asking the seller to provide some ID documentation, after all, you are going to be handing them over a large sum of money, most genuine sellers will not hesitate to show you their driving licence.
Use this to match it to the V5C and if possible take a copy of it for future reference.
This is not an exhaustive list, however, you can use it as a solid foundation for your checks on what paperwork you need to examine when purchasing a car privately. Use it in conjunction with some of the other other resources to be armed with all the knowledge and confidence you need to conclude a deal successfully.