Buying a used car without a full service history can save you money. However, it also means you won't know whether that car has been properly maintained, and that you'll get less for it when you sell it on.
Not that some missing history is automatically sinister. There can be all sorts of legitimate reasons, such as it being lost during a house move. And besides, those records aren't necessarily lost forever.
Most garages now have computerised files, so if you or a previous owner have mislaid the log book and you know where the car was serviced, it shouldn't be too difficult to piece together a missing history.
But what if you don't know where the work was carried out or the original garage as gone out of business?
First, contact the manufacturer and ask them to tell you what they can about your car using the VIN number to identify it (you can find this on your car's door frame or in the engine compartment). They should be able to tell you which dealer originally supplied the vehicle when it was new. You can then approach that dealer and see if they have information on your car.
There is a danger that the car was serviced at more than one garage. But a few manufacturers, such as Renault and Mazda, have centralised records, so if you go into a main dealer they should be able to give you all the service history for that car.
Another possibility is to track down previous owners of the vehicle, to see if they may still have the car's servicing books or know where they took it for servicing. To do this, you need to contact the DVLA (Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency) by letter.
You need to write to them, quoting your car's registration number and the reason for your request, at Vehicle Record Enquiries, Vehicle Customer Services, DVLA, Swansea SA99 1AJ. The DVLA will charge £5 for this service.
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