Car checks can be done in several ways. For example, you can check its SORN status, how it performed on past MOT’s, and its tax history. You also can have it checked by an authorised body shop. This allows owners or potential buyers to have as much information as possible about a vehicle.


What is a DVLA Car Check?

Car checks refer to both an investigation into the vehicle’s history and background and a physical exam of the vehicle.

A vehicle’s history can be obtained through the DVLA’s main website, who can use the car’s registration to do a basic check. This provides details on the car’s MOT history and when it expires, SORN status, the date the car was first registered, when its current vehicle tax expires and the road tax rates, CO2 emissions, year of manufacture, engine size, and colour. This information can make you aware of any potential problems with the vehicle.

A physical car check is usually performed annually as part of your MOT requirements. You also have the option of taking it in if there are any issues you feel need professional attention. What is done may differ from one centre to another, though there is a specific checklist that pertains to MOT coverage.

There are third party services available including those offered by RAC, CarVeto, Hpi check and the AA. These provide additional detail including theft notices, finance interests and major accident damage reports resulting in write-off status.


When Should Car Checks be Done?

You’ll want to make sure a background and history check is completed any time you are considering purchasing a new or used car. A physical check is also strongly recommended to be sure a used car can be safely driven on the road.


The Cost of a Physical Car Check

The cost will vary, although the DVLA has implemented certain caps on MOT check costs. For an MOT check, you cannot be charged more than £54.85. When a MOT check is done on a motorcycle, the cost will not be greater than £29.65. However, if it is determined that your car requires repairs, additional fees will apply. They are not capped by the DVLA, so you’ll want to be certain you are using an affordable service centre with an excellent reputation.


Obtaining a Car’s History

The DVLA car check portal has certain information available. If you need additional information, you can write to the DVLA with your requests. However, the DVLA usually will not divulge information on past owners or keepers. In certain situations, you can request this information. The process is described below.

The DVLA does offer information on the car’s past performance and other technical data that may be useful. It is suggested that you keep this information on hand, particularly as your car gets older.

A historical car check can be performed using the car’s licence plate registration. This service is free online and will include the following:


  • The date and where the car was manufactured and registered
  • Current MOT data and next due date
  • Applicable tax rate
  • Carbon emissions data
  • Expiry date of vehicle tax
  • Colour of the car
  • Size of the car’s engine
  • SORN status

If you want information regarding whether the car is currently insured, the DVLA recommends using askMID. This site can also estimate the cost of your future insurance payments. Third-party vehicle check services may provide further details such as accidents and mileage history.


MOT History

As mentioned above, the DVLA provides details on a car’s MOT history. You will need to know the car’s manufacturer and registration number to start this process.


Obtaining Further Information About a Car

The DVLA does not permit certain information to be accessed online. Instead, for detailed information, you will need to submit a ‘subject access’ request to the DVLA in writing. This can be done by email or via post.

There is no charge for a ‘subject access’ request. When making the request, you will need to be certain to include the following information:

  • Your full name
  • Your current address
  • The car’s registration number
  • The address registered on the car’s log book
  • What specific information you are requesting, such as when the car was manufactured

Your request can be sent to the DVLA through email via You can also send your request through the post to SAR Enquiries, DVRE, DVLA, Swansea SA991ZZ.

If you do need information on a vehicle’s previous owner, you will need to download an external form and submit it through the post. The forms are V888, V8882, V8883.


The Difference Between Car Checks and MOTs

Physical car checks can be performed at any time, while a MOT car check must be done once a year. Physical checks are done if you are concerned about a car’s current condition or deterioration. MOT checks are done to ensure the car is still legal for road use and is safe for you, passengers, and anyone else on the road.

Cars are not required to have a MOT car check until three years after manufacture. Afterwards, a MOT check is legally required once a year.


What Areas are Analysed in a MOT Check?

During a MOT check, a professional will examine the car’s:

  • Brakes
  • Bodywork and outer shell
  • Washer bottle, windscreen, and wipers
  • Doors and seatbelts
  • Mirrors
  • Lights
  • Tyres and wheels
  • horn
  • Quality of steering
  • Emissions
  • Fuel cap
  • Fuel system
  • Suspension
  • Vehicle ID and registration data
  • Number plates


If these areas are not up to code, your car may the MOT, which could prevent you from driving your car on the road until the needed repairs have been made. If your MOT certificate remains valid, you will still be allowed to drive until expiry, as long as the car is deemed safe for operation.


Failing a Car Check vs. A MOT

If a car check is being performed outside of MOT, you will be required to bring your car up to code. This applies if your car fails MOT too. The big difference is that when a MOT is failed, you may be unable to drive your car on the road until the repairs are made and the car is determined to be safe.


MOT Disputes

The Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency is responsible for MOTs and most car checks. If you disagree with the results of a recent MOT, you can submit a complaint form. This application must be submitted within 14 working days of the test date.

You can also contact a DVSA representative via telephone if you have additional concerns. The DVSA service centre is open Monday to Friday, from 7:30am to 6pm.