For anyone interested in buying a used car, van or motorbike, checking its history is essential. With ever more ways to buy vehicles, often sight unseen, it really does pay to find out why the price is so good; as the old saying goes, if it seems too good to be true, it usually is. Of course, the first MOT test for any vehicle is only carried out at three years old, so lack of MOT history on younger vehicles should not be a worry. However, anything older than this should have at least one successful MOT documented.


Safety first

The most important function of the MOT test is to ensure the safety and roadworthiness of a vehicle. After three years of age, cars, vans and motorcycles are often out of warranty, so won’t be fixed or replaced by the manufacturer if they develop serious problems. This does not mean that vehicles older than three years should in any way be unsafe; as the vintage car market shows, if properly cared for, some can run almost forever.

The problem with buying a used vehicle is essentially one of trust. The fact is that you are committing yourself to buying an expensive, complicated piece of machinery which someone else has used; or, in some cases, more than one “careful owner”. It’s not being cynical to ask why the vehicle is for sale, and a logical part of this question has to be “is there something wrong with it?”

Of course, you wouldn’t expect any seller to admit that the vehicle they’re trying to sell is faulty, or prone to acting in certain ways under certain conditions. Reasons for selling are usually much more comforting than this. However, one sure way to find out how a vehicle has performed in the past is with an historical MOT check.


Previous history

First and foremost, of course, you want to know that the vehicle you are buying has a current, valid MOT certificate. The length of time left on this will usually make a difference in asking price; if the expiry date is approaching, this could be one factor in the seller’s decision to sell. If, on the other hand, the MOT has six months left before expiry, you as a buyer know that you have this long in charge of a safe, roadworthy vehicle.

For older machines, however, it is worth looking at its MOT history, as well as any servicing records available. The MOT history will show up any previous failures, plus advisory notices. This may give a clue as to any particular weaknesses the vehicle has suffered from, or is prone to. It is well known, for instance, that particular models by certain manufacturers have a tendency to fail for well known reasons. All of this will be evident on the vehicle’s MOT history.


Don’t delay your next MOT

If you’ve checked out a used vehicle’s history, and decided to buy, don’t delay booking your next MOT. Current backlogs mean that testing slots are getting harder to come by, and you can book early and still keep next year’s expiry date.