How to get the paperwork right when you buy a car

How to sort out the paperwork when you buy a car

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Before you buy a car, check that it has documents that outline its history, roadworthiness and ownership.  If these aren’t part of the deal, it’s best to  walk away.

V5C registration certificate (logbook)

First, check the logbook (now known as V5C).

This lists details such as engine size, body colour, registration and Vehicle Identification Number (VIN). You can find the VIN on the dashboard by looking through the front windshield or on the metal panel when you open the drivers door

If they don’t match what you can see, then leave well alone.

When you buy the car, make sure you complete the right parts of the V5C and return them to DVLA – the form will have instructions of what to send, what the seller should keep and what to keep yourself.

You should then receive a new V5C within two to four weeks.

Next up is the MOT certificate

Every car over three years old must have a valid MOT certificate to prove it has it passed a roadworthiness test in the last 12 months.

Check to make sure the MOT certificate looks genuine – but if you aren’t sure, you can check the vehicles’ MOT status online (

Service history

Then check the service history

The more service history  the better –  as this shows how much work has been done to maintain the car and keep it in good condition.

Receipts will show what work has been done and should record the mileage, make sure this tallies with the mileage shown on the MOT certificates.

If there are no receipts, there should be stamps in the car’s handbook to prove the car’s been regularly serviced.


When you buy the car, make sure you and the seller have copies of a receipt that includes:

  • Car make and model
  • Registration and VIN
  • Mileage at time of sale
  • Acknowledgement the sellers has agreed a price for the vehicle and received the money
  • A date and the signatures of both the seller and you, the buyer

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