DVLA Car Check

Important: Calls to this number cost 7p per minute, plus your operator’s access charge. We will connect your call directly to the DVLA helpline. We are not associated with DVLA.

Car Check – Your Essential Checklist

There a many ways in which you can check a car – you can check its tax history, how it has performed in previous years’ MOTs, its SORN status and more besides.  Further to this, you can also have your car physically checked by an authorised body local to you – meaning that there is more power than ever granted to drivers in terms of how much information they have to hand.  It’s important to undergo a car check up – physical or otherwise – as it is not just peace of mind for you, but it also ensures that you are legally able to drive your vehicle without any undue repercussions.  In addition to this, checking also ensures that you are safe on the road – and it is important to get everything checked over before you take your vehicle out.  A car check before purchase, at least on its background, is highly recommended – but there are of course other things you can do once you have full ownership, too.

What is a car check?

A car check is exactly what it sounds like – and it can apply to both a physical examination and an investigation into the background and history of a vehicle.  The DVLA are able to perform a basic car check by registration for you online – meaning that you are able to ascertain data you are entitled to simply by visiting the department’s main website.  It is through here, too, that you will be able to learn more about a vehicle’s MOT history – meaning that you can instantly check whether or not you will need to make any repairs or be aware of any problems that could arise in future.

A physical car check is equally important – this can happen annually as part of your MOT requirements, or you can take your vehicle in for a car check up if you feel there are a number of issues that require professional attention.  These checks can vary from centre to centre, though there is a car checklist that applies to MOT coverage which we will look into a little further down.  For avoidance of any doubt, and to put your mind at ease, getting a car check mot or otherwise is well worth the money – particularly if you have just recently bought a vehicle and would like to know if it is fighting fit to take to the road.

Getting data on a car’s history

Certain data is available to you online through the DVLA’s car check portal.  Here, you can request details on certain factors relating to the history of a car, but not its previous drivers and keepers.  You will need to write to the DVLA separately to apply for such information requests.

Historical car checks online can give you a lot of background on how your car has performed previously, and when you can expect to take it in for its next MOT.  The DVLA will also happily provide you with technical information about your vehicle if you did not receive such data on purchase.  It is always a good idea to have this data to hand, particularly as it may come in useful later on in the car’s lifespan.

What goes into a historical car check?

The DVLA will be able to supply you with certain information based upon the licence plate registration you provide.  Simply by entering in your applicable number plate, you can start the car check by reg online – and the car check cost for this service is free.  There are a host of details and historical factors that the check will advise you of – and these will include the following:

  • When and where the vehicle was manufactured and registered
  • The car’s applicable tax rate
  • Carbon emissions data
  • MOT due date and current data
  • Vehicle tax expiry date
  • The engine size
  • The colour
  • SORN status

DVLA advises that you will need to use an external service – askMID – should you wish to check if the vehicle is already insured, and what you can expect to pay in future.

MOT histories

The DVLA can also provide you with advice on the MOT history of a vehicle.  This is particularly handy if you have recently made a purchase, and it is just as simple as the standard car check process in previous steps.  The MOT status checker requires just a handful of information – particularly the car manufacturer and registration number – to get started.

Can I find out more information on my vehicle?

You can – but the DVLA will not permit certain types of car check by registration online.  To be able to find out additional information of a more detailed nature, you will need to make a ‘subject access’ request via the DVLA in writing, either through the post or by email.

This request is completely free, and you need to ensure that you enclose certain details about you and your vehicle on submitting.  Make sure you enclose the following:

  • Your name and current address
  • The address registered on your car’s log book
  • The information you require – for example, when the car was originally manufactured
  • The vehicle’s registration number

You can email this information to the DVLA via [email protected].  Alternatively, you can write to the SAR team via the post as follows:

SAR Enquiries




SA99 1ZZ

If you wish to request data about previous keepers of other vehicles, you will need to submit an external form via post – forms V888, V8882 and V8883.  They are all available for you to download and print here.

Car checks and MOTs – What’s the difference?

Physical car checks can be carried out at any time – for example, if you are concerned about damage or deterioration – but a car check for mot purposes must occur every year.  This is to ensure that your vehicle is still regarded as legal to use on the road, and that it is considered safe for both you, passengers and any other road users.  A brand new car will only need an MOT three years after manufacture – but it is a legal requirement that you ensure your vehicle enters an MOT every year after that.  One of the biggest points on your ‘buying a car checklist’ should be that you find out when the vehicle was last cleared for MOT – and, where possible, what the results where.  While the DVLA may not be able to give you all of this information, they can at least give you a schedule of dates.

What if I fail my physical checks?

Failing physical car checks outside of an MOT will simply mean that you need to bring your car up to code – and it is similarly the case when it comes to passing your latest MOT, too.  Without a valid MOT your car will not be road legal – meaning that you may need to supply your vehicle for repair should you fail in one or more categories.

The areas analysed in an MOT are as follows:

  • Brakes
  • Doors and seatbelts
  • Lights
  • Wheels and tyres
  • Fuel system
  • Fuel cap
  • Emissions
  • Steering quality
  • Mirrors
  • Bodywork and outer shell
  • Windscreen, wipers and washer bottle
  • Horn
  • Suspension
  • Number plates
  • Vehicle ID and registration data

Therefore, it is important for all these areas of your vehicle to be up to code – otherwise, you risk failing your MOT and any car check ups you attend.  This could mean that you are off the road until you make amendments – though if your MOT certificate is still valid, you may still be entitled to drive your car until expiry if it is deemed safe to do so.

How much does a physical car check cost?

Car check costs can vary from centre to centre – but the DVLA has applied certain caps on MOTs in particular.  You will be charged no more than £54.85 for a car check mot, whereas a motorcycle will expect to pay no more than £29.65.  These upper limits will apply to your car check up alone – meaning that if any repairs are required, extra fees will likely apply.  It will therefore be a good idea to shop around for a reputable and affordable service centre near you.


The DVSA are responsible for MOTs and vehicle testing as well as car checks on the whole – meaning that if you are unhappy with a recent MOT failure which you feel was unjust, you are entitled to complain via form.  Simply fill in this application up to 14 working days after the test and the DVSA will be back in touch as soon as possible.

You can, alternatively, speak with a member of the DVSA directly via telephone if you feel that you have further concerns relating to a car check or MOT – but the majority of complaints regarding service should be addressed to the service centre in question as priority.  Beyond this, you can call 0300 123 9000 Monday to Friday, between 7:30am and 6pm.

Contact details

In addition to the above details for the DVLA, car check services and the DVSA contact number, you can also write to the DVSA directly, either via email or through the post.  You may email the DVSA via [email protected], or write via post to the following address:


The Ellipse

Padley Road