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Your car’s MoT history

When you’re looking at buying a second-hand car you want to home in on one that’s been cherished. One where the owner has kept on top of the routine servicing and really lavished plenty of love and attention. Do your homework and it’s not all that hard to find such cars; ones with detailed service histories and invoices an inch thick.
However, at the other end of the spectrum are the cars that have been run on a shoestring. They’re the cars that are nursed from one MoT to the next with a minimum of cash spent on them, and as a result MoT time tends to be a bit expensive.
Imagine how useful it would be to be able to glimpse into a car’s past. Ideally into its MoT history so you can see whether it has sailed through each time, or if every year it’s had to be patched up to gain a pass, while still staring down the barrel of a long list of advisories as the certificate is issued.
Well now you can see into a car’s MoT history, because when you take out an HPI check on a car this is now one of the many pieces of information that’s included in the report. To get an idea of the kind of information that’s included and how it’s presented, take a closer look at the sample HPI Check.

Read our blog from last year on why you shouldn’t drive your car if it’s failed its MoT and you can see how important this annual test is. The article details the key things that the MoT takes into account and the importance of paying attention to any advisories.
It’s these advisories that can provide the biggest insight into how well – or otherwise – a car has been maintained. Any MoT that throws up a long list of advisories suggests the car hasn’t been serviced properly (if at all) and its owner isn’t carrying out any basic checks to ensure it’s roadworthy.
Some owners assume the annual MoT includes some kind of maintenance – that if there are any defects they’ll be fixed as part of the test. But the MoT is only an inspection; for your money you don’t get any new parts and nothing is adjusted. If the car isn’t presented in a roadworthy state it’s issued with a fail certificate and it’s up to you to spend the necessary cash on putting things right.
The MoT test database that the HPI Check now accesses goes back to 2005, and as long as the car has been MoTed since then, any test results will appear. Included in the information is the date the car was tested, the mileage on the clock at that point, whether the car passed or failed and if it was the latter, the reason(s) why no pass certificate was issued. Also included are details of those advisories mentioned earlier.
Deciphering the code
If we look at the sample report we can see that when the car was presented for its first MoT the handbrake was out of adjustment so it failed the test, even though it had covered just 14,305 miles. At this point the car would have been three years old, which is when a car’s first MoT is due.
By the time of the next test the car had racked up a few more faults, one of which led to it failing the MoT (a failed tail light bulb), and on top of this there were also a few advisories. What’s interesting is that the car had covered less than 18,000 miles within its first four years – and also that there was a two-month gap between the first MoT expiring and the second one taking place.
This highlights several things. Firstly, just because a car has covered few miles that doesn’t make it trouble-free; a lack of use led to the brakes corroding, as given away by the advisories. Also, the car was either taken off the road for a couple of months, or the owner was driving around without an MoT. With the latter being the most likely scenario, it makes you wonder how good they are at keeping on top of things, such as vehicle maintenance.
This seems to be a pattern which is repeated each time; the car is presented for its MoT several months after the previous one has expired. In the early stages the car notches up numerous advisories for items that regular servicing should pick up on; worn tyres and brakes. It’s not as though the car is covering many miles each year, so such wear takes some time to become evident.
In a break from the norm, the most recent MoT has been performed several months before it’s due, probably to prepare the car for a sale. That might be because the vendor wants to sell the car with a 12-month ticket on it, or it could be because a potential buyer wants to make sure the car is in good condition, so has put the car through an MoT to see if it passes.
Another thing to keep an eye on is the recorded mileage. It should go up steadily, but it can go down too. It’s not illegal to reduce the displayed mileage, or to sell a car showing reduced mileage; there can be legitimate reasons for this, such as a new set of instruments having been fitted. But it’s an unlikely scenario – what’s much more likely is that the car has been clocked.
So the next time you’re buying a used car, you’ve now got another excellent reason to perform an HPI Check – just in case the 80+ items already included were not enough.
Richard Dredge