The car I’m interested in buying has no service history. Is this a problem?

Service history

Every modern car has a recommended service schedule. Most motors come with a book for owners to record servicing and maintenance. This is called the service history and sometimes they do go missing. Knowing this, and the importance of service history, increasing numbers of car makers are making their records digital.

But while a service history is important, you could buy a car without one for a knock-down price. And it is possible to find a missing service history. A car with no service record need not be a problem. But it does require work. Here’s what you need to do.

Why is a service history important?

Ever wondered why so many adverts for used cars feature the acronym, FSH? It stands for full service history and is included because a car with a complete service record can be worth as much as 20 per cent more than the same make and model that’s missing proof it’s been correctly maintained.

As the average price of a used car sold in Britain is just less than £8000, a missing service history could knock as much as £1600 off its value.

When the owner comes to sell a car, or trade it in for another model, most buyers – whether they’re car dealers or private individuals – demand a complete service history. It should help ensure the vehicle is in good working order and will remain that way for many miles to come.

Service history comes as a paper or digital record

Most drivers are familiar with the traditional way of recording a car’s service history: a stamp in the vehicle service book. This then usually lives in the car’s glovebox. However, some cars have been known to have secret compartments beneath the glovebox that house the user manual and service history.

The stamp is added by the garage that carried out the work. It should indicate the mileage and date, type of service performed – a minor or major service, for example – and details of the garage.

Drivers who appreciate the value of complete records will also collect and keep the garage’s paper invoice. This will list the work carried out and itemise the cost of each task or new component.

Can you recover a missing service history?

We’ve seen how important the service history is but can you recover a missing one? If you still own the car, you could try calling the garage that has serviced it during your ownership. Once you’ve provided them with a few personal and vehicle details, they’ll be able to email or post records.

Buyers of used cars missing a service history should try to establish with the vendor how the car was serviced. Assuming it has been maintained by independent garages, you need to contact the garages that serviced it.

If it’s been serviced within a franchised main dealer network, any of the manufacturer’s garages should be able to confirm whether a car has been serviced by their brand’s technicians. Contacting the exact dealer will tell you what work was done and when.

The DVLA can help to trace a car’s previous owner

Let’s face it, plenty of people are tempted by the lure of a car that’s cheap because of a missing service history. And especially if they’re mechanically savvy or know someone who is and have inspected the vehicle carefully.

You might take the plunge, bag a bargain, and then set about recovering the service history retrospectively. Alternatively, you might already own a car, know that it needs servicing but not know exactly what kind of service it needs. Whichever category you fall into, you’ll need to trace the car’s previous owner, or owners. You can download a V888 form from the DVLA website, requesting their details. There’s a £2.50 fee.

You’d then need to write to the former keepers. You have two hopes. First that they reply. Second that they still have the car’s service record, or at least remember what work was performed where and when.