Check Previous Vehicle Owners
When you’re buying a used car, knowing how many owners it has had can be a key indicator of how well the vehicle has been looked after and may affect its value.
Generally, the fewer owners a car has had, the better, but this might not always be the case. For example, a classic car aged 25 years or older might not be affected much by multiple owners, particularly when valued by collectors. On the other hand, a car for everyday use is best with fewer owners. Going through “too many” previous owners might indicate that the car is in poor condition or is troublesome.
Although it might seem like a sensible question, finding out how many previous owners your used car has been through isn’t always a straightforward process. Some sellers might be misleading or unwilling to divulge the vehicle’s previous ownership, or they may simply not know themselves.
Thankfully, it is possible to find out how many owners a vehicle has had in its lifetime. However, if you want more information, you will need a good reason for this and request the data directly from the DVLA.
Read on to learn how to check how many previous vehicle owners your used car has had and why you might need to know.
Why is it important to check a car’s previous owner history?
A vehicle’s Previous Owner History is precisely what the name suggests: it tells you how many owners the vehicle has had. It’s important to know when buying a used car because it can indicate how reliable and well looked after the vehicle might have been.
In addition to highlighting any potential problems with the car, a Previous Owner History check is useful for you to have if you want to sell the car in the future. The number of owners a car has been through will affect its value, so it’s helpful when settling on a buying or selling price to have this information beforehand.
Why are too many owners a bad thing?
As we mentioned in an earlier paragraph, many owners aren’t necessarily bad. They can even be expected if the vehicle is a classic or collectors’ car. That said, if you’re buying a used car for daily use, multiple owners in a relatively short space of time could be a warning sign that something’s not right.
Consider the reasons you might want to get rid of your car after a short space of time: it could be because there’s something wrong with it that’s too costly or inconvenient to fix. Or perhaps there’s an issue that the MOT didn’t pick up but is incredibly annoying, and you’d prefer just to get a new car. By checking how swiftly the vehicle has gone through past owners, you might be able to figure out whether there’s an issue that could affect the car’s price. You might even decide to walk away entirely.
Similarly, owners who don’t keep hold of their car for very long are less likely to have taken particularly good care of it. So, if your vehicle doesn’t have much in the way of long-term ownership, you might want to be careful that the car hasn’t been “ragged” or neglected.
How can I find out how many previous owners a used car has had?
There are a few ways to check the Previous Owner History of a used vehicle, varying in complexity and the amount of work required of you. There are also vast numbers of online services that can run Previous Owner History checks. These checks usually require a fee but can be more thorough than anything you’ll find by yourself.
By far, the easiest way to learn about the previous owners of a used car is simply to ask the seller. Often, the seller will already have this information and should verify their answer with the V5 logbook.
However, the downside to asking is that unscrupulous car dealers might try to mask the number of previous owners a vehicle has had to inflate the asking place. While this seems absurd, it happens more frequently than you might think! If you discover (or even suspect) a dealer isn’t being honest with you about the number of previous owners, it’s best to simply walk away: the car isn’t worth the risk.
Other times, the current vehicle owner or garage might genuinely not know the answer to this question or cannot provide you with information regarding previous owners due to privacy laws.
The V5 Logbook
The V5 logbook is a physical document issued by the DVLA when a vehicle is registered in the UK. It serves as a registration certificate and provides information on the car’s registered owner.
This logbook should contain (at a minimum) information on the current and previous owner of the vehicle and tell you the number of prior owners before that (without any additional information on these people).
Although the logbook should be destroyed and a new one supplied every time a vehicle changes hands, old V5 logbooks don’t always get destroyed. Therefore, it’s essential to check that the one you’re viewing is the most up to date.
It’s also important to cross-reference the information found in the V5 logbook with a vehicle check to ensure the data is accurate and relevant.
The Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) is a unique identifier every car is given and can be found in numerous locations. Check the driver’s-side door frame, the dashboard, and the registration or insurance documents to find it.
Once you have the VIN, multiple websites specialise in car history reports. For a small fee, you will be able to input the VIN and use this to run a history report check on the vehicle.
However, it’s worth noting that these sorts of checks will only provide you with the number of previous owners and won’t actually give you any further information.
Occasionally, the DVLA will release details of a vehicle’s previous owners to the current keeper, but not always.
As you might expect, no authority can simply hand over personal details due to privacy laws. However, if you have “reasonable cause” to require this information, the DVLA may consider releasing the data to you.
What if I need to contact a previous owner?
If you need more information than simply ‘how many owners has my car had?’, you will need to contact the DVLA. They will only provide you with this information if you have a good reason for needing it.
The DVLA considers the following to be “reasonable cause” for requesting previous vehicle owner information:
- Finding out who was responsible for an accident the vehicle was involved in
- Locating the owner of an abandoned vehicle
- Locating the registered keeper of a vehicle that’s parked on private property
- Distributing parking tickets
- Charging a vehicle owner for trespass
- Finding people who are or may be involved in a crime
- Investigating people suspected of insurance fraud.
You cannot request previous owner information simply because you want to buy the car.
You would also not be able to determine whether the vehicle has been used for private hire (for example, as a taxi) using this method.
The DVLA may also give out information to companies for one of the above reasons. An example of this might be a private car park that needs to send you a fine or invoice via post. While the DVLA won’t charge for individuals’ requests, private companies will need to pay a fine to access the data, which can be quite substantial in some cases.
If you have a valid reason for needing the previous owner’s history of a vehicle, you’ll need to complete a V888 form. Remember, lying on this form is a criminal offence, so it’s vital to complete the document as thoroughly and honestly as possible.
The V888 form
The V888 form is a relatively straightforward process. The forms can be downloaded directly from the gov.uk website. You will need a different form if you’re requesting this information for yourself (an individual) or on behalf of a company. Simply fill the form out and send it in the post. The DVLA will consider your request for information and contact you once they’ve reached their decision.
So there you have it. All the information you should possibly require on how to check previous vehicle owners information so that you don’t come unstuck when you upgrade your car!