If you are in the market to purchase a car and especially if this is your first time, you will want to know exactly what you are buying. Thankfully a lot of this information is held in a central database, and you can perform a DVLA vehicle check quite easily. Where do you go to get this data, and what will you find?
What is the DVLA?
The Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (aka DVLA) is the body set up by the UK government to administer vehicle and driver registrations across the UK. It maintains the database for all vehicles authorised to be driven on public roads, as well as those kept off-road. The agency can also sell personalised number plates and collects road tax on behalf of the Treasury.
The DVLA is based in Swansea and can provide information via phone, post or online. If you are looking for data before you buy another vehicle, you should use the DVLA's car check tool to gather all that you need to know.
How to Use the DVLA Vehicle Tax Check Portal
When you access the site here, it will prompt you to enter the vehicle's registration number. You will then confirm that the provided information is correct before being sent to the database.
You will find two key items of information first - the tax and MOT status.
If the vehicle is active and on the road, then you will be told when the tax is next due. If not, you can see if it is subject to a "SORN" classification (more details below). Always remember, you must tax the vehicle before you can drive it. Likewise, if the MOT certificate is active, this page will show you when it next expires.
Note, if somebody has recently changed the tax or MOT status, it may take up to 5 days to show online.
You may be particularly interested in the EURO status, and especially if you live in or travel to the London area. As you may know, Transport for London has introduced a new scheme called ULEV, designed to deter drivers of "polluting" vehicles through the imposition of a daily fee. They are expanding the programme to cover all of Inner London, rather than just the central core.
If your car meets the relevant Euro standard, then you will not need to pay this fee (currently £12.50 per day), and thus its Euro status becomes rather important. For example, if the vehicle you're looking at has a diesel engine, then it will need to have Euro 6 status to avoid the ULEV charge.
The EURO 6 emission standards dictate an upper limit for particulate matter and harmful gases such as NOx. Specifically, the diesel vehicle may not emit more than 80 mg per kilometre of nitrogen oxide.
A "real driving emissions" test helps to ensure that a vehicle delivers low emissions in everyday driving conditions. To perform the test, car manufacturers will drive the vehicle over public roads through a variety of changing conditions. Using a portable emission measuring system, they will record a wealth of data to ensure that they keep nitrogen oxides and other pollutants to a minimum. Engineers use this information to confirm that a vehicle meets a relevant Euro standard. While this test can help to lower emissions and reduce pollutants, manufacturers will also use the data to improve vehicle fuel consumption.
SORN stands for Statutory Off-Road Notification. If you own a vehicle but do not intend to use it, you must apply for this status. Specifically, if the vehicle is not insured or taxed, you will need to generate a SORN, even if you intend to store it on private land all the time. You can be fined £80 for not having a SORN and may receive an additional penalty for having an uninsured vehicle. Further, you will receive a much more significant fine if you use the vehicle on the road when it is under a statutory off-road modification.
Bear in mind that you cannot transfer a SORN from a prior owner. Therefore, if you are buying a car that is currently off-road and displays this status when you conduct a DVLA car check, you will have to apply to the authority for a new certificate.
If this displays "Y", it means that the previous owner has informed the DVLA that they have permanently exported the vehicle.
This section confirms that the UK Approval Authority and Technical Service has independently tested a version of the vehicle in question and it is, therefore, safe for use. The relevant category is displayed.
This figure is essentially the maximum gross weight of the vehicle when it is fully laden.
This document records the registration and tax history of the vehicle. Also known as the logbook, the V5C tells you who has owned the vehicle and will subsequently prove your ownership once you have completed the sale. Here you will find the date when the DVLA last updated the logbook.
You can also perform a DVLA vehicle MOT check to look at previous history. You will be able to check past results to see if the vehicle failed or passed, and the location of the test. You can also find out why particular parts failed at each test, or if any other components displayed minor issues. Also, find out when the next MOT is due for planning purposes.
To perform the check, you will need the 11 digit number from the V5C logbook to find the location of each test.
If you're about to sell a car, you want to make sure that the information held is correct and up-to-date by performing a DVLA vehicle check. If you need to buy a vehicle, on the other hand, check the vehicle database for tax status, MOT, Euro emission conformity and more.