HPI, Equifax, Text Checker and many others will check your potential car purchases at a cost. But what about the most basic of checks such as the MoT?
Mike Humble explains… and best of all IT’S FREE!
Those who know me will vouch for the fact that I am slightly pessimistic, if there was ever a glass half empty kind of person it’s me, and then I would also spot a chip in the rim. Saying that, being this way makes me appreciate something or someone who does me a good turn or when something does goe pear shaped, I’m ready and sort of knew it was coming.
Only just recently, I had one of those ‘can you look at a car for me’ phone calls, and with it being a seemingly bargain Rover 45 of 2002 vintage, I said okay, threw my Roveralls into the boot, and headed off up the road with a friend to view the aforementioned car. Discussing the car en route, it seemed too good to be true and even though 1.8 Rover 45s may not be the most sought after used chariot, a 2002 with aircon, leather, alloys, sensible mileage and service history for well under a grand would even have me tempted or at least curious.
Arriving at the vendor’s house, we both gazed from the windscreen at a street that looked like that scene from Terminator 2 where Sarah Connor has that dream where Nuclear oblivion hits the world – broken children’s swings and toys strewn everywhere in the front gardens, it was not exactly Beverley Hills.
There sat the Rover 45 looking resplendent in Jewish Racing Gold, knocking on the front door we were then greeted by the seller who can only be described as a cross between Ross Kemp and Dominic Littlewood. Cutting to the chase, we looked around the car while my mate kept the seller talking so to let me get on with the investigative matters. The vendor never said anything about my presence, but his discomfort was obvious – I could feel his eyes burning a hole in the back of my clothes.
Right from the start all the alarm signs were there – he had owned the car for a shade over eight months and six previous jockeys showed on the log book. The service book was there but no paperwork to support the stamps whatsoever. Noting the addresses on the stamps, it looked like ever year the car had been serviced in a different county and all the usual signs of previous engine woes could be seen in the form of the manifold heat shield missing, a stud also missing from the cylinder head/manifold joint and the dipstick tube not secured to the water pump – all a guarantee that the head had been off recently with work done on the cheap. But on face value the car seemed to be worth a punt at the asking price of £700 if a decent discount could be obtained.
A road test the followed whereby it became obvious that it was a wreck, it drove really badly. The power steering was noisy, its brakes were shocking, the steering wheel was about 25 degrees out of straight, none of the tyres matched for brand and the rear end felt like you were playing around on a water bed. Asking the seller about the missing advise sheet for the MoT, we were told it was for the small crack in the windscreen.
Wisely, my buddy suggested he went away and thought about it and we conversed about this rag bag 45 all the way home. What no one noticed was myself scribbling down the cars reg number and MoT certificate number from the VT20 when we back in The Bronx (oops I meant Crawley). If you look on your current MoT certificate (if you have one) towards the top left you will see the MoT Test Number with the Reg no: below. All you need to do is log onto the VOSA website and follow the link for MOT CHECK, it’s all free and takes less than 30 seconds.
Here, you will find the cars history of passes, fails and advisory notes going right back to when MOT tests went on-line. I’m amazed at how many people are not aware of this facility.
Be honest, how many times have you gone to look at a used car to find the advise sheet missing but the staple or tell tale holes still reside in the certificate? We checked the Rover when we got back round to my place, advises on steering, brakes, corrosion on the brake pipes, corrosion on the fuel lines, play in the CV joints, slow retraction of one of the seat belts – but oddly enough, no mention of the small crack in the windscreen. From a car owning point of view, if you intend to keep your car and you pick up a few advisory notes at the test, don’t be tempted to bury your head in the sand, get them dealt with or prioritise the work – it will only come back to bite you in the wallet. So in a nutshell, Graham did not buy the Rover – and to close, I’d like to offer a few simple nuggets of advice that cost nothing for when you next rush out to buy that used car….
- Check the MoT history using the VOSA website – its free and can make for some interesting reading!
- Nice cars tend to come from nice areas and driven by nice people – not allways the case but mainly true!
- No one ever became offended by saying a polite NO – refuse to feel obliging, if it’s not right WALK AWAY!
- Any vendor worth his salt selling a genuine car WILL NOT bat an eyelid should you take an experienced person with you.
- Advisory notes potentially are just as serious as a fail, use your bargaining skills and negotiate acordingly.
Moving on to Rover and then PSV / HGV, he has circumnavigated most departments of dealerships including parts, service and latterly - the showroom. Mike has owned all sorts of rubbish from Lada to Leyland and also holds both Heavy Goods & Public Service Vehicle licences, he buys & sells buses and coaches during the week. Mike runs his own automotive web site and writes for a number of motoring or commercial vehicle themed publications
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