What is a full service history?

A full service history can be expected to add value to a used car, but what exactly does it mean?

BuyaCar team
Jun 26, 2019

When buying second-hand, it can offer you real peace of mind to know that the vehicle you’re getting has been looked after properly, and correctly maintained. A full service history shows that the vehicle has undergone all the relevant service checks and maintenance at the right times to prevent problems arising.

As an owner, maintaining a full service history for your car can also make it much easier to sell on - especially if you choose to sell your car privately and in particular for high-value or sporty models.

Many car manufacturers offer fixed-price servicing packages when you buy a brand new car that can help make maintaining a full service history more cost-effective. If you opt for one of these deals, you can pay an up-front fee for all servicing for a set period of time - usually 3-5 years - or make a set monthly payment to cover the servicing cost.

Be aware, though, that as with many warranties, you may have to pay for some consumables - wear and tear items like tyres and windscren wipers - often it’s only the basic service cost that’s covered.

What does a full service history look like?

A full service history usually means that the service book that comes with the car has been stamped by the dealer to confirm the relevant work has been completed, with receipts covering the specific work carried out and parts fitted.

It should be stamped with the name and address of the dealer and dated, with details like the mileage reading of the car and what level of service has been undertaken. Some services in a car’s scheduled service life will be small while others could be much more extensive – it’s vital that the big services are carried out at the correct intervals to keep the car in the best possible condition.

Do I have to take my car to a dealer?

This is where the definition of precisely what constitutes a ‘full service history’ gets a bit blurry. In the eyes of some people, as long as a car’s service logbook has been filled in and stamped at appropriate intervals (whether related to time or mileage) and maintenance checks have been carried out to the appropriate service level, then that counts as a full service history.

Others would insist that a car has to have been looked after by an official manufacturer main dealer in order to be classed as having a full service history. When you’re buying a used car, one way to ensure this is to buy from a dealer’s ‘approved used’ scheme, as these tend to only include cars that have been serviced within the dealer network. Another way is to look for advert descriptions that talk about a car having a ‘full dealer service history’ or 'full manufacturer service history'.

If a car doesn’t have a full dealer service history, but still has a full book of service stamps, then it’s definitely worth making sure the independent garages the car has gone to have a good reputation. If the vehicle you’re considering is a luxury or specialist model then it’s worth ensuring that any servicing work has been done at a business that specialises in that particular make, too.

One significant advantage of opting for a car with a full dealer history is that you should be able to get in touch with them and get more details of work carried out on the car, as their computer systems will have a proper record of this.

Many manufacturers now hold service records online rather than printing out paper receipts, so it's possible the dealer will be able to prove the existence of a full service history with an online printout.

How and when should a car be serviced?

Most cars require servicing at specific intervals. Normally this is after a certain amount of miles or a set time period (often a year) – whichever comes first. This is to ensure that parts on high-mileage cars don’t wear out or, if you cover relatively few miles, that parts or fluids with a specific life (ie rubber parts that might perish) are changed regularly enough.

To find out the particular service intervals relevant to your car you’ll be able to check the manual, or visit the manufacturer’s website. Many modern cars are able to actively warn you when they are due for a service. Some have ‘variable’ services intervals where the car’s systems monitor how it’s getting driven and can adjust the service requirements accordingly.


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