We Brits are obsessed with a car’s service history, to the extent that a car with a ‘full’ service history is easier to sell than one with gaps.
So, what’s a service history good for? Well, it allows you to look back over a car’s life and check that everything ties up – in particular mileage. It also builds up a picture of how well a car has been looked after, and whether money has been spent on it.
However, the importance of a full service history is often exaggerated. If you’re looking at a 25-year-old Porsche then knowing what was done to it 20 years ago is nice but not really that useful. Those new brakes that were fitted in 1995 will have long since given up the ghost.
No, what’s really important is the last five years or so of a car’s life. This is when I like to see a full and comprehensive history. By that I don’t mean stamps in a service book – they don’t tell the full story. It’s easy to get a book stamped after just the bare minimum work has been done to a car – the mechanic could have suggested a raft of jobs that should be done but the owner chose to have little more than an oil change done. So you need to see invoices for the service work, and for any other maintenance. Work like a new clutch or brakes, or even an engine rebuild is great news if it has been done recently.
This recent history can also give an idea of how caring an owner has been. Someone who has kept every piece of paper relating to the car, and spent money on non-essential items in addition to servicing work is the sort of person it’s good to buy a car from.
My favourite example of this was a 964 that I looked at. The owner asked a garage to service the car and give him a list of every job that needed doing. He then systematically had each thing put right, even down to replacing the non-working cigarette lighter, although he didn’t smoke. And it was all carefully documented for buyers to see. Fantastic!
Now, if you find a car without any history, don’t be alarmed. It could well turn out to be a bargain buy, so long as you get it checked out beforehand. And then, if you keep the car for a few years and build up your own history, it should be easier for you to sell.