• Sign in
  • |
  • Sign up

Car Buying

Buying a Used Car: Can You Get Service Records from a Dealer?

RELATED READING
RESEARCH BY MAKE
Honda cars, trucks and SUVs Nissan cars, trucks and SUVs Ford cars, trucks and SUVs Toyota cars, trucks and SUVs Lexus cars, trucks and SUVs Hyundai cars, trucks and SUVs Acura cars, trucks and SUVs Chevrolet cars, trucks and SUVs
Acura cars, trucks and SUVs Alfa Romeo cars, trucks and SUVs Aston Martin cars, trucks and SUVs Audi cars, trucks and SUVs Bentley cars, trucks and SUVs BMW cars, trucks and SUVs Buick cars, trucks and SUVs Cadillac cars, trucks and SUVs Chevrolet cars, trucks and SUVs Chrysler cars, trucks and SUVs Dodge cars, trucks and SUVs Ferrari cars, trucks and SUVs FIAT cars, trucks and SUVs Ford cars, trucks and SUVs Freightliner cars, trucks and SUVs GMC cars, trucks and SUVs Honda cars, trucks and SUVs Hyundai cars, trucks and SUVs Infiniti cars, trucks and SUVs Jaguar cars, trucks and SUVs Jeep cars, trucks and SUVs Kia cars, trucks and SUVs Lamborghini cars, trucks and SUVs Land Rover cars, trucks and SUVs Lexus cars, trucks and SUVs Lincoln cars, trucks and SUVs Lotus cars, trucks and SUVs Maserati cars, trucks and SUVs Mazda cars, trucks and SUVs McLaren cars, trucks and SUVs Mercedes-Benz cars, trucks and SUVs MINI cars, trucks and SUVs Mitsubishi cars, trucks and SUVs Nissan cars, trucks and SUVs Porsche cars, trucks and SUVs RAM cars, trucks and SUVs Scion cars, trucks and SUVs smart cars, trucks and SUVs SRT cars, trucks and SUVs Subaru cars, trucks and SUVs Tesla cars, trucks and SUVs Toyota cars, trucks and SUVs Volkswagen cars, trucks and SUVs Volvo cars, trucks and SUVs
RESEARCH BY STYLE
AWD/4WD
Commercial
Convertible
Coupe
Hatchback
Hybrid/Electric
Luxury
Sedan
SUV/Crossover
Truck
Van/Minivan
Wagon

author photo by Doug DeMuro

If you're interested in buying a used car, you're probably curious about its maintenance history. Was the previous owner obsessive about making sure every detail of the car was perfect? Or did an earlier driver neglect the maintenance and keep the car going as cheaply as possible? To find out, you might be tempted to call a dealer and ask for maintenance records, but this isn't always as easy as it seems, as we explain below.

Do You Need Maintenance Records?

Before we cover how to go about getting maintenance records, we think we should address whether you really need them. For many drivers, the answer to this question is no. A lot of people don't care to see receipts for maintenance and repairs, especially for an older used car that isn't worth too much. A lot of drivers also prefer a mechanical inspection to checking records, since a mechanic's word is often a lot more important to shoppers than making sure the car has had oil changes performed at recommended intervals.

But some car shoppers will want to see the records, and on certain cars (especially high-end models), many drivers will expect them to be included in the sale. So what do you do if you want to see a car's maintenance history and the seller doesn't have any records?

Call the Dealer

Our first suggestion is to call an authorized dealership for the brand of car you're considering and politely explain your situation. If the dealer provides the records, they probably won't charge you, so you should make sure to be appreciative.

In some cases, the dealership will not want to release the maintenance records. The reason for this is privacy; maintenance records often contain addresses, phone numbers and credit card information of the car's previous owners. If the dealer tells you that it won't release the records, you should try another dealer. You don't have to go to your local dealer or even the dealer where the car has been serviced. Any authorized dealership should have access to a car's maintenance records.

If several dealers hassle you about privacy concerns, you may want to visit a local dealer and request the records in person. There, you can ask the dealer to print the records and cross out the previous owner's personal information using thick marker. While this may sway some dealerships, others still may not provide the records, and in that case, you may just have to give up.

Will Dealers Have All the Records?

If you can't get the records from a dealer, don't be too disappointed. If a car is ever serviced at an independent mechanic or if it's had an oil change at a corner store, that record won't show up in the dealer's database. As a result, the dealer might not have the most complete records on a car, so fighting hard for a car's service history might not be worth your time.

Still, we understand the reason why you might want a car's service records, and we think most dealers will feel the same way, if you ask nicely and explain that you're buying a used car. But don't think that your mechanical worries are over once you have the records: We still recommend that buyers get a thorough mechanical inspection on nearly all used cars and trucks.

This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
Close 
Buying a Used Car: Can You Get Service Records from a Dealer?