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Saturday 11 May 2019

Every Car We’ve Owned

Ever wondered what happened to your old cars? Here’s how to find out.

This is looking like a month of car-related posts following our recent change of car.

When you buy a car in the U.K., you now receive an official document called the V5C registration certificate, historically known as the “log book”. It shows you are the “registered keeper” – not necessarily the same as the owner, as in the case of a company vehicle, for example.

Our new V5C came through the post with a reminder that it was our responsibility to ensure the vehicle had been taxed – “tax it or lose it”, it said. In other words, to ensure that Vehicle Excise Duty had been paid, also known as the road tax, the tax disc, or, as I sometimes call it, the Road Fund Licence, a remnant of my days in accountancy many years ago. We don’t even have physical tax discs for the windscreen any more.

The reminder pointed to a web site where you can check your vehicle’s road tax and MOT test (roadworthiness) status: It confirmed we’re all legal, even though I knew that already.  The page also has a link to an insurance checker:, which reassuringly confirmed that our old cover had been cancelled and the new cover was in force.

Interestingly, these web sites let you check any car at all. Want to know about your friends’ or neighbours’ cars? Just enter their registration numbers and look (although the insurance site does warn that it is a data protection offence to look up the insurance status of a car you are not permitted to drive).

It set me thinking about all the cars we had owned, like my 1966 Morris Mini in the blog banner above, bought in 1972. Unsurprisingly, neither that nor its short-lived predecessor appear in the database. It was too long ago. 

But the next one I had does: a flame-red 1972 Morris Mini Van I bought when it was three years old. It shows it was first registered in 1972, that its tax ran out three years after I sold it at the end of October, 1984, and that there is no current MOT test certificate in force: as expected because I know that the person who bought it from me ran it for three years and then scrapped it.

It is also possible, in the case of any vehicle on the road after 2005, to check the MOT test history from the link at the bottom right of the screen above, which is This records the date of each MOT test, the vehicle mileage at the time, whether it passed or failed, and if it failed, the reasons why. The database also holds the location of each MOT test but you need to have the latest V5C number to access that, so you can only see it for vehicles you currently keep. Even if there are no tax details, there may still be an MOT history.

Well, as the kind of nerd who delights in these things, I wanted to check up on every car I or anyone in my family had ever owned. There was at least partial information for every vehicle I could remember except my first two mentioned above. It reveals some fascinating details.

For example, the eleven year old Golf Estate we sold recently to The database shows it passed its MOT test two weeks after we sold it. During this time it gained a further 377 miles on the clock. How can this be while it remained untaxed and uninsured? I am certain of the numbers because I noted the mileage when we sold it, and the MOT history shows the mileage when it passed its MOT.

Or my 1985 Talbot Samba, previously blogged about here, the first new car I ever had, and by far the worst. Within months it began to suffer all kinds of corrosion and mechanical problems which Peugeot-Talbot, basically, refused to acknowledge. It was in a terrible state when traded in after five years and 59,000 miles. I am, frankly, astonished to discover it ran for a further five years. Pity the poor owner. Unfortunately, it was too early for a record of the MOT details.

Our later cars lasted much longer. A Ford Fiesta we took over from my dad in early 2002 after he gave up driving, eighteen months old with only 1,500 miles on the clock, ran for a further nine years and 70,000 miles after we traded it at the end of 2006. Its MOT record suggest no major problems other than brake pipe corrosion, until near the end in 2015 when, at fifteen years old, structural corrosion seems to have done for it. 

We also had three VW Polos which lasted very well. One of them we had from three years old in 1993 until 2001. It then ran for another six years until, over sixteen years old with a mileage of 117,145, it failed its MOT test in January, 2007. From the list of faults (see screen image above), it looks like a sensible decision to give up on it.

But the longest lasting is an oceanic green VW Golf Estate, a lovely car bought new in February 2002, part-exchanged in 2008 at six and a half years and 55,000 miles, which, according to the latest records, is still on the road with 120,000 miles on the clock.

We’re now on to our seventh Volkswagen. It could well be my last. We must like them, although everyone has their preferences.


  1. That Morris Mini van must have been fun to drive. How interesting that one can follow the life, if you will, of a car.

    I do like a VW. I've owned two GTIs, a Passat Turbo and a 1300 '66 Beetle. They don't sell the Polo in the US, unfortunately. If they did, I would have probably bought one instead of buying a second GTI.

    1. I prefer the Golf to the Polo because of the size, although the present day Polo seems almost as big as the 1990s Golfs used to be. The higher h.p. models like some of the GTIs are quite powerful, but I'm too mean to pay the higher insurance costs.

    2. There's more about the mini van here:

  2. My dear young friend in Wisconsin purchased a new VW Golf shortly after she moved there, in 96. She drove and drove and drove that car. It's name was Eddy. One bright and sunny winter day she went down a hill, crossed a patch of black ice, and Eddy went across the road and died for her, with only 200 odd thousand miles. She's had VW's ever since, but not one has been rechristened Eddy. In fact, they were the Golfs involved in the recent diesel scandal.

    1. I've never had a diesel car - nasty things - always petrol. The new one we bought has incredible emissions figures - 113gm from 130 h.p. under the new European testing procedure - but I guess it won't be long before we're all driving electric or hydrogen cars.

  3. I'm pleased to discover the car I sold a few years ago only lasted for one more MOT, confirming my expectations.


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