I know how much the original owner of my Citroen AX GT paid for the car when it was new in September 1989. I also know that he paid £92 for black paint.
I know how much a chap paid for my 1993 Volkswagen Corrado VR6 in 1997, and that he part-exchanged a 1988 Audi Coupe with 52,000 miles on the clock.
I know that in 2009, a new air conditioning condenser was fitted to my Peugeot 406 Coupe because the old one ‘was not getting cold’.
For me, having a full and detailed service history is almost essential. It’s part of a car’s provenance. A biographical insight into the car’s previous life, presented in chronological order.
A stamped service book isn’t enough. These are mere thumbnails, telling just part of the story. Who’s to say what work was done and to what extent? What parts were used? Was the car given a minor service when a major overhaul was due?
A fully stamped book backed by a wedge of receipts and invoices is the holy grail. Without them, your car’s history is as hollow as a politician’s pre-election speech.
‘Get out of litigation free’
But there’s a problem. In the age of GDPR – and with dealers in fear of litigation – showrooms are alive with the sound of shredders, busy making service histories a thing of the past.
I’ve heard reports of car dealers trashing service records because they contained the names and addresses of previous owners. This removes a layer of provenance from the car, particularly if it’s a classic, and could reduce its value by thousands of pounds.
Figures vary, but this report suggests a car without service history could be worth up to 40 percent less than an equivalent car with a comprehensive CV. I’d wager that in the world of historic racing cars and multi-million dollar classics, the difference could be night and day.
This isn’t a problem confined to someone like me, who gets joy – yes, joy – from finding an older car with original number plates, dealer stickers, an unused cigarette lighter, and more receipts than a sales rep’s glovebox.
In the case of a car still under warranty, if something goes wrong and the car hasn’t been maintained to the manufacturer’s schedule, the cover could be invalid. A stamp in a service book isn’t going to change that.
You can’t blame the car dealers. With the spectre of GDPR looming large – not to mention the prospect of crippling fines – recycling a tome of printed invoices is a quick ‘get out of litigation free’ card.
That said, there’s a broader concern that some unscrupulous sellers could use GDPR as an excuse to remove all traces of some of a car’s less savoury former life or to fabricate recent work. This problem was present in pre-GDPR days – how many invoices magically found their way into the bin when it was time for the car to be sold?
If in doubt, scrub it out
New research from Cap HPI shows that 75 percent of motorists would be put off buying a car without a full service history, so this concern isn’t the preserve of sad anoraks like me.
Is it too simplistic to suggest that a seller who doesn’t want their name and address passed on to the next owner takes a black pen to the receipt? Maybe a pair of scissors would come in handy, but do ask an adult to help you with these.
Could a concerned car dealer adopt a similar approach? If in doubt, scrub it out. But please, don’t chuck it away.
According to Lawgistics, “It is fine to hand over documents about a car’s history to a new owners. Dealers wanting to follow this approach should add a sentence to reflect this processing usage in their privacy notice”. Please seek legal advice of your own.
Moving forward, could franchised dealers and independent garages produce invoices and receipts that contain no personal details? If they show the car’s make, model, registration plate, VIN number and mileage, that ought to be enough.
Common sense is required, please, before anyone gets too trigger happy with the shredding machine.
In case you’re wondering, Mr [name redacted] paid £7,634.90 for the AX. Money well spent, sir. Money well spent.