MOTs - they can feel like an annual inconvenience, but they are a critical legal requirement designed to keep drivers, passengers and other road users safe.
Most vehicles in mainland UK aged over three years must undergo an annual MOT test to ensure it meets minimum requirements as regards safety, roadworthiness and emissions standards. In Northern Ireland the equivalent must be carried out every four years for vehicles aged three years or more. MOT stands for Ministry of Transport, a now-defunct government department.
What does the MOT check?
The first MOT test in 1960 covered just a few aspects of a vehicle's condition, but today includes 20 parts and systems.
Areas checked within the MOT:
- under the bonnet
- under the vehicle
You can view the full MOT checklist here: Full MOT checklist
The MOT includes items that are integral to the vehicle's safe function, such as steering, suspension and seat belts, but it also covers less obvious components, like towbars and registration plate condition.
Unless they have considerable mechanical experience, a vehicle owner would never be able to inspect all these items to meet minimum standards.
Who can carry out MOTs?
There are around 23,500 local car repair garages located across England, Scotland and Wales which are approved to carry out MOTs.
These garages employ around 65,000 testers who can carry out tests and issue certificates.
What if my car fails its MOT?
In the event that your vehicle fails its MOT, you will be handed a “refusal of MOT certificate” (VT30) from the testing garage.
Your vehicle must then be repaired to meet MOT standards.
Will I be told about minor problems?
The MOT test garage may give you a list of 'minor' or 'advisory' problems.
These may not be enough to fail your MOT, but you should get them addressed quickly so they don’t get worse.
Is there a charge for a MOT retest?
There is no charge if you take the vehicle back to the same test centre before the end of the next working day. If you leave the vehicle at the test centre for repair and it is retested within 10 working days, then you'll need a partial retest, which is free.
But if you take the car away from the testing garage (at which you'll get repairs done) and return it within 10 working days for a partial retest, there could be an extra fee to pay.
Yes, you can appeal against an MOT fail or pass. If you think a failed MOT was incorrect, you can appeal to the DVLA within 14 days of the test.
If you think a passed MOT was incorrect, you can complain to the DVLA within 28 days of the test for all defects, except corrosion-related issues for which the time limit is three months.
Will my insurance cover MOT repairs?
Your vehicle insurance provider is unlikely to cover MOT repairs, so you are advised not to drive it, unless it's to an MOT-approved tested garage/centre.
Some standalone vehicle/MOT repair insurance policies are available if you're worried about being hit with a large repair bill.
How much is an MOT test?
The maximum fee for a car is £54.85 and £29.65 for a standard motorcycle. Some garages charge less than this.
Concerns over cheaper MOT tests
Some garages offer very low MOT fees - e.g. £25 for a car MOT. This could be because they may be able to make money from the repairs.
Aside from labour, they will charge for parts. Some garages add excessive profit margin on parts.
While bogus MOT failures are rare due to regular DVSA monitoring, problems can arise from charging larger sums for repairs. With this in mind, some motorists are wary of very low MOT fees, since the garage may intend to charge higher-than-average fees for parts in the event of a failure.
What if I'm late with my MOT test?
You are not legally allowed to drive a vehicle whose MOT test certificate has expired, unless you are driving to an MOT test garage for a test. Driving with an invalid MOT certificate will also invalidate your vehicle insurance.
MOTs become invalid at midnight on the certificate's expiry date.
Vehicles often fail their MOT for simple things like worn wiper blades or damaged number plates, so it's a good idea to fix such issues before your MOT test, to save time and potentially money - in the form of a retest fee.
MOT test fails often relate to:
- registration plate damage
- windscreen and wipers
- exhaust system
How do I check if my MOT is valid?
Visit the DVSA's MOT checker and enter your registration number and vehicle colour. You'll see instantly if the vehicle has a valid MOT certificate or not. It will also display the expiry date.