It can be costly and a little bit tense but, like it or not, your Ministry of Transport (MOT) test is compulsory for keeping your car on the road legally.

Every car that is three years old or more must have an MOT test every year. This is vital to making sure that cars are safe to drive. By doing this, an expert can uncover any areas that need to be fixed and advise you on any parts that may need repairing in the future. However, if your car fails its MOT test then you will have to have it repaired and retested or else you can't drive it.

Whether it is your first MOT test or one of many that you have had before, it is important to know the rules and fees involved. It is also worth making sure you know what to do if you are dissatisfied with the service.

What are the rules?

You must get your MOT test done before the anniversary of your last one, or by the third anniversary of your car's registration. However, you can't have this done until one month before the anniversary of your last MOT test at the earliest.

When booking your MOT test, make sure that it is at an approved centre. Look out for the blue sign with three white triangles; if the centre displays this then you can have your test done here.

If your vehicle passes the test then you will get an MOT certificate and the test record will be entered onto the MOT test database. Therefore, you will be able to prove that your vehicle is legal to drive.

On the other hand, if your car fails, you will get a notification of failure and you will have to get it repaired and retested. You can legally drive your car until your last MOT runs out, however, police can stop and prosecute you if your car is not roadworthy.

If your MOT has run out, then the only time you can legally drive your car is if you are taking it to be repaired or retested.

How much are the MOT fees?

The cost of an MOT test depends on the type of vehicle. There are maximum prices, set out by the government, that test centres can charge depending on different vehicle types. However, these do not include VAT.

For example, MOT tests for cars with up to eight passenger seats cost £54.85 at most. A motorbike with an engine size of over 200cm3 costs up to £29.65 to have an MOT test.

Should you need to have your vehicle tested again then you will need to pay to have its second MOT test. However, there are instances when you can get a partial retest for free or a reduced MOT fee.

If you leave your vehicle at the test centre and it is retested within ten working days of the original failure then you only need to get a partial retest and will not incur another fee.

You can also get a partial retest for free if you bring your car back to the same test centre before the end of the next working day and are having specific areas retested. There is a fairly extensive list of what these areas are. Some examples of what is included are the battery, fuel filler cap, electrical wiring or steering wheel.

Should you remove your car from the test centre and take it for a retest within ten working days of when you originally failed then you only need to get a partial retest. However, in this instance you may need to pay a fee.

What to do if you're unhappy

Be sure to discuss your failure with the MOT test centre before you get any repairs done. You can appeal against a failure by filling in a VT17 form. This must be received by the Driving and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) within 14 working days of the test.

The DVSA will then give you an appointment to recheck your vehicle and you will have to repay the test fee. If the appeal is successful then you can get a full or partial refund.