The annual MOT test: what it is and all you need to know about it

The MOT test was first dreamt up by the Ministry of Transport hence the name to ensure vehicles were safe and roadworthy. Set up in 1960, the MOT was initially for vehicles that were 10 years or older.

Written by James Foxall
Written by James Foxall
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But so many motors failed that the following year the test was made applicable to vehicles that were seven years and older. It was changed to apply to vehicles more than three-years old 50 years ago, in 1967. Here’s all you need to know about the annual MOT test.


What is the MOT?

The MOT is a series of checks that all vehicles more than three years old must go through every year. It’s important to understand that an MOT is not the same as a service. It is a roadworthiness test designed to ensure that vehicles don’t pose a danger to other road users.


What if your car fails its MOT?

You can drive your car after its failed its MOT but you need two very good reasons for doing so. You can either take it to have the defects fixed or take it to a pre-arranged MOT test. Otherwise, if you decide to continue driving without a valid MOT you can be fined up to £1000 and your insurance could be cancelled.


What the MOT covers?

When your car goes for its MOT, testers will check the lighting and indicators, steering and suspension, brakes, tyres and wheels, the bodywork, exhaust and its emissions, seatbelts and the driver’s view of the road.


When your car can take the MOT

The law states: “You can get an MOT up to a month (minus a day) before it runs out and keep the same renewal date.” Of course you can put your car in for its MOT more than a month before it expires but then your renewal date is pulled forward and you lose out.

If you take your car for the test within a month minus a day of its expiry and it fails, you can still drive it until the original MOT expires. Taking the test early like this means you have the option of taking the car to another garage to have it fixed, fixing it yourself, or sourcing and buying the parts you need if you think it’ll save you money. However, if you’re involved in a crash caused by the defect that caused it to fail, or you’re stopped by the police, you can be fined up to £2500 and get three penalty points.


Where can you get one done?

There are around 20,000 MOT test centres in the UK. They can be franchised manufacturer dealerships, independent garages and even council run test stations.


What are the cheapest ways to get an MOT?

Where you take your car for its MOT and how much you pay depends on your car. The official cost is £54.85 and no test centre can charge more than that. But some garages offer cheaper MOTs. The hope from their perspective is that if your car fails, you’ll have the work done with them. If yours is a relatively new car and unlikely to fail, these are a good option.

An alternative is to take your car to a council run MOT test centre. These do the MOTs on council vehicles but they have to accept the general public’s vehicles too. However, they can’t do any remedial work on cars belonging to members of the public so have no incentive to fail them. This choice is good if your car is in decent condition and you’re confident it’s unlikely to fail the test.


What do most cars fail their MOT on?

The majority of motors – about a fifth ‑ fail the MOT because of problems with lighting. The next most popular failure point is a suspension, followed by brakes and tyres.

Written by James Foxall
James Foxall

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