Everything you need to know about MOT tests

In the UK all cars that are 3 years old (4 years old in Northern Ireland) are required by law to undergo and pass an annual MOT test to show that they are fit to be driven on the road. The MOT test covers a number of safety, mechanical, electrical, and environmental standards.

If you drive or park your vehicle on the road without a valid MOT certificate you could face a fine of up to £1000 and your insurance policy may be invalidated.

An MOT test involves a comprehensive inspection to ensure your vehicle is roadworthy. The test does not cover the general mechanical condition of the vehicle so the condition of the clutch, engine, and gearbox will not be tested for example, as they are not critical to safety. You’ll need to book a service to ensure that the car is in good working order.

Booking an MOT

You must only use approved MOT test centres that display the blue official MOT sign to get your test. There are over 20,000 authorised test centres around the UK – you can find a list of active centres on gov.uk.

You can get an MOT test up to a month minus one day before it runs out and you will keep the same renewal date. For example, if your current certificate runs out on the 15th December the earliest you can book an MOT to keep the same renewal date for next year is the 16th November.

If you book before a month and a day, then the expiry date for the following year will be a year minus a day from the date the car passed its test. In the example above, if you booked your test for the 14th November, the MOT expiry date would change to the 13th November the following year.

How long does an MOT take?

An average MOT test takes between 45 minutes and an hour. However, many test centres require you to drop your car off first thing in the morning and collect it when it’s ready so you should be prepared to be without your car all day.

MOT Sign

Only authorised centres are allowed to carry out MOT tests

If your car passes its MOT you’ll be issued with a new certificate and will be free to drive your car away. The result will be recorded in the MOT database held by the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA).

If your car fails its MOT then a test centre will not allow you to drive your car away until the problems are fixed, unless your existing MOT certificate is still valid, or you are taking your car away to another garage to be fixed.

How much does an MOT cost?

The maximum fee for an MOT test is currently £54.85 for cars and caravans and £29.85 for motorbikes. However, many garages charge much less than this so it’s worth shopping around to find a discount in your area.

Preparing for your MOT

Many of the faults found during an MOT test could be avoided by carrying out some simple maintenance. It’s worthwhile doing a check yourself before taking your car in for its MOT to give yourself the best chance of passing:

  1. Clean your car. An examiner could refuse to test a messy car
  2. Clean the numberplates
  3. Check the windscreen wipers are working properly
  4. Check all your lights are working and replace any broken bulbs
  5. Check your tyre tread
  6. Top up the oil, brake fluid, and screenwash
  7. Check the horn works
  8. Make sure you can use all your mirrors safely
  9. Check the tension in your handbrake
  10. Make sure the driver’s seat can be adjusted
  11. Check the tension in the seatbelts
  12. Check the suspension

If anything’s not working as it should then it may be cheaper to get it fixed before waiting for your MOT test.

Failing an MOT

If your car has a dangerous or major fault it will fail its MOT test and the test centre will give you a VT30 certificate which details the reason for the fail.

A dangerous fault means that your car is a direct and immediate risk to road safety or has a serious impact on the environment. You will not be able to drive your car away from the test centre even to get it repaired. Get a quote from the garage that carried out the test as well as from other local garages. You may find it cheaper to get the repairs done elsewhere even if you have to arrange for the vehicle to be towed there.  

A major fault may affect the vehicle’s safety, put other road users at risk, or have an impact on the environment. You may be able to drive your car away it away as long as it’s roadworthy and your previous MOT certificate has not expired.

If your MOT has expired and your car is roadworthy you can drive it to have the faults fixed and for a booked MOT test.

If you drive your car without an MOT under any other circumstances you can be fined £25,00 get 3 points on your licence, and be banned from driving.

Getting a retest

If your car fails its MOT you need to arrange to have the faults repaired before arranging another test. If you leave the car to be fixed at the test centre then you’ll be able to get a partial retest for free as long as this is done within 10 days.

If you take your car away for repairs you arrange yourself you may be able get the retest done for free as long as you return the car by the end of the next working day. You can find a full list of the items that qualify for a free retest over on gov.uk.

Car Mechanic

Testers will carry out a number of inspections to determine whether your car is roadworthy

If you can’t get it back to the test centre by the next day then you have 10 days in which to return it to get a partial retest, but it’s unlikely to be free.  

In all other circumstances you’ll have to arrange another full MOT test for which you’ll have to pay the full fee.

I’ve lost my MOT certificate

If you’ve lost your MOT certificate you can go to gov.uk where you can view, print, and save any MOT certificate issued after 20th May 2018. You’ll need the vehicle’s registration number and the 11-digit reference number from the vehicle’s V5C, usually known as the logbook.

Otherwise you can go to any authorised MOT test centre and request a copy. It will cost you £10 and you’ll need to supply the registration number and V5C reference number.

You’ll need a valid MOT certificate to tax your vehicle or to change the tax class. You don’t need an MOT certificate to sell a car, but most buyers will ask to see one.