MOT Guide – Everything You Need To Know

Since the beginnings of the MOT (Ministry of Transport) test back in 1960, by law every vehicle requires an MOT test on its third birthday to ensure that it’s roadworthy and that it meets the current legal requirements.

Find out what car parts get tested, how to avoid common failures, what you can do to check a vehicle’s MOT history and more in this guide.

How often do I need an MOT?

If your vehicle is three years old or older, it must have a current MOT test certificate which needs to be renewed annually.

What if I lease my car?

If you’re leasing your car for three years or less, you won’t need to worry about getting an MOT for your lease car. However, if you’re leasing for any longer than this then it will be your responsibility to ensure your car is covered by a valid MOT on the year of its third birthday and annually thereafter.

Remember: if you didn’t get a maintenance package, you’ll have to cover the costs of the MOT.

I have a classic car. Does it still need an MOT?

classic car

Since 2018, cars that were first registered over 40 years ago no longer need an MOT, unless they have been substantially changed in the last 30 years. However, there are some exceptions to the rule so we recommend reading the changes to see how they affect you.

You will also need to make sure you keep the vehicle in a roadworthy condition and register it as a Vehicle of Historic Interest (VHI) in order to be eligible for MOT exemption.

Remember: always consult the MOT laws to check whether or not your vehicle is exempt.

Should I get an interim service?

interim service

Interim services are typically targeted at drivers that drive 20,000 or more miles a year and as such, will need more than just the recommended annual service. If you are a high mileage driver an interim service may be beneficial in helping to ensure your car is in good condition as well as in highlighting any potential issues ahead of your MOT or annual service.

If you have a lease car or a vehicle on some other form of finance and are driving these kinds of miles, then it’s advised that you have the car serviced at regular intervals as advised by the manufacturer.

Even if your contract length doesn’t require you to have an MOT, an interim service could help you avoid damage charges which could potentially occur from doing a lot of miles each year.

What if I’m not driving my car?

If you’re not currently driving your car and have no plans in doing so then an MOT isn’t needed as long as you keep the car off public roads like on your drive or in your garage. By law you have to declare a car which is no longer being driven as SORN, to do this you need to notify the DVLA to let them know you are taking the car off the road. 

Remember: if your car has no MOT it is illegal to keep it on public roads and to drive it unless you are driving to get an MOT test.

How much does an MOT cost?

While MOT costs will vary from test centre to test centre, there is a maximum amount they can charge. Use the table below to work out how much an MOT might cost you.

What gets tested during an MOT?

The MOT tests important aspects of your vehicle to ensure that it meets the legal standards. Here’s a breakdown of everything that gets tested.

Lights and electrical equipment

All of the vehicle’s lights will be inspected to verify their condition, operation and accuracy. Headlamps will also be checked to ensure that they meet the standards for cleaning, self levelling and security.

Any visible electrical wiring and the car’s battery will also be checked.

Suspension and steering

As well as inspecting the tyres and wheels themselves, the vehicle’s suspension and steering will also be checked. The tester will be looking to ensure that they are in good condition, work correctly, have a suitable level of oil and that the steering lock mechanism works as expected.

Tyres and wheels

When it comes to tyres and wheels, the tester will check the condition, security, size and type with each tyre to ensure they are suitable for the vehicle. Tyre tread depth and the tyre pressure monitoring system (if applicable) will also be checked. However, spare wheels/tyres aren’t checked as part of the MOT.

Brakes

The condition, operation and performance of your vehicle’s brakes will be checked during the MOT as well as the anti-lock braking system and/or the electronic stability control where relevant.

Seat belts

All seat belts will be inspected to ensure that all required belts are present and suitable for the vehicle, that they are in good working condition and that they are attached securely in the event of an accident.

Engine, exhaust and emissions

While an MOT doesn’t check the mechanical condition of the engine like your annual service would, it does check the vehicle’s fuel system, its exhaust and the level of emissions your vehicle produces. 

The fuel system will be checked for leaks, that any pipes/hoses are secured and in good condition and that fuel cap operates securely.

The exhaust system will be checked to ensure that it’s secure, complete, not excessively noisy and without serious leaks.

Emissions will be checked to ensure that they meet the rules for exhaust emissions unless the tester has reason to believe the smoke test may damage your engine.

Body/general items

The body and structure of your vehicle will be inspected to check that they are free of excessive corrosion and damage, and that there aren’t any sharp edges that are likely to cause injury to yourself or others. 

Windscreen, mirrors and wipers

The vehicle’s mirrors will be checked for their condition and security and counted to make sure the vehicle has the required minimum number of mirrors.

Also the windscreen will be inspected for excessive cracks and that no impairments affect the driver’s view of the road. 

Washers will be checked to make sure they are operational and clean as expected.

Electric and hybrid car MOTs

connecting to charge port
Credit: EDF Energy

Electric and hybrid car MOTs start just like any other since they still need to be uploaded onto the MOT system after the first three years of their life, however they do vary in procedure.

Hybrid cars are ultimately the same as standard MOTs since they mostly rely on an ICE, although a diagnostic hybrid battery check is required and PHEVs need charging ports and high voltage cables check.

Moreover because these cars have fewer moving parts there’s less need to repair/replace things, so more emphasis is placed on checking how electrical systems are running and the health of the battery and the performance of the electric motor.

What an electric car MOT involves

An electric car MOT is a simple six step process that involves the following:

1. Vehicle logging

As with all vehicles, an EV needs to be logged on the official MOT test system.

2. Lights

After logging your vehicle, since there are no emissions checks to be done, the tester will move onto the next test and check that all your lights are working correctly.

3. Miscellaneous

Once the lights have been checked, the tester will move onto the seatbelts, windscreen wipers and the windscreen where they will check for defects like cracks and chips.

4. Steering and Suspension

Next up, your EV will be raised into the air to be able to check the effectiveness of the steering as. The tyres will also be checked and spinned at this time to ensure each has the correct bearing.

5. Rust

While your vehicle is still in the air, its underside will be visually checked for rust.

6. Brakes

To finish, the car will be lowered back to the ground and undergo the same brakes test as any other vehicle.

What happens if my car fails its MOT?

Should your car fail its MOT, you will be issued with a VT30 ‘Refusal of an MOT Test Certificate’ that will outline why your car has failed. From here you can either choose to appeal the decision or get your vehicle repaired and retested. 

If you choose to get your car repaired and retested, it can usually be done on the same day as the failure and will cost you the standard price for an MOT plus cost of parts and labour of whatever needs repairing. A garage should tell you about any work that needs following a fail before starting it too.

In the event that you decide to appeal the decision, you will need to obtain and complete a ‘Complain about an MOT’ form and send it off to the DVSA within 14 days of the MOT you are disputing. You should then receive an MOT appointment within five days to retest the vehicle. While you’ll have to pay for another MOT, you’ll be liable to a full or partial refund if your appeal is successful.

Common MOT failures you can avoid

While you can’t do anything to guarantee you’ll pass your MOT, there are a few simple checks you can do to avoid some of the common causes of MOT failures:

1. Check the lights

Believed to be the most common cause of MOT failure, blown bulbs are an easy thing to check for. Simply go around the vehicle checking each of the lights in turn to ensure that they are all working. If you find any blown bulbs, get them sorted ahead of your MOT.

2. Tyres

Another common cause of failure is tyre tread depth. To avoid this, use a 20p piece to check the tread depth along the whole of each tyre. Should the coin barely enter the tread, it could mean it’s under the legal limit.

3. Windscreen Washers

It’s usually the little things that people forget and you could be failed simply because your windscreen washers don’t work. Ensure your screen wash reservoir is filled and give it a quick test before your MOT.

4. View of the road

It’s a legal requirement that the driver has sufficient view of the road at all times with nothing impeding their line of vision. As such, cracks on the windscreen or windscreen mounted phone holders could lead to failure. If a crack is bigger than 40mm in size anywhere on the windscreen or a crack as large as 10mm is found within the driver’s field of vision you are likely to fail.

5. Steering

One of the few fluids that are tested during an MOT is the power steering fluid, so make sure there is at least the minimum required amount in the reservoir.

6. Seatbelts

seat belt check

Since seatbelts must retract, knots and twists could lead to failure. Take the time to check that each belt acts as expected.

7. Number Plates

As well as being legal plates, they must be visible and legible at all times. Therefore you could fail just because they are dirty! Give them a quick wipe off before your MOT.

Fines for driving without an MOT

The only time you’re allowed to drive your vehicle without an MOT is when you’re taking it to be tested. In all other scenarios, driving without an MOT is considered illegal and you risk severe consequences if caught.

Punishments vary in severity and range from Police cautioning to driver disqualification and known punishments include:

  • Police caution and/or fines of up to £1,000 for being caught driving without an MOT.
  • Fines greater than £1,000 and/or possible points on the license or driver disqualification for driving a vehicle without an MOT that is also found to be unroadworthy.

Driving without an MOT will also invalidate your insurance which could leave you liable for a fixed fine of £300 and six points on your licence if you’re caught driving without insurance.

Independent garage vs franchised dealership

Where to take your car for its MOT can impact resale value of the car and will probably mean a bigger or smaller bill at the end of the day. Which one you choose depends on the type of car you have and whether specialist parts are needed.

Independent garage

While independent garages are likely your closest and cheapest option making it the ideal choice for your MOT, choosing an independent garage may negatively impact the resale value of your vehicle as not all are warranty approved.

On the other hand, you’re likely to get one-on-one time with the mechanic doing the MOT when dealing with independent garages as well as better customer service since they would want your repeat business. As such, you’d need to decide what’s more important to you: service or resale value?

Franchised dealership

In contrast with franchised dealerships you’re likely to get a more expensive but professional offering. Dealerships are warranty approved and will make sure to use manufacturer certified parts and the all important dealer stamp in your log book could help to maintain the resale value of your vehicle.

However, dealerships may sneak in hidden fees that weren’t necessarily discussed or clear at the start so make sure to ask for a full price breakdown of any work prior to it being started.

How to find your nearest MOT centre

The government has compiled a list of active MOT test centres across the country in order to help you find your nearest centre. As well as listing the centres, the tool also  details what vehicles they test, the centre’s address and its known contact information.

What happens if I lose my MOT certificate?

If you happen to accidentally lose your MOT certificate, it’s not the end of the world since you can get a replacement from any MOT centre (for a small fee of up to £10) or for free online.

In order to get a replacement certificate, you must have the vehicle’s 11-digit V5C reference number which can be found in the vehicle’s log book. For leasing/PCP agreements where the finance provider retains this document, you’ll have to contact the company who you got the vehicle from to get the vehicle’s 11-digit V5C reference number.

Checking your MOT online

It is possible to check whether or not a vehicle has a valid MOT certificate and it’s expiration date by using the government’s online tool.

If you’re unsure about caring for your car, you may want to consider a lease maintenance package. If you still have questions about car care or leasing, head over to our handy guides page to find out all you need to know.

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