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What to expect during an MOT

Get prepared for your MOT with our handy guide

Image of two cars getting serviced in a garage

What gets checked in an MOT? Why do I need one and how much does an MOT cost? Get the answers to your questions about the MOT test in our guide.

What is an MOT?

An MOT is basically an annual check up for your car. The MOT test checks important parts of your vehicle to make sure they reach legal standards.

The test was originally introduced by the Ministry of Transport, which is why it's called an MOT. It just stands for Ministry of Transport test.

When do I need an MOT?

If your car is over three years old, it's a legal requirement to have it checked once a year by an approved MOT test centre.

You can tell if a garage is 'approved' for MOT testing, as it will display a blue sign with three white triangles on it.

If your car is less than three years old, you need to get an MOT test by the third anniversary of its registration.

Check online to find out when your MOT is due.

How much does it cost?

There is a different set price for an MOT on a motorbike, a car and a van. The maximum fee for a car is currently £54.85.

However, shop around, as many garages will offer an MOT test for much less than this.

Why do I need an MOT?

It's the law. A valid MOT certificate proves that important parts of your vehicle reach certain standards. If you don't have a valid certificate, the police can issue an on the spot fine of £60 and a fine of up to £1,000 if you go to court.

Your insurance is invalid without one. If you don't have an MOT then your car insurance won't cover you in an accident.

This means you'll need to pay for any repairs to your car yourself and cover the costs of any other drivers involved if you are at fault. And, if your insurance is invalid, you could also receive a fine and points on your licence.

If you don't have a valid certificate, the police can issue an on the spot fine of £60 and a fine of up to £1,000 if you go to court.

Should I prepare for my MOT?

It's a good idea to give your car a look over a week or so before your MOT test is due. According to Halfords, 30% of MOT faults relate to lighting and signalling, another 10% to brakes and a further 10% to tyres.

So by checking that your lights and indicators work, there's enough tread on your tyres and that your brakes aren't sticking, you could pre-empt any issues being raised at the MOT.

What gets checked in an MOT?

An MOT takes between 45 minutes and an hour and checks a range of parts on your car including:

  • Body and vehicle structure. Checked for corrosion and rust and to make sure there are no sharp edges that could cause damage.
  • Doors. Latches and hinges must be secure.
  • Mirrors. Checked for vision and condition.
  • Lights. Must be in good working order.
  • Windscreen. Checked for cracks and driver's view.
  • Horn. To make sure it works and is suitable for the vehicle.
  • Tyres and wheels. Checked for condition and safety plus tyre tread.
  • Brakes. Must be in good working condition.
  • Registration plates. Should conform to standards and be securely attached.
  • Wipers and washers. Must be properly attached and working.
  • Steering and suspension. Checked for condition and that they work effectively.
  • Seats and seatbelts. All seats must be secure and the driver's seat must be adjustable. Seatbelts must be fitted and in good working order.
  • Exhaust and exhaust emissions. The exhaust must be secure and complete. Your vehicle must meet exhaust emission standards for its age and fuel type.

What happens if my car fails the MOT?

If your car fails, you'll need to get it repaired to MOT standards and have it retested. Many test centres will retest your car for free if the repairs are carried out at their garage.

It's a good idea to book your MOT well in advance of the due date. So, if your car fails, you're still covered to drive it under the old MOT until it runs out. This gives you time to get your car repaired and have it retested. Please bear in mind technically your vehicle will be unroadworthy and so could invalidate your car insurance.

If your MOT expires, the only time you can drive your car on a public road is when you drive it to the test centre. If the police stop you, you'll need to prove you're on your way to get an MOT.

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