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MOTs explained

4 minutes

Each year your vehicle needs a health check – an MOT. What happens during testing? How much does it cost? What if it fails? Here, we explain everything. 

  • Vehicles over three years old legally need a valid MOT certificate
  • Car MOTs cost a maximum of £54.85, for motorcycles it’s £29.65
  • If your vehicle fails its MOT, it needs to be repaired and re-tested until it passes
 

What is an MOT? 

An MOT is an annual check-up for vehicles. It ensures they’re legally roadworthy, safe and meet environmental and exhaust emissions standards.

Selected garages and qualified testers put different parts of your vehicle through their paces to see if they’re up to scratch.

These garages are approved MOT test centres and there are around 21,000 of them across the UK. You’ll find a blue sign with three white triangles displayed on site to prove their authenticity.

For information on how coronavirus (COVID-19) may affect your MOT, read our guide. 

What does MOT stand for?

MOT stands for Ministry of Transport. They originally created the test as a means to determine if cars were safe to stay on the roads.

The Ministry of Transport no longer exists. It has been merged into the Department of Transport – responsible for the upkeep of England’s entire transport network.

Which vehicles need an MOT?     

When a vehicle is over three years old*, it legally needs to undergo an MOT test every year and hold a valid MOT certificate – granted to you when it passes.

However, some vehicles need an MOT test after only a year. These include taxis and private passenger vehicles with more than nine seats. This is to help maintain emissions standards, as they are on the road more often, as well as the internal condition of these vehicles for members of the public.

There are several exemptions for an MOT test, including:

  • Goods vehicles that run on electricity (registered prior to 1st March 2015)
  • Classic cars built over 40 years ago, with no substantial modifications in the past 30 years
  • Tractors

* In Northern Ireland, vehicles don’t require their first MOT until they’re four years old.

 

Why do I need an MOT?     

 Your vehicle legally needs a valid MOT certificate. If you don’t have this, you could receive a fine of up to £1,000.

You also can’t legally drive or park your vehicle on the road if your MOT certificate is invalid. If you do, you run the risk of being prosecuted.

MOTs help ensure your vehicle is safe to drive  and everything is in full working order. This not only ensures your peace of mind that you and your passengers are safe, but so are other drivers and road users.

How long can you drive without an MOT?

It's illegal to drive without an MOT certificate.

However, there are a couple of exceptions. These include if you’re driving your vehicle to a:

  • Garage to get it repaired
  • Official MOT test centre to be tested

Can having no MOT invalidate my insurance?

Yes. If your car isn’t MOT-ed, you’ll invalidate your car insurance.

That means if you’re in an accident, your policy won’t cover you and you’ll be forced to pay for costly repairs to your own vehicle – and others involved if you’re at fault.

Plus, if you’re driving with invalid insurance because your vehicle doesn’t have a valid MOT certificate, you could receive a fixed penalty of £300 and six penalty points.

You might also have to go to court, which could mean paying an unlimited fine and being disqualified from driving.

When do I need an MOT?

You’ll need to book your vehicle in for its first MOT before the date three years after it was first registered.

If your vehicle is over three years old, it’ll need an MOT test before the annual anniversary of its last MOT. It’s best to check its previous MOT certificate, as this will have an expiry date listed on there.

Alternatively, the UK Government has an MOT status check on their website. This lets you see whether your vehicle has a valid certificate and on what date it runs out.

How much is an MOT for a car? 

The maximum amount* an official test centre can charge for an MOT depends on the type of vehicle:

  • Cars – £54.85
  • Motorcycles – £29.65
  • Motorcycle with sidecar – £37.80
  • Three-wheeled vehicles (up to 450kg) – £37.80
  • Three-wheeled vehicles (over 450kg) – £54.85
  • Motor caravans – £54.85

*Figures correct as of April 2020

If your vehicle fails its MOT and needs to be retested at the same garage, you usually won’t have to pay an additional fee if it’s repaired there  . Should your vehicle fail again, you’ll have to pay the full MOT retest fee once more.

However, you may be charged a partial retest fee if it’s taken away from the garage to be repaired and then retested within ten working days.

How should I prepare for my MOT?

Regularly checking your vehicle is a simple driving tip that can keep it in a good condition. But it’s even more important in the run-up to your MOT.

Here are a couple of things that can help ensure you don’t fall foul of the testers:

  • Clean your car – it’s good practice to keep your vehicle clean generally, but it’s important to declutter before the testers step-in
  • Check lights – turn all your lights on, step out of your car and double-check to see if all bulbs are working
  • Inspect tyres – look out for damaged or worn treads and inflate your tyres to their recommended pressures
  • Test brakes – while you’re driving, see if your car pulls to one side while braking – also check your brake fluid levels when you’re stationary

What does an MOT test for?   

MOTs test the following elements of your vehicle exterior, interior and mechanics:

Vehicle exterior

  • Bodywork and structure – checking for corrosion, rust and damage
  • Boot – can be opened safely and remains secured when closed
  • Doors – latches are secure and hinges allow for full motion
  • Front, rear and side lights – no blown bulbs and all are fully operational
  • Registration plate – conform to UK number plate display standards 
  • Towbar – it can secure another vehicle safely
  • Tyres and wheels – tyre treads and pressures are at recommended levels
  • Windscreen, wipers and washers – no chips or cracks in windscreen and wipers, washers are attached and working
  • Wing mirrors – allow full vision of either side of a vehicle

Interior

  • Horn – fully working and suitable for the vehicle
  • Seats – are all secure and front seats can be adjusted
  • Seatbelts and airbags – all passenger and driver seats have working seatbelts and airbags

Mechanics

  • Bonnets – can be opened and remain open safely
  • Brakes – in full working order and adhere to road safety standards
  • Steering – checked for full motion and locking
  • Suspension – springs are completely operational
  • Exhaust system – exhaust is secure and conforms to emission standards for the type of vehicle
  • Fuel system – pipes and hoses are secure with no leaks
  • Electrical wiring and battery – battery provides power to the electrically-powered parts of your car

It’s worth noting that MOTs won’t check your engine, clutch or gearbox. These will be inspected when you book your vehicle in for a service.

Check out the UK government’s full list of car parts checked at a proper MOT.

How long does an MOT last?   

A test typically lasts between 45 and 60 minutes. There are a few things that can extend this time, such as:

  • Repairs required – if your vehicle needs repairs to pass its MOT, it will take longer. You can usually have it fixed up at the same garage, which saves time.
  • Busy periods – March is a peak month for people booking their MOTs. At these peak times you may need to leave your vehicle there for the day and collect it later.
  • Car services – some decide to book in a service alongside an MOT. This might mean your vehicle is in the garage for longer but does sort out two jobs at once.

What happens when my vehicle passes its MOT? 

You’ll receive an MOT certificate from the test centre when your vehicle passes. This certifies that your vehicle is safe to drive for the next year until its retest is due. You should keep this for your records. 

Your test result will also be recorded in the MOT database. This means your car will be visible to the authorities as having a valid certificate.

What can you fail an MOT on? 

Your vehicle can fail an MOT on several things. The Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) have found the most common reasons include:

  • Faulty light bulbs – from headlights to tail lights, all your vehicle bulbs are tested. 18% of all cars fail their MOT because of faulty lighting
  • Tyre issues – around 7% of cars fail their MOT because of incorrect tyre pressures or damaged and worn treads
  • Brake problems – nearly 10% of cars don’t pass their MOT because of faulty brakes or lack of brake fluid
  • Driver view issues – non-operational wipers, washers and windscreens can affect your sight line while driving – which can result in an MOT fail 

What happens if my car fails an MOT?   

If your vehicle fails its MOT, it’ll need to be repaired before it can be retested.

You can drive away from the test centre if you still have a valid MOT certificate and there were no problems with your car classified as dangerous.

However, you’ll still need to get your vehicle repaired and re-tested before your current certificate expires.

If you’re driving a vehicle that has a ‘dangerous’ fault, you could receive a fine of up to £2,500, three penalty points, and may even be handed a driving ban.

Can I appeal a failed MOT?

You can appeal the decision to fail your vehicle on its MOT test. You’ll need to fill in a complaint form  and send this off to the DVSA within 14 working days. 

They’ll contact you to discuss the next steps you need to take. If your appeal is unsuccessful, you’ll need to book another MOT test and will have to pay the full amount again. When successful, you’ll receive a pass certificate.

While you’re preparing to book your vehicle in for its annual check-up, why not ensure its cover is sorted too? Find out how with LV= car insurance

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