An MOT test is a yearly check to ensure that a vehicle meets road safety and environmental standards. The MOT, named after the old Ministry of Transport, is standardised across all 21,000 designated MOT test centres, each of which displays the official blue logo with its three white triangles.
MOT standards are monitored by the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA).
Most cars over three years old require an MOT every 12 months. It’s illegal to drive a car without a valid MOT, and you could be fined up to £1,000 if you’re caught. Normally, you can only legally drive with an expired MOT is if you’re going to a pre-booked MOT appointment or to get your car repaired after a failed test.
For cars, MOT test centres can charge anything up to the maximum fee of £54.85. However, if your car fails the test you’ll also need to factor in repair costs before it can go back on the road. Many garages will retest your car for free if it fails, and some will work on a no-pass, no-fee basis.
Currently, most cars over three years old require an MOT every 12 months. The three-year age rule applies in England, Wales and Scotland, while cars in Northern Ireland can wait until the fourth anniversary of their registration for their first MOT test. You don't need an MOT if the car was built or registered more than 40 years ago on 1 January.
It’s simple to find out when your MOT is due on the government website — you just need to enter the car’s registration number. If you’re buying a used vehicle, you can also check its MOT history and status via the government portal.
You can get your MOT one month (minus one day) before it expires and still keep the current renewal date. As an example, if your current MOT runs out on 15 May, you could get the test done as early as 16 April and still keep the same renewal date next year.
It's easy to set one up with a Uswitch account below. You can also sign up for handy reminders for your car insurance, car tax and other utilities including mobile phone and broadband contracts as well as when your energy deals come to an end.
You can legally drive your car on the road without a valid MOT if you are driving to a pre-arranged MOT, or driving to a place to have MOT defects fixed. If you car does not require an MOT – it is less than three years old or over 40 year old – you can drive without an MOT.
Your insurance may only cover you for the legal minimum level of cover – for third-party only injury or damage
It is an offence to park a car without an MOT on the road
You need a valid MOT to buy road tax (Vehicle Excise Duty – VED)
Most car MOTs take around 45 minutes, sometimes a little longer. Some test centres will suggest bringing in your car early in the morning and request that you pick it up when they call. Others have space pressures, so try and be a bit flexible or stick to appointment times.
There’s a long list of things that need to be checked for your car to pass its MOT.
These must be free from excessive corrosion and damage, including sharp edges that could cause injury.
Towbars will be assessed for secureness, condition and any inappropriate repairs or modification. Your MOT test will also verify the 13-pin electrical socket is working correctly, the speedometer is in good working order and the engine mountings are secure.
There must be no leaks, with pipes and hoses secure and in good condition. The fuel cap needs to fasten properly and seal securely.
Your car must meet the rules on exhaust emissions, subject to its age and fuel type. For diesel vehicles, the MOT tester will refuse to do the test if they think that the smoke test may damage your engine.
Testers will want to see that the exhaust system is secure and complete.
As a key safety feature of your car, seatbelts come under detailed scrutiny as part of your MOT, as will your airbags.
MOT testers need to verify that the driver’s seat can be adjusted and that all seats are securely fitted.
Latches, hinges and catches must be secure. Front doors need to open from inside and outside the vehicle while rear doors open from outside the vehicle.
Your MOT tester will check for the correct number of mirrors and ensure they are in good condition.
The boot or tailgate needs to close properly.
As an essential safety mechanism, brakes are all important in terms of your MOT. The tester will check their condition, looking out for inappropriate repairs or modifications, and their operation and performance.
Anti-lock braking systems (ABS) and electronic stability controls (ESC) are also part of the MOT test. MILs or dashboard warning lights will also be checked for the ABS, ESC, electronic park brake and brake fluid warning lights.
There are various checks in this category, including condition, security and tread depth.
Your registration plates must be in an acceptable condition, securely attached, of proper colour and with characters adequately formed and spaced.
Your lights will be carefully checked to ensure they are in good working order.
The MOT tester will check if it closes properly.
These must work properly.
The condition of your windscreen will be checked to ensure the driver has a good view of the road.
Your MOT tester will ensure the horn works properly and that it’s suitable for the car.
Various checks are performed on the steering and suspension to ensure all is in good condition and in working order. MILs or dashboard warning lights will also be checked for the electronic power steering and steering lock.
A VIN should be on vehicles first used on or after 1 August 1980.
Along with your battery, all visible electrical wiring is covered under the MOT checks.
Crucially the MOT is all about verifying whether your car meets legal standards rather than a general assessment of its mechanical condition. This means the MOT test doesn’t cover the condition of the engine, clutch or gearbox.
Don’t panic if your car fails its MOT as this is quite common. In fact, 35% of cars failed their initial MOT test in 2016-2017, according to the DVSA. Just remember if your car does fail, you will need to fix any problems and pass a retest if you want to get it back on the road.
If your car passes the test you may be issued advisory notes – these are issues spotted by the tester that do not constitute an MOT failure but that might require your attention.
If your MOT testing centre does repairs you can ask them for a quote to fix any problems, or you can shop around for another mechanic.
In 2018, some key changes were introduced to the MOT test.
Rather than a simple pass or fail, the outcome of an MOT is now categorised in different ways:
Advisory - Your car has passed the test but includes some advisory notices.
Minor - Your car has passed the test but has minor issues that should be repaired as soon as possible.
Major - Your car has failed the test due to major issues that may affect the vehicle’s safety, put other road users at risk or have an impact on the environment. You may drive it to be repaired.
Dangerous - Your car has issues that pose a direct and immediate risk to road safety or have a serious impact on the environment. You are not permitted to drive away.
The latest test includes stricter limits for emissions from diesel cars with a diesel particulate filter (DPF).
MOT testers must now check whether tyres are underinflated, if brake fluid has been contaminated and if brake pads or discs are missing. Your MOT testing centre can provide a full list of the checks that will be carried out.
The MOT certificate has been redesigned to clearly set out the new defect categories.
Most vehicles over 40 years old will not require an MOT test. This applies from the 40th anniversary of the car’s registration and only if the vehicle has not been substantially changed in the past 30 years.
Sign up for an MOT reminder with a Uswitch account