An MOT is your car’s annual health check. But who needs one and how do you find out when yours is due?
An MOT test (named after the old Ministry of Transport) is a yearly check to ensure vehicles are roadworthy. The test is standardised across all MOT test centres and covers various aspects of safety as well as emissions checks.
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.
It’s illegal to drive a car without a valid MOT, and you could be fined up to £1,000 if you’re caught. The only time you can legally drive with an expired MOT is to a pre-booked MOT appointment or to get it repaired after a failed test.
As of 30 March 2020 MOT certificates have been automatically extended for 6 months because of COVID-19.
MOT test centres can charge anything up to a maximum fee, which is currently set at £54.85 for cars. 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 re-test your car for free if it fails, and some will work on a no-pass, no-fee basis.
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 re-test 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.
Categorisation Rather than a simple pass or fail, the outcome of an MOT is now categorised in different ways:
Advisory - The car has passed the test but includes some advisory notices.
Minor - The car has passed the test but has minor issues that should be repaired as soon as possible.
Major - The 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.
Dangerous - The car has issues that pose a direct and immediate risk to road safety or have a serious impact on the environment.
Diesel emissions The new test will include stricter limits for emissions from diesel cars with a diesel particulate filter (DPF).
New checks The new MOT test involves some new checks, including 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.
Certificate The MOT certificate has been redesigned to clearly set out the new defect categories.
Age As of 20 May 2018, 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 last 30 years.
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 here.
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.
Want to get an MOT reminder? 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.