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Book a MOT In Northern Ireland

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If you already live in Northern Ireland, you’ll be well aware that some of the processes and procedures are different from the rest of the UK. This is especially the case when it comes to everything related to cars and driving tests. If you have recently moved to Northern Ireland, or just need a bit of a quick refresher on how the system operates, then read on for our quick guide.

What Vehicles are Tested?

One of the main differences between the system in Northern Ireland and in the rest of the UK is the age at which you first need to book a MOT test. In Northern Ireland cars and motorbikes do not have to be presented for their first MOT until they have reached four years since their first registration, compared with three in the rest of the UK. There are different rules for light goods vehicles such as vans which need a test after three years, and passenger vehicles like taxis and minibuses which are tested after a year.

Cost of MOT Test

Unlike in the rest of the UK where MOT figures are a cap and garages have flexibility to charge what they want up to that cap, the fees for MOT testing in Northern Ireland are fixed. Currently, the charge is £30.50 for a MOT test, with £18.50 for a retest after a failure. Prices are lower for motorbikes, and higher for vehicles such as minibuses and taxis. A full list of all the charges for MOT tests for all classes of vehicles is listed on the NIDirect website.

Checking MOT Online

Just as in the rest of the UK, checking whether or not a car has a valid MOT, or seeing when the MOT expires on your existing car is really easy, and just needs a few clicks on the government website. All you need is the registration number of the car you want to check up on. Anyone can check the MOT on any vehicle for any reason; you don’t need to be the owner or registered keeper of the vehicle concerned.

One key difference in Northern Ireland is that you are unable to access information about previous MOT testing results as you can in the rest of the UK. That doesn’t mean that Northern Irish car buyers are in the dark about the history of a car you are thinking of buying though. In order to get the information about the history of a MOT check, you must contact the Driver and Vehicle Agency (DVA) customer services team either on the phone or by email.

What Vehicles are Exempt from Testing?

Before you rush off to book a MOT test in Northern Ireland, could your vehicle actually be exempt from the system? The main class of vehicles which don’t need an annual MOT are those with a historical exemption. Any vehicle which was first registered 40 years or longer ago, is no longer in production, and which has not been substantially altered with a new engine or similar, doesn’t need a MOT test.

Even if your vehicle is exempt from formal MOT testing, you still have a responsibility as a driver to make sure it is in roadworthy condition. Many drivers therefore choose to put their historic cars through an informal MOT test every year anyway, so that they can ensure that everything is safe to use on the public roads. The historic exemptions generally do not apply to heavy vehicles such as buses or lorries, or to vehicles which are hired out to the public, like wedding cars or limousines.

Applying for a MOT Test Slot

The DVA will write to drivers to remind them when their MOT test is due. In recent years, there has been a huge issue with securing MOT test slots in Northern Ireland, even before the pandemic. In Northern Ireland, MOT tests are carried out at accredited, government run test centres rather than in independent garages as they are in the rest of the UK. Just before the Covid-19 pandemic hit, tests at all centres were suspended in January 2020 due to safety concerns about cracks in the lifting gear which inspectors use to raise up your car and take a look underneath. Two months later, the Covid-19 pandemic added even more to the backlog.

By August 2022, Northern Irish motorists were still experiencing extreme delays, with a Belfast-based newspaper reporting six month delays in being able to book a MOT appointment. Drivers are understandably worried about their legal position if their MOT expires, and how not having a valid certificate might affect their tax and insurance. Drivers are advised to take action as soon as they receive the reminder about their MOT test, and book the earliest possible appointment. Keep checking the system to see whether you can pick up a cancellation appointment earlier. If time is getting tight and you are within 5 days of your current MOT certificate expiring, the advice is to call the DVA helpline and try to secure an emergency appointment.

The DVA does not however guarantee that you will be able to get an appointment at the centre closest to you. There are 17 MOT test centres in Northern Ireland, so drivers may face travelling some considerable distance to have their cars tested. Maximise the possibility of getting a testing slot at a centre close to you by acting immediately when you get the reminder letter, and keep checking for a better option closer to home.

Due to the backlog in the Northern Ireland system, it is important to remember that MOT certificates which are issued in England, Wales or Scotland are also valid in Northern Ireland. It’s probably not financially worth it to book a ferry to Stranraer or Holyhead specifically to get your car MOT done, but if you are planning on travelling anyway and the car’s MOT is looming, it may be worth booking it in with any garage in the UK to avoid the hassle of finding a test slot in Northern Ireland, or having to drive considerable distances to your appointment.

The Legal Position

Given the current issues with getting a MOT appointment in Northern Ireland, special arrangements have been made with the Association of British Insurers (ABI) and the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) to make sure that drivers who have tried their best to secure a slot are not penalised. The PSNI will not prosecute or fine drivers of Northern Irish registered cars whose MOT certificate has expired as long as the driver can show that:

In terms of insurance, the Association of British Insurers (ABI) has confirmed that not having a MOT certificate won’t necessarily invalidate an insurance policy, given the current difficulties in Northern Ireland. The ABI do advise though that if you are in the position of having an expired MOT test, then drivers should call their insurer to explain the circumstances and make sure that the insurer is aware, and that they are still covered under the terms of their policy.

How does the MOT work?

When you book a MOT in Northern Ireland, it doesn’t really matter where you book your appointment. This is because the process and testing regime is the same, and it is a standardised test wherever the testing centre. Full guidance is available online if you are interested in understanding what goes into a MOT test, and what the inspector is looking for. You don’t need to make yourself an expert, but understanding the basics of the testing process will help you keep on top of basic car maintenance such as keeping the oil topped up and changing bulbs to maximise your chances of getting through the test.

Getting Road Tax Without MOT

In normal times, you will need a valid MOT to be able to log into the government website and buy road tax for your car. Again, there have been special arrangements made for drivers whose road tax is due, but who can’t get an appointment for a MOT test. The advice is the same as for people in other situations. Drivers should book the earliest available appointment, and keep going back to the website to try to get an earlier cancellation.

If there are fewer than five days until your tax runs out, and you still haven’t been able to book a MOT appointment anywhere in Northern Ireland, then you should immediately get in touch with the DVA’s customer services team. You will have to give them the vehicle’s registration number, the MOT reference number, and where you would ideally like to have the MOT test done. They will try their best to organise a test for you, but it might not be at your preferred testing centre.

The customer services team will usually ask for your details and call you back once they have found you an emergency appointment, so make sure you answer any calls on your mobile, even if you don’t recognise the number, or if it is a withheld number.

Booking Your MOT Test Online

Although it is possible to book a MOT test in Northern Ireland by making a phone call to the booking line, this line can get very busy and it’s usually easier and more convenient to book your MOT online through the website. The online service isn’t just for cars and motorbikes and will also let you book tests for HGVs and trailers. If you are struggling to book a test online, then you can email the online bookings team and they will help you navigate through the system.

When you log into the system, you will be able to choose between a range of centres and test times, but as there is pressure on the system at present, there is no guarantee that you will be able to get an appointment at the nearest centre to your home. Try looking at other centres in nearby towns to see if you can secure an appointment more quickly.

Checking a MOT Status

Once you have had the MOT completed, it can take up to 24 hours for the system to update and show the details and new expiry date. If you go online to check when your MOT will expire and find out that it already has, then you should book an appointment as soon as you can.


The issue of roadworthiness is separate from that of a MOT check, and even if you haven’t been able to get a MOT test, it is still your responsibility to make sure that your car is roadworthy. This means that it must be in general good repair, with working brakes, lights, plenty of tread on the tyres and so on. The police can still stop cars they suspect of being unroadworthy, whether or not they have a MOR certificate. If you keep on top of your regular servicing and maintenance on the car, roadworthiness should not be a huge issue. At a service, a mechanic should point out any serious issues which make your car unroadworthy, and unsafe to drive. Pay attention to what they tell you, and also keep an eye on any minor issues which came up at the last MOT check. If you are caught driving a car which is unroadworthy, it means points on your licence and a fine as well as a statutory notice from the police giving you a set period of time to get the repair work done.