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Many drivers are going to have to navigate the process of getting a MOT at some point. In the UK, the MOT is a test of the roadworthiness of the car, to make sure it is safe to drive and doesn’t pose a risk either to you as a driver, or other people on the road. The MOT test is nothing new. It’s been around for decades and applies to every car which is three years old, and every year after that. Some cars, such as taxis or minibuses, need a MOT more frequently. Second hand car prices have risen dramatically since the pandemic put a halt to new car production worldwide, so more of us are hanging on to our cars for longer.

Booking a MOT

When the time rolls around for your MOT test, you have complete flexibility over where you have the car tested. There are thousands of approved testers across the UK, some working as sole traders in a tiny garage, others working in a huge national chain with hundreds of branches. There are no rules about where you can and cannot book your MOT test. Many drivers prefer to return to the same trusted garage year after year but you don’t have to. As long as the mechanic is accredited as a tester by the government, you can book the car in anywhere. Most drivers will choose a location which is handy for their home address, or for work.

Popular MOT testing stations do often get booked up weeks in advance, so if you have particular requirements about time or the day of the week when you can be without your car, don’t leave it to the last minute. Some garages might also be able to lend you a courtesy car, or pick your car up from your home address if you give them enough notice.

Cost of MOT Tests

Unlike other government services, there is not a set price for a MOT test. Instead, the government puts a cap on the amount that garages are allowed to charge for the tests. Currently, the cap is set at £29.65 for a motorbike, and £54.85 for a car. MOT tests for larger vehicles such as minibuses and lorries have a higher cap. It’s up to the individual garage what they charge for MOT, as long as they do not exceed the cap. Some garages choose to use this flexibility as a marketing tool, by offering a cheap MOT when you book a service, or agree to have other work done on the car at the same time. Others choose to offer cheaper MOT tests at quieter times of the week, such as on a Friday afternoon, to ensure their staff members are kept busy all week. However, the differences in price are generally not enough to make it worth the while going well out of your way to a garage on the other side of the city in order to save £20 on the cost of your MOT.

How Long Does A MOT Take?

One average, it will take around an hour to complete an MOT test. However, this is just an average and it’s important to remember that the average will be affected by a high number of vehicles which pass their MOT with flying colours and no need for any repairs. If your car doesn’t come up to the required standard on the first inspection and needs work done to pass, then it can take considerably longer. So that garages can effectively allocate work to their staff, and deal with any unexpected work which comes in, most will ask you to leave your car with them for at least a morning or afternoon, if not the whole day.

If you get a call from the garage to say your car has passed its MOT then all you need to do is pay the fee and drive it away home again. If however your car doesn’t come up to scratch, then you will have to get the repairs done and then present it again for a re-test. The rules around this are fairly complex and your options for repair will depend on the reasons why the car failed in the first place. If the failure isn’t classed as dangerous and the previous MOT certificate still hasn’t expired, then you can choose to either leave it with the original test station to have it fixed, or take it away and get someone else to fix it. The other possibility is that the fault or faults which have been discovered are classed as dangerous. A MOT failure which is classed as dangerous means that the car can no longer be considered as roadworthy and can’t be driven. You still have the right to take the car away to have it fixed somewhere else but you won’t be able to drive it away – it would have to be put on the back of a low loader or towed away. For that reason, most people choose the easy option of letting the first testing garage repair the fault and then go through the MOT again.

When Can I Get a MOT?

It is your responsibility as a driver to make sure you are on top of knowing when your MOT test is due, and making sure that you have booked a slot at a garage in plenty of time. It is very easy to find out when your MOT is due by going to the government website and entering your car’s registration details. You can sign up for reminders on the DVLA website, and choosing this option means you’ll get an email four weeks before your current MOT expires. Don’t ignore the email when it arrives.

If you miss the fact that the MOT is about to expire, and let the certificate run out, then you are no longer legally allowed to drive your car on the road, or even leave it parked on the roadside. It is a fairly risky strategy to leave booking your MOT test to the last day or two before the current certificate runs out. If your car passes the booked MOT you might get away with it, but if it fails you will be without a car until it is repaired, retested and a new certificate issued.

You can extend the validity of the MOT certificate by an extra year if you book it within four weeks of the current certificate expiring. For example, if your current MOT certificate expires on 30th November 2022, you can book your test any time after the 3rd November and the new certificate will be dated 30th November 2023. This leeway gives you the flexibility to book a MOT slot around work and other commitments which you may have.

Many drivers choose to get the MOT done at the same time as other work on their car, such as the servicing. Another approach is to time your MOT test for the time of year when you renew your insurance policy, or shop around for new breakdown cover. Doing this can also help prompt your memory to start booking a MOT test too.

Maximise Your Chances of a MOT Pass

Only the mechanic who carries out the MOT test will know for sure whether your car comes up to scratch, so unless you are also a qualified MOT tester, it’s always a bit nerve-wracking putting your car into the garage. Although you can never be absolutely certain of a pass, there are lots of things you can do as a driver to maximise the changes of getting it through, without having any specialist mechanical knowledge.

The range of checks which you should run through before a MOT test can be split into two main categories – internal, and external.

Internal Checks

Internal, or interior checks, are all about what is going on inside the cabin. The sorts of things you should be looking at, and fixing if there is an issue, are:

External Checks

Once you’ve given the inside of the car the once over, it’s time to turn your attention to the parts of the car which are more likely to cause a MOT fail. Although you’re not going to be able to inspect everything which is tested without access to specialist equipment and a ramp, you should still look at:

Any minor defects which you pick up should be flagged up to the mechanic when you take your car in for its test. This gives them the chance to do the repair before carrying out the formal inspection and issuing the pass. Keeping on top of the routine jobs like checking the oil and the tyre tread depth throughout the year will make doing the pre-MOT checks even easier and more routine.