The MOT test is one of those unavoidable things you have to do every year when you own a car of a certain age. Not having an MOT certificate for your car isn’t just good ownership, it’s a legal necessity. Checking to see when your MOT is due is very straightforward; all you need to do is log into the government website and enter your car’s registration number. If you’re still confused about your legal obligations, and whether your car actually needs a MOT in the first place then don’t panic. Here’s our simple guide to everything you need about MOT tests for cars.
Currently, the rules in most of the UK are that cars need a MOT check when they reach three years of age. The only part of the UK where this is different is in Northern Ireland, where cars don’t need a MOT check until they are four years old. If your car is being used as a taxi though, it will need to be inspected more often. At the other end of the scale, classic cars over 40 years old won’t need a MOT either. MOT tests take place annually, and you can check online to see when your MOT test is due.
You are completely free to choose the location of your vehicle’s MOT test. Not every garage is accredited by the Department of Transport to run MOT tests, but with over 21,000 centres, there shouldn’t be one too far from your home. Book your car’s slot a couple of weeks before the current MOT certificate expires. A test at this point means that the certificate will just be extended for another year, and it leaves you a bit of time to get any repairs done while the certificate is still valid.
When you arrive at the garage, you can expect the test process to take around an hour. In a busy test centre with lots of vehicles being checked, the mechanics might not start work right away so if you’ve decided to stay and wait, it all might take a while. Most drivers prefer to drop their car off in the morning, and wait for a call from the garage telling them whether it’s a pass or fail.
There is no fixed price for a MOT check, and instead the government sets a cap on the price which garages are allowed to charge. Currently, a MOT inspection and certificate is capped at £54.85 for a car, with different levels of charges applying to motorbikes and larger vehicles such as minibuses. Some garages choose to charge less than the maximum allowed as a sales technique, or will offer reduced MOT charges when paying for a service or other work.
If your car passes its MOT then all you need to do is file away the paperwork and put a reminder in your phone or on the calendar to get it booked again the same time next year. It might take a couple of days for the website to update, but you should be able to look at the latest test results shortly after.
If however the garage rings up and tells you that it’s not such great news, then you first need to establish exactly what is going on. Although either type of failure means that your car needs urgent attention before the current certificate runs out, the class of failure determines what options you have.
If something is seriously wrong with your car, and it’s deemed unroadworthy, then the mechanic will note down a dangerous failure on the paperwork. This is equivalent to putting an immediate ban on driving it until it has been fixed. So your two options in this scenario are to get it fixed by the same garage and then re-tested, or have it towed to another garage to be fixed and re-tested.
A major fail still requires immediate attention, but is something which doesn’t automatically make your car dangerous to drive. In this scenario you have other options. You are still allowed to drive your car until the previous certificate runs out, giving you more options about how and where to get it fixed. You might even choose to fix it yourself.
It’s really important to clarify exactly what is wrong with your car when the garage rings to tell you about a MOT failure. If you’ve not completely understood what is wrong and the cost of parts and labour to put it right, you could be landed with a large, unexpected bill. Once you have had your car brought up to scratch, you can take it back to the same test centre within 10 days for a retest. The mechanic will just look at the elements which failed the first time round rather than conducting the whole test again.
Minor defects which are bot bad enough to cause a MOT failure are still recorded, and will appear when you click through to the next page of information on the MOT check page online. Also known as advisories, these are things which you are advised to have fixed as soon as you can, and should be fixed before the next MOT test. Have a chat with the mechanic when you pick your car up and get their opinion on any minor issues. They should be able to give you a ballpark figure if how much it might cost to fix, and how long it might take before it becomes a really serious issue.
It’s the job of the driver to keep up to speed with when their MOT is due by checking on the website. Driving without a MOT is illegal, and as police cars are fitted with software to help them detect evaders. If you’re stopped, you can expect points on your licence and a fine, which will also increase your insurance premiums going forward.