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Since the MOT system moved online, there is less need for a printed MOT certificate. If you sell your car, or need to buy car tax, then the government system can check your MOT status automatically. Anyone buying a car can check the MOT and tax status online, as all you need to do so is the registration number. If you have lost the certificate which you were handed at the time of the test, then you may decide not to bother getting a copy printed at all. There are lots of circumstances under which you might want a new MOT certificate though, so here’s what you need to know about getting one. Longer term, the government has a stated aim of moving away from paperwork, not just for everything car-related, but in all aspects of our lives and dealings with government bodies.

Can I Print My MOT Certificate?

Only drivers of certain classes of vehicles can get their MOT certificate printed quickly and easily. If your vehicle is a public service vehicle (PSV) like a bus, or a heavy good vehicle such as a truck or lorry, then you will have to fill on a specific form online to request a duplicate MOT certificate from the DVLA. If however you are driving a car, van or motorbike, then it’s easy to get a replacement MOT certificate online. Plans are still underway to expand the system to cover other classes of vehicle too, but the Covid-19 pandemic has put the roll-out on hold at present.

There are two ways of doing this. Firstly, if you have access to a printer at home, go straight to the government website. Press the green “start now” button and follow the step-by-step instructions to get a new MOT test. There are two key pieces of information you will need to complete the process. These are:

Replacement MOT certificate are provided as a .pdf file, and should be easy to open on most devices. This form of file can be printed, or sent by email as an attachment, but cannot to edited to change the details.

If you don’t have a printer at home, then the other option is to go to the garage which last carried out the MOT and ask them for a replacement certificate. You will still need to tell them the registration number of your car, and provide the 11-digit reference number. Garages are allowed to charge for printing off a new certificate for you. Some may provide a new certificate free of charge, but the law allows them to charge up to £10 for the service.

When Do I Need to Print a Duplicate Certificate?

As it’s often much easier and quicker to check a MOT status online, the requirement for paper checks is becoming less over the years. Some garages and private buyers will still expect to be able to take a piece of paper away with them though, and having a paper MOT certificate might make selling your vehicle a bit easier. Every year, around 640,000 duplicate certificates are requested in England, Wales and Scotland, accounting for 2% of all car MOTs in circulation. It’s therefore clear that there is a fairly strong demand for a replacement certificate, whatever the reasons for needing one.

Printing your MOT Certificate Online

The ability to print your certificate online is a relatively new option, as previously the only way of getting a replacement certificate was to go to the garage and pay £10 for them to print it off for you. The new “print at home” facility came into effect in 2019, and is aimed at making things easier for customers, and free up time in the garage to repair and test cars rather than administrative tasks. Using the government website, you can print off a replacement certificate at home, whether it’s a pass, or a fail. It’s probably more likely that you’d need to print off a pass certificate, but a fail certificate could be useful if you have lost the original and want to take your car to a different garage for remedial work.

Printing from a laptop is usually the easiest option, but you might need to make sure that your printer has wireless capability and can communicate with your laptop. Printing from tablets and smartphones is also usually possible, but might take a bit more setting up. Weigh up the time and effort of getting it all set up at home to print, against popping into the local garage and getting them to do it for you. There’s no need to have an expensive laser printer, and you won’t need colour ink as the certificates are in black and white only. One of the key benefits of printing at home however, is that you can do this at any time of the day and night, rather than being constrained to the times when the garage is open.

MOT Information Online

As well as requesting a duplicate MOT certificate online, the government portal gives lots of other information about your car’s history too. Checking the history of a car’s MOT online will show you details of all of the checks that the car has undergone since the system went digital. This is a very useful tool if you are buying an older car and want to check which items have been flagged as needing repair, or have been classed as “advisory” on previous MOT checks. Using the same system, you can check to see when your car tax runs out, or check the car tax status of a car you are considering purchasing. You can also buy your tax online, rather than queuing up on the last day of the month at the post office with various pieces of paperwork and identification.

Can I see my MOT certificate online?

The MOT system moved online around ten years ago, and although you are still given a paper “receipt” after the rest is carried out, this isn’t the full pass certificate. Although you are advised to keep hold of this piece of paper, it isn’t a requirement to do so. The mechanic who carries out the inspection will enter the details of the pass or fail into the garage computer system, and upload the information to the DVLA database. This allows anyone to check the MOT status of any car, as long as they know the registration number. The website is also linked with the car tax page, so when you buy your road tax online checks can be done automatically to make sure you have a valid MOT. Police will use the same database for their software which automatically detects any vehicles on the road which don’t have any tax, MOT or insurance.

Checking your MOT online is very straightforward. Once you arrive on the website you will be asked for the registration number of the vehicle, and once you click through, will be presented with the basic details showing the make, model and colour. The page also shows the date when the car was first registered, whether it is diesel, petrol or electric, and when the current MOT is due to expire.

Below, there are further options to click through and see the MOT history for the vehicle. This is a useful tool if you are thinking about buying a used vehicle and want to learn a bit more about its history before committing money. The website shows details of any MOT carried out in England, Wales and Scotland since 2005, and will show minor defects or “advisories” as well as major faults which caused a test failure.

Do you get a paper copy of MOT?

The government started phasing out paper MOT certificates in 2012, and although you will still be given a paper receipt at the testing centre, this isn’t the MOT certificate in the traditional sense. All of your MOT information is held online instead, and the digital system has many advantages over the traditional paper route. As your MOT information is held online, you can also tax your car and insure it online very quickly, without having to provide further evidence to the DVLA.

From an enforcement point of view, holding all MOT, tax and insurance details online make it easier for the Police to catch people who don’t bother to stick to the rules. It has also done away with the requirement to gather your documents together and present them at the police station within 7 days if you’re stopped and can’t prove that you have insurance or MOT.

If you are thinking about buying a new vehicle, having the MOT details online means that you can log into the DVLA database and check out whether it has a current MOT, and whether it has failed its MOT in the past. The website will also show the reasons for any MOT failure, which allows you to look at the history of the car and make a more informed decision about whether you want to buy it or not. Similarly, if you’re thinking of selling, the buyers can check out your car’s history too. When you sell up, there is no need to pass the paper receipts for MOT over to the new owner, although you can if you wish. The new owner can then check on the DVLA website to see when the MOT will expire, and arrange to have it booked in for its next test.

Are MOT certificates still issued 2021?

Paper MOT certificates are things of the past. Over the last decade, the government has been trying to move as many services as possible online, and MOTs are part of their digital push. When you take your car to the garage for its MOT, you will receive a receipt for the test from the inspector, who will probably also tell you verbally about reasons for failure, or minor advisory issues which you should keep an eye on. After your test has been completed, the inspector will upload the results of your test into the database, which should be updated almost instantly. You can then log on from home to verify the details, and check the expiry date. The online information will also provide a confirmation of any minor defects found on your MOT which aren’t a MOT fail at the moment, but which might be in the future.

You also no longer need the MOT certificate when you go to tax your car. This can also now all be done online, with no need to go to the Post Office and stand in a queue with everyone else whose car tax has expired that month. When your car tax renewal comes in the post, simply log into the website to pay your next year’s tax online. The car tax website can cross-reference with the MOT database to make sure you have a current certificate. When you come to sell your car, it is common courtesy to turn over all of the paperwork associated with the car to the purchaser. You may choose to give them the receipts from having the MOT done, but they will not need these to either get another MOT in the future, or insure or tax their new vehicle.

Do I need a paper MOT certificate to tax my car?

No, the move online by the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Authority (DVLA) has meant that all of the information is now stored online. So when the road tax is due, there is no longer any need to go to your local post office with the MOT certificate, proof of insurance and your payment. When you log into the system to pay your road tax, the database can search through the MOT database to make sure you have a current MOT first. There is still the option to go to the Post Office and pay for your road tax over the counter should you prefer to do so. The digital system is the same one as the Police use to automatically detect which cars on the road don’t have tax, insurance or MOT.

The lack of paper certificate does mean that you have to be a bit more proactive in working out when your MOT is due. Back in 2017 the government set up a text and email reminder for MOT tests, allowing you to opt into receiving a message about six weeks before your test. You have free choice over where to take your vehicle for a MOT test – it doesn’t have to go back to the same garage which did the test the year before, for example. After the test is completed you will be given a receipt for the test by the garage, but this isn’t the same as a pass/fail certificate. The garage may also provide an invoice for payment.

There’s no need to keep receipts for MOT tests if you are planning to sell your vehicle. The new owner can check the status of the vehicle’s MOT online too, and all they need to do is book it back in for a test when the current MOT expires.

Can you view your MOT certificate online?

MOT information has been online since 2012, and the best and only way to look at MOT information is to go online. The system allows drivers to look up the status of any car, not just their own. This is useful if you are thinking of buying a new vehicle and want to check out its history, or if you think a car has been abandoned and you are considering reporting it to the Police. All of this information is in the public domain and is easy to check – the only piece of information you need is the vehicle’s registration number.

When you log into the MOT site to check the status of a car, the site makes it very clear whether the car has a current or expired MOT certificate. Look for the text in green which tells you everything is current, or the red text which indicates an expired certificate. As well as current information, the website holds details of all previous MOT tests in England, Scotland and Wales since 2005, so you can scroll through the history of the vehicle’s tests and see any reasons for failures in the past. This can be potentially useful information, as can the mileage information. Mileage is recorded every year when the car is presented for a test and looking at the way the mileage increases between tests can indicate whether the mileage is accurate. If you are thinking about selling your car, it can be a good marketing tool to have a MOT test done before putting it on the market. There is a degree of flexibility over when you have a test done just before it expires, but you may also choose to have a test done at any point so the new owner knows that it’s something they don’t have to think about for another 12 months.

Do you get a paper MOT certificate?

Paper MOT certificates are a thing of the past, and have gone the same way as the paper tax discs which we used to have to display in the car window. Around 10 years ago, the system moved entirely online in an effort to save money and stop generating as much paperwork around car ownership. This means that when you take your car to the testing station for its MOT, the results of the test will be entered into the online database rather than being printed onto a certificate for you to take away.

Holding all the information online also means that you don’t have to worry about keeping your certificate safe, and remembering when in the year your MOT is due. All you need to do is log into the DVLA website and enter the vehicle’s registration number to get details about when the current MOT expires, and whether the car is taxed or not. This doesn’t just apply to your own car. Anyone can check the MOT and tax information for any vehicle, as long as they have the registration number to enter. The site will also show up results of previous MOT tests going back as far as 2005, which gives a good indication about the history of a vehicle which you might be thinking about buying. Could a long list of MOT fails mean that the vehicle hasn’t been well-maintained? It’s something to consider.  

Your mechanic might give you a receipt to show that the test has been done, and a summary of the results. This doesn’t give as many details however, and you are under no obligation to either keep it, or pass it on to the next owner if you sell your vehicle. It’s a good idea to sign up for the reminder service by email or text so that you’re not running the risk of forgetting your test is due.

How long does it take MOT to show up online?

Since the move to digital MOT information, drivers will no longer get a MOT certificate after their test is complete. Instead, the examiner will upload the information onto the DVLA database, where anyone can access MOT information for a car going back as far as 2005. It’s unlikely that you will need to access your MOT information quickly but it’s something drivers are concerned about – what happens if you are stopped by the Police who think your MOT test has still expired?

Although the mechanic might enter the results of your test right away, it might take a few hours for the DVLA system to update, and for that information to filter through to other systems used by the Police. It’s nothing to worry about though; if you are stopped by the Police, a quick phone call to the DVLA or to the garage which carried out the test should sort things out fairly quickly. If for whatever reason you find that the site has not updated after a day or two, chase it up with the garage which carried out the test, and ask whether they know what is going on. Technical difficulties are not unheard of.

Once your MOT details have gone live online, you can then log into the site whenever you want to confirm when your MOT expires. As long as you have the registration number, you can do the same for any other vehicle. Many purchasers want to check out the MOT history of a vehicle which they intend to purchase, and look at reasons it might have failed its test in the past. You can also check out whether that car which has been parked on your street for weeks is taxed and has a MOT, or whether it has neither and should potentially be reported as abandoned.

What paperwork do I need for an MOT?

The short answer is that you probably won’t need any paperwork at all. If your car is being booked for its first ever MOT test because it has been three years since it was first registered, the garage will ask for the V5 form, also known as the log book. This piece of paper shows the date of the first registration, so that the garage can check that the test is being carried out within the correct timescales. For all tests after the first, you don’t need to take any paperwork at all to the testing centre with you.

Similarly, when you have the MOT test done, you won’t receive a paper MOT certificate stating the full details of the vehicle and the reasons for passing or failing either. This is more like a receipt for the payment and test rather than a full statement. There’s no need to keep this paperwork unless you really want to, and the garage won’t ask to see last year’s certificate when you book your car in the following year. It also means there is less paperwork to pass onto the new owner when you sell a car, or buy a new one. If you’re the sort of person who is still hoarding folders full of old paper tax discs and old MOT certificates, then it’s probably time to have a bit of a clear-out.

You won’t need MOT paperwork if you want to tax your vehicle any more either. Most people choose to tax their vehicles online, and all you need is the code off the reminder letter, and the registration number. Even if you prefer to deal face to face with someone in the Post Office to tax your car, you won’t need anything other than the car’s registration number. And a payment method, obviously.

Do I need to keep old MOT certificates?

No, there is no longer any use for old MOT certificates and other car-related paperwork such as receipts for paying your tax or having a service done. Some people like to keep all of this related paperwork in neat folders to pass on to the next owner when they come to sell their car, but it really is fairly pointless. Since all of the information about MOT and tax moved online, there is no requirement to pass documents about tax, MOT or insurance onto the next owner either. If you’ve been hoarding car-related paperwork for months or even years, is it maybe the time to have a clear out?

It's always sensible to dispose of this sort of paperwork securely. Shredding is the best way of ensuring secure disposal, but ripping documents into pieces does the same job. All you really need to keep is your V5 form, which is also known as the log book. This is the piece of paper which you use when selling your selling your car. The bottom section is torn off and passed to the new owner, you return your part to the DVLA and they then issue a new owner’s logbook to the new owner.

Most car insurance documents have also moved online, and downloading your policy documents to print them off is probably another piece of paperwork you won’t need. Police ANPR technology is also linked to the insurance database, so they will know whether you are insured or not. Although there’s no need to print out everything the insurer emails you, but save their claims line or helpline number in your phone so that you can get in touch quickly if you have an accident or need to contact them for any other reason.

How do I view my MOT certificate?

Although it’s easy to view your MOT information online, there is no option to look at a .pdf file or similar which is equivalent to the old paper certificate. In practical terms, there are very few reasons why you would need to print off your MOT certificate, and the information online is designed to entirely replace the old paper system.

All you need to log into the system and look at the MOT information is the registration number of the vehicle you are interested in. This doesn’t even need to be your own car – as long as you have the registration number, there is no restriction on checking whether any car parked in your street or which you pass on the road is taxed and has a current MOT. This information is in the public domain and isn’t secret to the DVLA or the Police. You won’t be able to see information about who the registered keeper of a car is, or which company provides the insurance. You will be able to see when the current MOT or tax expires, and look at results of any previous MOT tests going back to 2005.

When you tax your car, whether in person at the Post Office or online, you won’t need your MOT certificate either. The system for tax and MOT is interlinked, and the system can check to make sure you have a MOT when taking the car, and vice versa. As the system for both tax and MOT is now all digital, we no longer use the paper tax discs which used to be a common sight in car windscreens. You only need to take your V5 logbook with you for the car’s first MOT. After that, no paperwork is required.

Can you get MOT without log book?

Since the tax and MOT system started to move online, the rules about what you needed to take with you when you attend at the garage for your MOT has changed. In most cases, you won’t have to take anything with you when you turn up at the garage – other than the vehicle you are planning to test and a way of paying for the MOT of course. The only exception to this is the very first time your vehicle needs a MOT test, which is usually after three years for most cars, but can be sooner for commercial vehicles like buses.

The lack of paperwork doesn’t end with what you give the garage – you shouldn’t expect to receive the same sort of paperwork from the garage after the test is complete. All of the information from the test will be uploaded directly onto the DVLA database instead of being printed on a form for you to take away. All that you will be handed is a brief statement of the results of the test, noting whether the vehicle has passed or failed, and listing any minor issues which have been detected and might require attention within the next year.

As you only receive a summary of the MOT rather than the full certificate, it’s up to you whether you keep this paperwork or not. You won’t be asked for it when you come to tax your vehicle, or when you sell it or take it for a service. You can also log into the website at any time you wish to check when your current MOT expires, and look at any advisories which the mechanic has noted on your previous tests. You’re not limited to only looking at your own MOT details; the system will allow you to look at the tax and MOT for any vehicle as long as you have the registration number.

How long can you drive without a MOT?

The answer to this isn’t as simple as it might first appear, as it can be difficult to work out what might be meant by “without a MOT”. There are a few different scenarios, and the law will be different in each case.

If your vehicle has held a MOT certificate in the past which has now expired, you are committing a crime by using it on the road. Most police cars are equipped with automatic number plate recognition, or ANPR, which scans numberplates to detect vehicles with no tax, MOT or insurance. If you’re stopped by the police, you can expect both a fine, and points on your licence. The only exception to this is when you are driving your car to a pre-booked MOT appointment – the police will check with the garage to make sure you are telling the truth if you say you’re on the way there.

If your car has been booked in for a MOT which it then fails, then you have to look at the class of the fail. A dangerous class of fail means that the vehicle is no longer roadworthy and can’t be driven legally on the road. You will have to pay to have the faults corrected before driving it on the road again. If your vehicle has failed the MOT but the faults are not classed as dangerous, then you can still drive legally on the road until the expiry date of the previous MOT certificate.

This can all be confusing, so the best advice is to ask the garage which carried out the test where you stand legally. They will have a vested interest in persuading you to have any remedial work carried out straight away, but should still be able to keep you on the right side of the law if you would prefer to take the vehicle away to have it fixed elsewhere.

How long is a MOT certificate usually valid for?

A MOT certificate is generally valid for 12 months. During the covid-19 pandemic in 2020, these rules were relaxed a little to allow people who were unable to access garages to continue driving legally, but the rules have now gone back to their pre-pandemic state. If you can’t remember the last time your vehicle had a MOT, or had testing delayed over the last couple of years, log into the website to check and see when your MOT is next due.

In some areas of the UK, a shortage of experienced testers has resulted in delays, which have been made even worse with the situation around Covid. Northern Ireland is the main area where MOT test backlogs are most acute, as testing was suspended for a large part of 2021 after problems with the machinery used to raise cars up to enable inspection. This situation has now been resolved, but drivers in Northern Ireland are experiencing very lengthy waits for test spots. Get advice from the DVLA on the situation in Northern Ireland rather than just taking the risk of driving around without a valid MOT certificate.

There is a little flexibility over the timing of your MOT test. There is no requirement to book your car in exactly on the date the previous certificate expires. That’s risky – if your vehicle needs work and the garage hasn’t time to do it, you might be stuck without transport. You can book your vehicle in during the four weeks running up to the end of the validity period, and the MOT certificate will simple be extended by a year. Book a slot with suits you, and pre-warn the garage if you think there might be some work which needs to be carried out at the same time as the MOT.

What is a MOT Certificate?

MOT stands for Ministry of Transport, and this is the government department whose job it is to make sure that all vehicles on the road are safe. There has been some sort of system for checking the roadworthiness of cars since 1960, and originally only applied to cars which were at least 10 years old. The early tests were just very basic assessments of brakes, steering and lights, but over the years the test has evolved to include many other aspects. Currently, most vehicles on the UK roads which are three years or older have a MOT test annually. Tests start sooner for commercial vehicles such as taxis or minibuses.

When your vehicle’s MOT is due, look for your nearest testing centre. There are thousands across the country, and all should provide the same service and test to the same standards. Prices for MOT testing are capped by the government and garages are free to charge what they like, up to the limit. The mechanic will carry out a thorough inspection of your vehicle, and decide whether it passes or fails the MOT according to the limits set out by the government. Before 2012, when the test was complete the mechanic would hand you a certificate showing a pass or fail, along with the reasons for a fail. Now this is all done online, and the paperwork customers receive is merely a receipt for the test. The mechanic uploads the testing information online, and this can be viewed online by entering the car’s registration number.

The digital system for MOT and tax was designed to make things easier for law enforcement and consumers, so there is no need to keep all the receipts – unless you really want to. You won’t need the MOT certificate for tax or insurance purposes either as the whole process is managed online.

How long after your MOT expires can you drive?

There is a common myth that there is a grace period between your MOT expiring and the driver being liable for prosecution, but this is not the case. Your MOT certificate runs out at one minute to midnight on the date which is stated on the website. If you take the vehicle out on the road just a few hours later, then it will register as having no MOT if it passes a police detector unit. The penalty for driving without a MOT test can be a fine of up to £1,000. If your car has failed the MOT with a fault classed as dangerous, then the fine can be as high as £2,500, and you’ll get 3 points on your licence too.

We’ve all got a lot going on, and it can be easy to take your eye off the ball and forget that your MOT is due. The website makes it much easier to check when the test is due, as all you need to do is to enter the car’s registration number into the website. The results page will display both the date on which your MOT expires, and the same information for your road tax. You can also choose to click through and see the information about previous MOT tests going back to 2005.

You don’t have to book your vehicle in for its MOT on the day the previous test expires. If you book the MOT during the four weeks leading up to the expiry date, the existing certificate will be extended by a year. This also gives you time to have any remedial work carried out should your vehicle not come up to the required standards. With a network of thousands of testing stations across the UK, you shouldn’t have too much difficulty in finding an appointment at a time and location to suit.

What happens if you drive around with no MOT?

Before the MOT and road tax system went digital, it was only if you were stopped by the Police that they might discover that your car didn’t have the right paperwork. In 2012, the DVLA gradually started to switch the system online and the most visible sign of this was the scrapping of paper tax discs on the windows of vehicles. All of the tax and MOT insurance is linked in with software called ANPR, or Automatic Number Plate Recognition. These units are fitted into police cars or operate in fixed units, scanning the details of vehicles as they pass. If you don’t have a MOT then you are more than likely to be stopped and fined.

The only exception to this law is in situations where you have a pre-booked appointment for a MOT test and are driving your car from home to the garage. If you are stopped by the police and tell them that you are on your way to an appointment, they will ask to see proof rather than just taking your word for it. There are heavy fines of up to £1,000 for driving a vehicle on the road without the right insurance, and if your vehicle has failed a MOT with a dangerous fault, then the penalties can be even higher.

There is a fair degree of flexibility over when you book your MOT test, and it doesn’t have to be on the day it expires, or the day before. If you book the test within the last four months of the current certificate validity, then the new certificate will extend for another year. There are thousands of garages across the country, from the small independents to the large chains who have the right to perform MOT tests and you should be able to easily find one close by.

How long is a MOT valid for?

MOT certificates are valid for a year. The reason there is some confusion around this is that over the years there have been proposals to change the testing regime, and during the Covid-19 pandemic, deadlines were extended as garages were closed. If you aren’t sure about when your vehicle’s current MOT expires, or when your car is due for its first MOT, then it’s easy to check. All the details are stored online, and all you need to enter on the website is the vehicle’s registration number.

When the MOT was first introduced back in the 1960s, it only applied to vehicles over 10 years old. This was soon changed, and all vehicles over 3 years of age now need a MOT test every year. There are different requirements for vehicles such as ambulances or minibuses and taxis which are used for business rather than as private transport. As modern vehicles get more sophisticated and reliable, there have been calls to extend the periods between MOT testing to two or three years, or to push back the time of the first test to five years rather than the current three. But at present, these are just ideas and proposals. During the pandemic restrictions in 2020, there was also special extended MOT validity for people whose certificates expired when garages were closed.

When you attend with your vehicle for your MOT test you won’t need to take any paperwork with you in most cases. When the test is complete, the mechanic will upload the results onto the computer, and hand you a receipt which gives the basic information about pass or fail. This isn’t the same as the certificate and you aren’t obliged to keep hold of it. Any minor faults or advisories should be addressed before the next MOT test comes around in a year’s time.

Is an MOT check required every year?

Yes, in most cases, your vehicle will need a MOT check every year. This is the case whether you are driving a car, a van or a motorbike. The first MOT test is due three years after the car was first registered, and this might not be the same as the date when you bought it or started using it. For other classes of vehicles such as lorries, taxis or ambulances, checks are different and start after a year rather than after three years. Drivers and owners of these vehicles will often refer to the ”annual vehicle test” instead of the MOT.

There are a few classes of vehicles which are exempt from MOT testing completely. Some classic cars were built in a way which means they would never meet the modern standards required for a MOT and are exempt from testing. However, owners of classic cars still have a legal obligation to make sure their car is roadworthy and safe, and can be prosecuted if it is not. Tractors are also exempt from MOT testing, as are some electric vehicles which were first registered before 2015. Other groups of exempt vehicles include vehicles which are used purely on private land and never on the public road, and vehicles on some small islands where getting to the mainland for a MOT is awkward and expensive. If you are not sure whether your vehicle is exempt from MOT testing or not, then check on the DVLA website or ask the manufacturer. It is your responsibility as a driver to make sure that you know whether your vehicle is exempt or not, and keep up to date with when your test is due.

If you have a vehicle which falls into one of the categories of exempt vehicles, you will need to complete the V112 MOT Exemption form online. This lets the DVLA know that the vehicle is exempt, and will still allow you to tax the vehicle in the usual way, if required.

What documents do you need to get a MOT?

In most situations, you won’t be asked to show any documents at all when you take a vehicle for its MOT. Just call up your local testing centre or book an appointment online, and then turn up on the day to hand over the car keys. A MOT inspection takes around an hour and once complete you will be free to drive away – assuming the car has passed of course. Garages will give you a printed sheet providing a summary of the test results but this isn’t the same as a MOT certificate and shouldn’t be treated as such. All of your key MOT information will be stored online. Anyone can access this information, and see the results of previous MOT tests going back to 2005. This is a useful tool for checking out the history of a car you are considering buying.

The only exception to the paperwork requirements for MOT tests is when your car is being presented for its first MOT test when it reaches three years from the date of first registration. On this occasion only, you will have to take your V5 form with you – this is also known as the log book. The garage will want to see this form to make sure that the date of first registration is recorded correctly on the system. If you don’t own the vehicle you are booking in for its MOT, such as a lease or company car, you may have to contact the owner to make sure they have provided the correct information before you attend with the car for its MOT.

You won’t need any documents to tax a vehicle for use on the road either as all the information is held online. This makes things much easier as tax can be bought online, rather than the only option being going to the Post Office to stand in a queue.

Do you get notified when your MOT is due?

We’re all used to the letter dropping through the door every year to remind us that the car tax is due, but you shouldn’t expect the same reminders for the annual MOT. There is a reminder system for MOT, but this is an opt-in service, so you will only receive reminders by text or email if you have opted in to receive communication from the DVLA. Many drivers haven’t opted to receive messages, so the responsibility for remembering about MOT remains entirely with them.

Luckily, it’s not tricky to work out when your MOT is due. The online system managed by the DVLA only requires you to enter the registration number of any vehicle to see whether it’s taxed and has a current MOT, and when these expire. Once you’ve checked, put a reminder in your phone, or go old-style with marking the expiry date on the calendar. You don’t have to get the MOT done on the day it expires. The DVLA gives you a four-week window running up to the expiry date to have the test done without losing any validity on the certificate. For example, if your MOT expires on the 28th April, you could have the test carried out any time in that month before the 28th, and the new certificate will still show the 28th of the following year as an expiry date. Booking your test for a couple of weeks before the expiry gives you a bit of breathing space should your car fail, and requires work to put it back on the road. Garages can’t always squeeze in the work on the same day, and unless your car has been found to have a dangerous fault, you’ll still be able to drive it until the original MOT expires.

What does SORN mean?

SORN stands for Statutory Off-Road Notification and is an official way of letting the authorities know that you won’t be using your car for a while. A car which has a SORN can’t be used on the private road and can’t be parked on the public road either. It must be kept on private land like a driveway, or in a garage. People might decide to get a SORN on their car if they are leaving the country to work for several months, or if they buy an old car which isn’t roadworthy and which they intend restoring over a period of several months or years.

The main advantage of SORN is that it pauses the owner’s obligation to tax, insure and have a valid MOT for their vehicle. Once the owner is ready to get the vehicle back on the road again, they just need to book a MOT and pay the tax and insurance to cancel the SORN status. Using a car with a SORN on the roads without doing this is illegal, and you are likely to be caught by a police ANPR camera. Some owners who have a SORN on their vehicle choose to keep paying the insurance to protect against theft, fire and other risks, but this is a personal choice rather than a legal obligation.

There is no fee for applying for a SORN for a vehicle, and the process can be done online through the DVLA website. SORN status can’t be transferred between owners, so if you are thinking of buying a vehicle which has previously had a SORN, you must register another through the DVLA website if you don’t intend putting the car on the road again straight away. Conversely, if you want to use a car which has previously been SORN, just tax, insure and get a MOT for it.

What is a SORN and how long does it last?

A SORN – or Statutory Off Road Notification to give the full title – is declaration to the driving authorities to let them know that a vehicle is off the road and won’t be used for the foreseeable future. There are many different reasons why an owner might make this notification. Often it is because they are in the process of restoring an old car, or because the car has failed its previous MOT and the owner is trying to save to have it repaired. The main requirement of SORN is that the vehicle is off the road completely, not parked up on the street. This could mean putting the vehicle on a piece of private land, in the garden, in a garage – it doesn’t really matter as long as it's on private property and completely off the highway. If you register a vehicle as SORN but then keep using it or leave it parked on the street anyway, you will be liable for a fine.

When a car has a SORN in place, the requirement to have it taxed, insured and with a valid MOT is suspended. If you want to start using the vehicle on the roads again, you just need to book it in for a MOT test, and pay for tax and insurance. SORN status doesn’t need renewed after a set period of time; it will stay in effect until you      either tax and MOT it again, or sell it on. If the car is sold, the new owner will have to apply for another SORN if they don’t intend using it on the road. There is a separate process for scrapping a car, whether it has had a SORN on it or not. Similarly, if the car with the SORN is being exported permanently from the UK, there is another process for lettering the DVLA know what is going on.

What happens when you SORN a car?

SORN, or Statutory Off Road Notification, as the name suggests means that your car is off the road. It’s a way of hitting pause on things, meaning you won’t pay road tax, insurance or need a MOT until you are ready to get your car, motorbike or other vehicle back on the road again. SORN is often used by classic car enthusiasts who only take their cars on the road between May and September, or by people who are heading out of the UK to work for a year and want to leave the car in the garage.

There are a few rules involved with SORN. The main rule is that the car must be completely off the road. Owners are free to store their vehicle in their own garage, or a hired space, as long as it’s not parked up in the street. Vehicles which are registered as SORN don’t need to be taxed or have a MOT, or insured. Some owners decide that they would rather keep paying insurance on their vehicle while it is SORN to protect against other risks such as fire or theft, but this is personal choice.

There is no process for cancelling a SORN on a vehicle. All you need to do to get the vehicle back on the road again is to pay the car tax or organise a MOT test, and this will cancel the SORN automatically. A quick telephone call to the insurance company should organise a new policy to start immediately. A MOT might take a bit longer to arrange. The only time you are allowed to use a car with a SORN on the road is when you are driving it to a pre-booked MOT appointment. If you are stopped by the police, they will ask for proof that you are on your way to the garage, so make sure you can provide this if asked.

What does MOT mean?

MOT stands for Ministry of Transport. This is the government department which is now called the Department of Transport, and which manages the country’s roads, railways and other transportation. This was the government department which introduced the idea of roadworthiness testing in the 1960s, at a time where an increasing number of cars were filling British roads and there was growing concern about the state of some of the vehicles. The original MOT test only applied to cars which were over 10 years old, and was very basic. Originally mechanics would only look at steering, brakes and lights, but over the years more elements have been added into the MOT test.

Not every garage has the licence to perform MOT tests. Mechanics who wish to carry out the inspections have to be trained and assessed, to make sure that wherever in the country a vehicle is inspected, it is held to the same standards. As a driver, you are free to take your vehicle to any centre which is convenient for home or work. The price you pay will vary between garages, but is capped by the government. Garages often offer prices lower than the cap to attract customers, especially when you are booking your vehicle in for a service or other work at the same time.

MOT tests are carried out annually, and usually start when the vehicle is three years old. Different rules apply to some commercial vehicles such as taxis. Drivers can check their MOT status online by entering their registration number on the government website. There is also an opt-in service where you can request email reminders a few weeks before the test is due. It’s never a good idea to leave the MOT to the last day, as this doesn’t leave any time for repairs if your vehicle should fail its test.

What happens during a MOT?

A standard MOT test will take around 45 minutes, and most garages are happy for you to observe the test as it is being carried out. The mechanic who is carrying out the test has a checklist to follow and all the standards which the car has to reach to be awarded a pass. The MOT checklist looks at many different aspects of the car, not just the engine. The inspector will also look at things like whether the windscreen wipers are working properly, and if the seatbelts lock when pulled. At the end of the test, the mechanic will class the car as a pass or fail.

If your vehicle passes its MOT, then you drive away and don’t have to return for another year. If the car fails, you have a couple of options. A dangerous fail means the vehicle has been found to be unroadworthy, and can’t be used again until the faults are fixed. Usually, this means leaving your vehicle with the garage to do the repairs, before repeating the test to ensure it is now up to scratch.

The other class of fail doesn’t mean that the vehicle is necessarily unsafe, and if you have some tome left on your MOT certificate before it runs out, it’s legal to keep driving the vehicle until the MOT expires. This gives you the flexibility of shopping around for the repairs should you wish to do so. After the repairs are done, you can return to the same garage within 10 working days for a partial retest at a reduced rate, as the inspector will only look at the elements which failed first time. If you leave it later than 10 working days, or choose to go to a different testing centre, you’ll be asked to pay the full fee again.

What is a MOT retest?

If your vehicle fails a MOT test, then in most cases the driver will choose to have the faults fixed, in the hope of securing a pass certificate in the future. Once the repairs have been done, the garage can then put the vehicle through a partial retest. This means that the vehicle is only inspected on the elements which it failed on previously. It’s quicker than running the full test again, and there is no fee applied.

If you decide to take your car away somewhere else to be fixed, then you can still return to the original testing centre within 10 working days to have the work assessed. You are of course free to choose to take the car somewhere else, or wait longer than 10 working days to have the work completed. If that is the case though, you will have to pay the full MOT test fee again.

There are lots of very minor issues which could cause a MOT failure and if you know what the inspector is looking for, you can increase the chances of the vehicle passing. This includes regular maintenance such as topping up the windscreen wash fluid, and making sure there’s enough oil, or cleaning the dirt off the number plate. If you book your car in for a service at the same time as a MOT check, the mechanic should take care of all of this for you before putting your car through the inspection. Once the vehicle has reached the required standard, the details of the pass are entered into the system and updated online. You can then log into the website to check your MOT expiry date, and set up a text or email reminder to prompt you to book your vehicle in before the certificate expires.

What does a MOT cost?

This isn’t as easy a question as it might first seem as there is no set price for a MOT test. Instead, the government sets a cap for prices for a MOT test and garages are free to charge as much as they wish up to the cap. Currently, the cap is set at £29.65 for a motorbike, £37.80 for a motorbike and sidecar, and £54.85 for a car. Higher fees may apply for other classes of vehicles such as minibuses and coaches.

Many garages choose to charge customers the maximum as laid down by the government. This is especially the case for smaller, independent garages. Other garages might choose to offer discounted MOT tests at certain times of the day or days of the week. Often, a common tactic is to offer a discounted MOT if you are booking other work in at the same time, such as a service or having the brakes replaced. If you have several options for getting a MOT test done within a short distance, it’s worth shopping around to see if you can get a better price. Having said that, if you expect that you might need expensive work done to bring the vehicle up to scratch, then it’s probably best to base the decision on the best price for that rather than the best price for the MOT.

If your vehicle fails the MOT, then after the work is complete, it will have to be tested again. If you take it back to the same testing centre within 10 days, or leave it with the garage to be fixed, then you won’t be charged for a re-test. If you leave things longer than that, then you will have to pay the full fee again. Either way, paying the fee for a MOT test is cheaper than being hit with a fine of up to £1,000 for driving without a valid MOT.

Were MOTs suspended in Northern Ireland?

Drivers across the UK faced delays in booking their MOT tests when the Covid-19 pandemic hit in 2020, but even before that, drivers in Northern Ireland were experiencing serious issues with the system. Rules about MOT testing in Northern Ireland are slightly different to those in the rest of the UK, as vehicles do not require a MOT test until four years after registration, compared with three years for the rest of the UK.

In January 2020, the Department for Infrastructure, the Northern Ireland government department responsible for MOT testing suspended all inspections after engineers found dangerous cracks in the lifting equipment used to raise vehicles to allow mechanics to inspect underneath. Drivers were offered a temporary exemption certificate, and just as the issues with the lifting equipment was resolved, the pandemic hit. When testing resumed in July 2020, garages were operating under social distancing restrictions which made the backlogs even more severe.

MOT testing is no longer suspended in Northern Ireland, but the effects of the backlog are still being felt. Recruitment of additional vehicle examiners, scheduling of appointments on Sundays and a new online booking system is helping reduce the backlog, but drivers are still finding getting a slot can be tricky.

The Northern Ireland online booking system offers many advantages in that once an appointment is booked into the system, the driver can ask to be notified if a cancellation comes up sooner. There is currently a lot of discussion in Northern Ireland about switching to a system of MOT tests every other year rather than annually, but this has yet to be passed into law. Going forward, a reduced frequency of testing should help ease the pressure on the system and make it easier for Northern Irish drivers to get a slot to have their vehicle inspected.

Can I book a MOT online?

There is no centralised booking system for MOT testing in most parts of the country, with the exception being Northern Ireland. Although many of the functions of the DVLA such as requesting a new photocard driving licence, checking your MOT status or paying your tax has moved online, there is still no one website which lets drivers select a time and location for their MOT test. Introducing a system which allows online booking for MOT has been discussed, but has been pushed to the back burner since the pandemic hit. A single site which brings together all of the various computer systems used by garages across the country would be costly and difficult to implement. There is a long list of all accredited MOT testing centres, but often it’s quicker to just search for MOT tests in your town on a search engine.

Although there is no central site for booking MOT tests, many garage brands will offer their own online booking portals. The large, household name garage brands will have slick and professional websites, which often allow both booking and payment online. Some of the smaller garage brands have their own websites too, but many don’t have the facility for taking payments online. There is always the option of emailing or texting the garage of your choice to arrange to drop your vehicle off, or even phoning them.

Never leave booking your MOT appointment to the last minute. Some of the popular slots can get booked up weeks in advance, and if you only have a limited choice of garages in your town, you might have to be prepared to wait for a slot. The DVLA offers a reminder service for drivers who sign up on their website, which will sent out a reminder when your MOT is about to expire.

What causes a failed MOT?

When the mechanic does your MOT test, he has little to no flexibility over whether to pass or fail a vehicle. The DVLA sets out all of the guidelines and standards for vehicle testing, and the assessors are trained to assess vehicles against those guidelines. If your vehicle is within the guidelines, you pass. If it is not, it’s a fail. When the MOT was introduced first back in the 60s, it was a very simple test of brakes, steering and lights. Things have moved on a bit since then, and the inspectors will look at a wide range of components on a vehicle to make sure it is safe.

According to major motoring organisations however, there are some factors which cause MOT failures more than others. The three most common reasons why a vehicle fails its MOT are: brakes, lights and suspension. The good news is that you don’t need to be an expert mechanic yourself to work out whether one of these factors might cause you issues with your own car. Lights are the easiest thing to check. All the mechanic will do is switch all the lights on to check they are working, including brake lights. Often, the problem is just a bulb, which is cheaply replaced. Brake pads do get worn over time, and if last year’s MOT noted that the pads were getting worn, it might be time to have them replaced. Similarly, any strange noises from the suspension, or having the impression that you can feel every bump in the road might mean that it requires attention.

It’s always best to budget for these expenses in advance than to arrive at the garage thinking you’re spending £50 on a MOT, then walking away with a steep bill for lots of remedial work.

Can you drive a car with a failed MOT?

Yes and no. The answer will depend on the reasons for the failure and the status of the vehicle before it went it for its MOT test. Most people don’t wait until the last day to book their MOT, and when the car arrives at the garage it might have two weeks left to run on its current MOT certificate. This isn’t cancelled out by the vehicle then failing a new MOT test. You are still legally allowed to drive until the previous pass certificate expires, giving you a bit of time to shop around to have the repairs done and get the vehicle back to the garage before the original certificate runs out. If you return to the same testing centre within 10 working days, there is no charge to have the car retested as the mechanics will only look at the items which caused the failure in the first place.

The other possibility is that the fail is classed as dangerous. This category of failure means that the car is no longer roadworthy and can’t be used legally on the roads. This means that the MOT certificate which was valid when you drove in is now null and void. Your options for having the car repaired to meet MOT standards are much more limited. The simple option is to leave the car where it is, and allow the garage which carried out the MOT to repair it too. The downside of this is that it might not be the cheapest option. As you’re not legally allowed to use the car on the road until it has passed the MOT, the only other option is to hire a tow trick to take it to another garage, which might cancel out any savings associated with having it fixed elsewhere.

Do Halfords do a MOT while you wait?

Halfords is just one of the large garage chains in the UK, but has been an established presence on the British high street for decades. Many people, especially those who feel they are less than expert in car mechanics, prefer to use one of the large chains to get their car serviced or book an MOT rather than trying to find an independent garage. One of the benefits of the bigger chains is that they offer promotions and special deals which other companies cannot, and this might include short notice MOT checks.

It is a legal requirement for all MOT testing centres to have a viewing area where customers can watch the test being carried out. This isn’t the case just for the large chains like Kwik-Fit and Halfords, but for smaller garages too. However, smaller garages generally schedule their work in a different way, having a list of jobs which need to be done that day, without a set start and finish time for each. That means that there might be a bit of hanging around while the mechanic attends to other matters before starting your test. At larger centres which just do MOTs and not any of the other mechanical work, it is more likely to be able to book a slot and know that the work on your MOT will start right away.

A MOT test takes between 45 minutes and 1 hour, and although you will be allowed to watch the mechanic at work, you won’t be allowed to speak to them as they do the inspection, and they won’t be able to talk you through what they are looking at. After the MOT test is complete, the mechanic will upload the details into the system and provide you with a receipt and summary of the results.

How do I find out when my car’s first MOT is due?

Most vehicles in the UK need a MOT test by the third anniversary of the date of their first registration. There are some exceptions to this. In Northern Ireland, most vehicles don’t need a first MOT test until they are four years old, and for commercial vehicles like buses and coaches, their first inspection takes place after a year.

If you are not sure when your first MOT is due, then you have a couple of options for finding out. The easiest option is by going online. All you need is the registration number of the vehicle which you are interested in. Enter it into the website, and the site will show basic details about the car such as the make, model and colour. The site will also state the date the MOT is valid to, and when the car is taxed to. It’s a good idea to opt in to the reminders from the DVLA which will prompt you to book a test when the deadline is approaching. It’s never a good idea to leave things to the last minute, just in case there are some faults which require fixing, or if you find it difficult to get a convenient appointment.

The other way of finding out when your vehicle’s MOT is due is to check your V5 form. This is also known as the log book, and should have been sent to you by the DVLA shortly after buying the car. As well as having your name and address on it, the V5 form will have the car’s registration number and chassis number, and the date it was first registered. Just add three years onto this date to calculate when the first MOT is due. If you can’t find your V5 form, contact the DVLA to get a replacement, as you’ll need it when you come to sell the vehicle to its next owner.

Do garages make money on MOTs?

A garage is a money-making business like any other, and have to cover their costs and make enough to pay their staff. Most garages carry out a wide range of jobs on customers’ cars, and MOT testing is just a small part of what they do. For small businesses, it’s often difficult to separate out the different income streams and work out what is making money, and what isn’t.

In most other aspects of their business, garages and mechanics are free to charge what they like for labour and parts. When it comes to MOT tests though, there isn’t as much flexibility over fees. The government caps what garages can charge for MOTs. This is currently set at £29.65 for motorbikes, and £54.85 for most cars. Garages are free to charge what the like up to that amount, but are not allowed to charge more than that.

Garages also don’t have to apply to be a MOT test centre if they don’t want to, and don’t have to have all of their mechanics trained as testers either. This means that on any given day in a garage, one member of staff might be doing MOT work, while the rest get on with other tasks. Garages also know that being a MOT testing centre brings them other work too, when cars fail their MOT then need additional work to be brought up to standard. Around 1 in 4 vehicles fail the MOT first time round, so this could be valuable extra work for the business.

The short answer is therefore that garages probably break even on the cost of offering a MOT service. But it’s a service which customers expect to be offered, and being accredited to run MOT tests could bring in a lot of business which the garage wouldn’t get otherwise.

Do I have to MOT my car if I’m not driving it?

If you intend not using your car for an extended period, perhaps because you are working overseas or because it’s a convertible you only use in the warmer months, then it’s tempting to think that there is no point in getting a MOT for it. This is only partly correct though, as the law states that any car on the public road needs to be taxed, insured and have a MOT, even if it’s parked up and going nowhere. If you have previously had a MOT and just allow it to expire when the car is parked in the garage or in a friend’s field, this will trigger a reminder from the DVLA to get it booked in straight away. Owners of cars parked on the road which are not taxed or have no MOT can be fined.

The easiest way of letting the authorities know that you won’t be using your car for a while is to get s SORN. This is a statutory off road notification which will stop the reminders about tax and insurance. SORN is a useful tool in circumstances where you know you’re not going to be using your car for a while, and costs nothing to set up. The only rule is that the car can’t be left on the road while under a SORN, so find a spot in a garage or driveway first. A SORN has no expiry date, so will stay in place for as long as it takes for you to get the vehicle back on the road again. When you’re ready to start driving, just book it in for a MOT if it has expired, and pay for the tax and insurance. You must do this before taking the car out for a drive as you risk prosecution if you are unlucky enough to be stopped by the police.

Can I park my car on the road with tax, but no MOT?

Most drivers are aware that leaving your car on the road with no tax or MOT is a criminal offence, and if you are driving, you’ll need insurance too. If the MOT certificate on a car has expired, then legally, it can’t be parked on the side of the road. A car without a MOT, tax or insurance must be kept on private land, which could mean in your garage or on a driveway. The fact that your vehicle’s MOT has expired will trigger letters from the DVLA, asking why you haven’t taken it for a test, and threatening prosecution if you don’t comply.

If you know that you’re not going to be using your vehicle for a period, perhaps because you’re saving up to have it fixed, or because you are considering scrapping it, register it as SORN instead. SORN – statutory off road notification – lets the DVLA know that your car is not going to be used. When you register a SORN on a vehicle, that means you don’t have to insure or tax it either. Any vehicle which has a SORN on it must be kept completely off the public road though, parking it in the street when it has a SORN on it is not an option.

If you decide that you want to start using a vehicle which has had a SORN on it, all you need to do is book it in for a MOT, tax and insure it. This will automatically cancel the SORN and allow you to start using it again. You don’t have to inform the DVLA separately when you remove a SORN from a vehicle. You are allowed to drive your untaxed and SORN car to a garage for a MOT test, but if you’re stopped by the police, expect to be asked for proof about where you are going.

How long can you leave your car without MOT?

There is no time limit on leaving your car without a MOT, or tax or insurance either, for that matter. But if you decide that you don’t want to put a vehicle through another MOT, or don’t want to tax it, then there is a specific procedure to follow. What you are not allowed to do is to miss your MOT expiry date and assume that there is some sort of grace period after a MOT expires. This isn’t the case, and you risk being stopped by the police and fined if you choose to drive after your MOT has expired. It’s easy to check online to see when your MOT expires so enter your vehicle’s registration number and the site will display information about both road tax and MOT status.

If you know that your car will fail a MOT, or know that it has failed already and you won’t be putting it back on the road for quite some time, then there is another option. If you file a SORN – statutory off road notification – on a vehicle, that pauses the requirement for tax, insurance and MOT. In order to qualify for a SORN you need somewhere to keep the vehicle which is totally off the street or road, such as a driveway or garage. There is no limit to how long you can keep a SORN in place. It will remain in force until you either get the car MOTd, scrap it, export it from the UK or sell it on to someone else.

Cars or other vehicles with a SORN cannot be legally driven on the road, even for short distances. The only exception to this is taking the car to the garage for its MOT test, but you’ll need proof that you’ve made an appointment.

What do most cars fail their MOT on?

Unless you’re a mechanical expert, there’s always a niggling worry at the back of your mind when you take your car for a MOT – will it pass? The MOT inspection covers so many different factors that the reasons for failure make a long list. However, there are some more common faults which crop up repeatedly on failure certificates.

The single biggest cause of a MOT failure is a problem with the lights. Lights are easy to inspect even if you know nothing about cars. All the mechanic will do is walk around the vehicle, switching the lights on and off, and depressing the brake pedal. Usually, if a light isn’t working, it’s because the bulb has blown. Buying a bulb and changing it yourself is a lot cheaper than paying the mechanic to do it for you. Brakes are one of the other most common reasons for a failure and issues here probably aren’t as easy to detect. But if you start to feel your brake pedal is “spongey”, or the car seems to pull to one side when you brake, it might be time for new brake pads.

Other reasons for failures which are easy to check are tyres with insufficient tread, cracks in the window or even having a satnav device mounted on the windscreen. Check online to see when your MOT is due, and give yourself time to sort the minor issues before taking your car to the garage. Topping up the windscreen wash and checking the oil could save you money at the time of the test. All MOT details are recorded on the online database, and future purchasers of your car might be put off if they see minor maintenance issues causing MOT failure – is this an indication that you aren’t looking after your vehicle properly?

What is a Council MOT test?

Most drivers take their cars, vans or motorbikes to get their annual MOT test at a garage, but there is another lesser-known option. All over the UK, local authorities have their own testing centres, set up to test all of the council lorries, vans and buses. Although primarily for council vehicles, these centres are open to the public and anyone is free to make an appointment there for a MOT test. The main difference between these local authority testing centres and a regular garage is that the centres test only – they cannot repair any vehicles which might pass the test.

This is the main downside to using a local authority MOT testing centre. If your vehicle fails the MOT, you will have to find someone else to fix it, then return to the original testing centre for a re-test. In the worst-case scenario and your car fails on a dangerous fail, you find yourself in the position of not being legally allowed to drive the car away, with it stuck at a centre which is unable to fix it. Although a council centre might be more convenient for the test, it could end up costing much more if you need to arrange a low-loader to have it moved on elsewhere.

The best tactic is to look online to see when your MOT is due and then reserve your slot in plenty of time to get the maximum choice of centres and times. If you leave it until the last minute, your choice will obviously be restricted. Consider carefully whether a council MOT test centre is really the best option, or whether you can get a better deal by going to a standard garage for servicing or repair at the same time. Often, garages will offer MOT tests at a reduced rate if you book a service or other work in at the same time.

Can the police tell if your MOT has expired?

Yes, it’s easier than ever for the police to tell which cars have not got a valid MOT, and fine drivers who are caught. This is because the system is now entirely online. Things have changed since the days when being stopped by the police meant receiving a 7-day ticket to turn up at any police station with your tax, MOT and insurance paperwork. Police cars are now connected to a national database, which will return the details of any car at the push of a button. The system goes even further than that too, as many police cars are fitted with automatic numberplate recognition software, or ANPR. These units give an audible signal or “ping” to the officers whenever they pass a car which is registered as having no tax, MOT or insurance.

It's therefore more important than ever to make sure you are up to date with your car-related admin. The fact that this information is held online makes it easier for you too as anyone can log into the website and find out when the tax or MOT expires on their vehicle. All you need is the registration number to check.

There is a bit of flexibility over when you have your MOT done, and it doesn’t have to be done on the day the previous certificate expires. In fact, this is probably a bad idea, as it leaves no time for work to be done if the car needs repair. If you present your car for a test in the four weeks running up to when the existing certificate expires, the new certificate will just extend the MOT for another year so you’re not losing out on any time. If you’re planning other work on your car such as servicing or new tyres, it makes sense to try to book your vehicle in to have it all done at the same time.