Unless you’re a super-organised type who has reminders for your car insurance, tax and MOT set up on your phone or written on the calendar, then it’s easy for these important dates to slip your mind. Unfortunately, forgetting isn’t going to get you our of a fine if you’re stopped by the police for driving without an MOT test. The law on the matter is quite simple: every car needs its first MOT test three years after it is first registered, and then annually after that. There are different rules for cars which are being used as hire cars, or taxis.
There’s no need to scrabble around for paperwork to verify the date of your next MOT test, or first test if your vehicle is approaching its first test. It’s much easier and quicker to check your MOT details online. All the information you need is the registration number of the car. Enter it into the website, and the first page you see will confirm the basic details of the car such as make and model. Underneath that, you’ll be able to see whether or not your car is taxed, and the date on which your tax and MOT expires.
If you’ve had a MOT done before, some garages will keep your details on file and then contact you in the weeks running up to the expiry of your certificate to remind you to book again. There’s no need to book again with the same MOT centre if you don’t want to as you are free to choose any of the 21,000+ MOT centres across the UK for the inspection.
You are of course free to wait until the last day your MOT is valid and book the test then. It’s a bit of a risky strategy though, as if the car fails and the garage is unable to do the remedial work right away, you can’t legally drive your car. There is a bit of flexibility about when your have your MOT done, and the four weeks running up to the expiry are the perfect window. This is because that if you have the inspection done during this period, the certificate will just be extended for a year.
Here's how it works. Imagine for example your current MOT is due to expire on 15th June. You decide not to leave things to the last minute, and book your car in for its MOT on 2nd June – almost weeks before the certificate expires. If it passes, the new certificate will still have the 15th June expiry date on it for the following year. This flexibility means you are getting the full 12 months out of your MOT, rather than 11 and a bit months by doing it early. Having this window of four weeks running up to the test lets you book your MOT to suit work, family and other commitments.
Unlike other government products like the driving test or a passport which have a fixed fee, the price for the MOT is a cap rather than it being set in stone. That means that although the government sets the maximum charge for a car MOT at £54.85, garages are allowed to charge less if they want to do so. Many just charge the government cap, whereas others will offer a discount for customers booking online, or for those who are having servicing or other work done at the same time. The fee remains the same, whether the car passes or fails.
Usually, drivers leave their car with the garage to do the inspection, and wait for the phone call telling them the result. If it’s bad news and your car has failed its MOT, then the easiest option is to discuss with the garage what needs to be done, and agree that they should carry out the work before retesting. After they have done the work, they’ll test the car again but will only look at the elements which failed first time round, rather than going through the whole process again. If the work is done within 10 working days, there is no charge for this.
If however you are told that your car has failed the MOT on a fault which is classed as dangerous, that means it can’t be used on the road until the faults are fixed. That includes driving it to another garage which might be offering a better price on repairs.
All MOT centres test to the same standard and mechanics have to undergo extensive training before they are allowed to carry out tests. This should mean that whether you take your car to a centre in Aberdeen or Plymouth, the results should be the same. There are many steps you can take to maximise your chances of passing, and getting your car in tip-top condition for the inspection.
The most important thing is to keep up with regular servicing, in accordance with the recommendations from the manufacturer. Servicing also involves a full inspection of the car, and might mean a mechanic spots faults before they develop into something serious. You can also do basic maintenance tasks yourself, such as walking around the car and making sure all the lights are working, checking minimum tread depth on the tyres and making sure that the oil and windscreen washer levels are appropriate. The test standards which the inspectors use are widely available online should you wish to do more detailed inspections.
Start off by looking at the items which were on your previous MOT test and labelled as minor faults or advisories. These are things which have been highlighted as needing attention, but which aren’t bad enough to cause a fail. If you know your car will probably need work to get it through its MOT then discuss this in advance with your garage, or shop around for somewhere to do the work at the best value price.