MOT test: What is it and why does your vehicle need it?

Vehicles currently over three years old are required, by law, to have an annual MOT test (MOT stands for the now non-existing Ministry of Transport). This ensures your vehicle meets the minimum safety standards & levels of exhaust emissions set out by the Driver Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA), which was formerly VOSA. Of course, this doesn’t include cars that are MOT exempt – expect more information about this in one of our future blog posts.

You can find the expiry date for your vehicle’s MOT on an existing MOT certificate or search for it on and can have it tested up to twenty-eight days in advance of this date.

The penalty for not keeping your vehicle’s MOT up to date is a fine. If you are involved in an accident you may be required to produce an MOT certificate and without an MOT this would affect insurance claims (Differing rules regarding insurance may apply to MOT exempt vehicles, please check with your insurer). Recent computerisation of the MOT testing system by the DVSA means that police and mobile camera units can check remotely to see if your car has a valid MOT certificate.

An MOT involves dozens of checks on a vehicle carried out by a nominated tester accredited by the DVSA. It involves checking things such as the brakes, lights, exhaust system, windscreen and seatbelts. It does not include checks on the condition of the engine, clutch or gearbox.

This may sound simple, but many people do not realise that having an MOT is not the same as having a service. Even if your car passes its MOT, it is still best to service your car for optimum performance and to prevent future issues.

An MOT can take between forty-five minutes to an hour but, if the vehicle fails and repairs are needed it will take longer. Test centres are not allowed to let you drive the car away that has failed an MOT until the problems are fixed. They will only allow you to take it away if either the existing MOT certificate is still valid or you are taking the car to have the faults fixed. Be wary of this though as the government are unclear on this. Here is what say:

You can still take your vehicle away if your MOT certificate is still valid.

“If your MOT has run out you can take your vehicle away to

  • Have the faults fixed
  • A pre-arranged MOT test appointment

“In both cases, your vehicle still needs to meet the minimum standards of roadworthiness at all times or you can be fined.”

Now, as the minimum standards of roadworthiness seem to be an MOT test this is extremely confusing for motorists and many have been caught out with this. We recommend getting your car fixed and passed before driving it on the road.

Some test centres require you to drop your car off in the morning and collect it when ready. You should be prepared to be without your vehicle for a whole day. We recommend asking your MOT test centre regarding times.

The nominated tester will separately list any advisories. Advisories are items that may have passed the test but need attention in the future.

The Vehicle and Operator Services Agency sets the maximum fee official test centres can charge for an MOT, which is currently £54.85 for cars and motor caravans and £29.65 for motorbikes.

If your vehicle passes you will be issued with a V20 pass certificate. If your car fails its MOT, you will be issued a VT30 certificate which will list the reasons for failure. These issues will need to be fixed and a retest arranged which the car must pass before it can be driven on the road again. Most places don’t charge for a retest but do check as some do! There is normally a time limit for the free retest which is usually ten days after which you would have to pay. Again, do check what your MOT test centre’s policy is regarding retests.

East County Classics offer MOTs at £49 for new MOT customers and £40 each time after. Our MOTs are done off site by a reliable MOT testing station who are comfortable and familiar with classic/retro cars. We also offer pre-MOT checks. For more information or to book your car in for an MOT, please call 01842 763841.

Next week: What, exactly, does an MOT check? A guide for modern and classic car owners.

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