What is an MOT?

An MOT (Ministry of Transport) test is an annual inspection, sort of like a health check-up for your car. It’s to make sure your vehicle is roadworthy, safe to drive, and meets environmental standards - and it’s illegal to drive without one. However, vehicles inclusive and upwards of 40-years-old are exempt from the MOT, unless they've undergone significant modifications.

There's no grace period for an MOT; once it expires, driving your car is illegal and could lead to prosecution. Without a valid MOT you can't tax your vehicle either, which is another legal requirement. The only time you can legally drive without an MOT is when heading to a pre-booked MOT test or for repairs. Driving on UK roads without a valid MOT could result in a fine of up to £1,000.

How do I know when it’s due?

To find out when your MOT is due, you can check your last MOT certificate. If you've lost that, you can go to GOV.uk and check the MOT status of a vehicle. If you've just bought a second-hand car, it's up to you to make sure it has a valid MOT, and that you know when the next one's due. Remember that you can book in for an MOT up to a month before it expires without losing any time on the certificate, meaning no last-minute rush.

How much is it?

The cost of an MOT will change depending on the size and type of your vehicle, but there's a maximum charge of £54.85.

How long will it take?

An MOT test usually takes around 45 minutes to an hour, and depending on the MOT centre you can either wait for them to do the test, or they prefer you leave them to it. Bear in mind that if your car needs necessary repairs, you may be waiting longer - but don't worry, they won't do anything to your car without your approval. If it's needed, a second test might have to be done to make sure that your vehicle passes its MOT.

What will they check for?

An MOT is a comprehensive inspection involving a series of checks. Your car must pass these in order to hold a valid MOT certificate for the next 12 months.

  • Electrics: Headlights, brake lights, indicators, and fog lights.
  • Tyres: Tread depth, condition, size, type, and security.
  • Suspension and Steering: Shock absorbers, corrosion, wear, condition, and operation.
  • Brakes: Pedal condition, efficiency, operation, and performance.
  • Seat Belts: Condition, operation, and security of all front and rear belts.
  • Seats: Must be secure and adjustable to an upright position.
  • Exhaust and Emissions: No leaks in the exhaust or fuel system, compliance with emission standards based on fuel type and age, and secure exhaust that effectively silences.
  • Mirrors, Wipers, and Windscreen: Damage to the windscreen and condition of wiper blades.
  • Vehicle Identification Number (VIN): Presence and correctness, especially for vehicles first registered on or after 1 August 1980.
  • Body and Structure: Check for excessive corrosion, damage, and sharp edges.
  • Fuel System: No leaks, with a secure and sealed fuel cap.
  • Doors: Secure closure, with front doors operable from both inside and outside.
  • Mirrors: Adequate number, good condition, and securely fixed.
  • Number Plates: Condition, security, and correct character form and spacing.
  • Lights: Condition, operation, and secure fitting. Headlamp aim is also tested.
  • Washers and Wipers: Must function properly and provide a clear view.
  • Horn: Correct operation and suitable type.

The GOV.uk website has an inspection manual, which provides comprehensive information about guidance for making sure your vehicle is safe and meets the standards it needs to. This guidance is regularly updated, and now includes testing for hybrid and electric vehicles.

What do I do if it fails?

Your car might pass its MOT but with minor faults (or advisories), which are essentially warnings about issues that need attention soon, like tyres nearing the minimum tread depth or worn brake pads. Ignoring these faults could eventually affect the running of your car, lead to a failed MOT in the future, and even affect the car's resale value.

If your car fails the MOT due to a dangerous defect, you can't drive it until it's fixed, risking a fine up to £2,500, points on your license, or even a ban if you decide to drive it anyway. However, you can still drive to a prearranged MOT or repair appointment if your current MOT is still valid.

Post-failure, the garage will outline necessary repairs. You have options: leave the car for repairs and possibly a same-day retest, take it elsewhere for repairs and return for a free partial retest on certain items within 10 days, or after 10 days, but you'll pay full fees again for a retest or any additional repairs. Alternatively, taking the car for a retest at a different garage means paying for a new test.

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