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What is an MOT test?

  • What is an MOT test?
  • Do I need one?
  • Parkers explains it all

A compulsory test for most motorised vehicles travelling on the road that must be repeated annually. 

Do I need an MOT test?

No, not personally – but your car does. If you want to drive a vehicle on the road then it will need to be annually tested to ensure it is up to standard in areas like safety and emissions.

Brand new cars are exempt until the third anniversary of registration when they must be tested, and then every year after that. Some vehicles like ambulances and taxis must be checked after one year of registration.

You can get an MOT test up to a month minus a day before the old one runs out and keep your old renewal date. Get it tested before then and the date will change.

Without a valid MOT test you could be prosecuted and fined. Additionally, you could be driving a car with a serious fault that could put yourself or others in danger.

Exceptions to this rule include if you are going to or from a repairers, or are on the way to a pre-arranged MOT test, but even then the car must meet minimum standards of roadworthiness - otherwise licence points and a fine await you.

Driving a car without a valid MOT certificate could also invalidate your insurance, so it's worth checking the small print before doing any of the above.

Interestingly, vehicles registered before January 1, 1960 are MOT exempt, as are electric-powered goods vehicles and tractors.

What is covered by the test?

Once you've found an approved MOT test centre - feauring a blue sign with three white triangles on it - and booked an appointment, a qualified technician will give your car a thorough check over.

You are welcome to watch this process (although it's not exactly a thrill-a-minute) but must not interrupt. The engine, clutch and gearbox are not included but things like the fuel system, exhaust emissions, seatbelts, mirrors and brakes are scrutinised. Your mileage will also be logged. A full list of what's tested is published here.

At the end of the test your car will either be given a pass or fail, the latter accompanied by a list of things that must be fixed before retesting. In some cases this partial retest will be free or at least cheaper than the full MOT test - for more information on this process read the Government's guidance here.

How much does it cost?

This varies but as of 2017, the maximum fee you should pay for a car is £54.85, or £29.65 for a standard motorbike.

There are different fees for other vehicles (usually commercial or heavy goods carriers) but the Government publishes a cost list here.

If you're worried about being ripped off why not seek out a test station that doesn't carry out any repairs? The technicians won't benefit from any remedial work, so should in theory give you a more trustworthy result.

Putting your van through an MOT test? Watch out for these top 10 reasons for failure.

Looking for more jargon-busting motoring meanings? Head over to our Parkers Car Glossary page and take a look at our other definitions.