Everything you need to know about MOT tests

Posted on 17 February 2022 by CarTakeBack

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The purpose of the MOT test is to make sure that vehicles are checked, at least once a year, to see that they comply with set roadworthiness and environmental standards. A record of each test is kept online, it's checked when a vehicle is taxed and can be accessed by anyone so you can keep a track of when a test is due, or see if a car you want to buy has a valid MOT.

Find out how to check the MOT history and expiry of a car >

Which vehicles need an MOT test?

Most vehicles need to have a valid MOT to be driven on our roads. Most new cars and motorcycles don't need one until they're 3 years old. There are some vehicles that are fully exempt from needing an MOT:

  • Goods vehicles powered by electricity and registered before 1 March 2015
  • Tractors
  • Some historic ‘classic’ vehicles
  • Lorries, buses and trailers - You must get an annual test for these instead of an MOT. It’s sometimes called the ‘annual vehicle test’.

A full list of exemptions can be found on the government website >

Car undergoing an MOT test

How often does a car need an MOT test?

Cars need an MOT test every year to ensure they're still roadworthy. You can get a test up to a month before the MOT runs out and keep the same renewal date.

How much does an MOT test cost?

The maximum you can be charged for a car is £54.85.

What is checked in an MOT test?

Important parts on your car will be checked to make sure they meet legal standards. The test centre will check key items such as the following:

  • Fuel system - to make sure it's not leaking
  • Exhaust emissions - to check the car is compliant
  • Seatbelts - to check they're functioning correctly
  • Brakes - to ensure they're safe
  • Tyres - to make sure they're not below the legal tread
  • Lights - to make sure they're all functioning

Having an MOT test is not the same as having your car serviced, the test doesn’t check the general mechanical condition of the engine, clutch or gearbox.

A full list of parts that are tested can be found on the government website >

What is checked in an MOT test

Image credit: gov.uk

Why do cars fail MOT tests?

Your car fails if the test result lists ‘dangerous’ or ‘major’ problems with your car.

If your vehicle fails the MOT you’ll get a ‘refusal of an MOT test certificate’ from the test centre and it will be recorded in the database. You can appeal the result if you think it’s wrong.

Common reasons that cars fail an MOT include:

  • Lighting and signalling
  • Suspension
  • Brakes
  • Tyres
  • Visibility

Often these can be simply repaired, though more complex failure reasons or multiple items that need fixing, can result in mounting costs to make your car roadworthy again.

Can you drive a car after its failed an MOT test?

You can drive your car after a failed test if:

  • your current MOT certificate is still valid, so it pays to get your car tested slightly ahead of the expiry date
  • no ‘dangerous’ problems were listed

Otherwise, you need to get the car repaired before you can drive it again.

What are your options when your car fails an MOT test?

If your car fails the MOT test your options are:

  • pay to have the problems repaired and retest your car
  • sell your car

If you pay to have your car repaired you'll need to have the car retested and have it pass to be able to drive the car again. If you leave the car at the test centre for repair and it’s retested within 10 working days it can have a partial retest for free. If you take your car elsewhere to be repaired, you can take it back the new working day to be retested and this will be free, if you take it back within 10 working days you can be charged a partial retest fee.

If you decide to sell your car you'll need to make sure that the vehicle can be collected, if the current MOT has expired. You'll also need to make the buyer of the car aware that the car has failed its MOT test, not all buyers will purchase MOT failures. The most common reason for selling a car with no MOT is that repairs would cost more than the value of the car. If this is the case, scrapping your car may be the best option. You can get an instant scrap car quote and arrange free collection of your car with CarTakeBack.

Find out the scrap value of your car >


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