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MOT Questions & Answers

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The Ministry of Transport (MOT) Test has been around since the 1960s and it’s a legal requirement for your car to take one when it hits its third birthday – and on the same date every year after that.

Drive around without one and you could face a £1,000 fine, 6-8 points on your licence and an unsympathetic insurance company if you try to make a claim. So it's worth knowing when you'll need an MOT, where to get one, how much it costs and what to do if your car doesn't pass.

As always, at We Want Any Car, we're here to help…

What is the MOT?

It’s an inspection that assesses whether your car is safe to drive and won’t be a danger to you or other road users. Because it’s a visual check, it’s not a replacement for a full mechanical service. It looks at things like your brakes, steering, tyres, windscreen, lights and emissions, but not your engine, clutch or gearbox. At the end of the inspection, you’ll receive a simple pass or fail statement. Get a pass and you’ll receive a VT20 certificate to keep with your records, which you’ll need if you come to sell your car. A pass might include some ‘advisories’ – work that isn’t essential now, but will require attention in the future.

How much does an MOT cost?

The government sets the maximum limit for the cost of the inspection (not any work that results) which you can check here – MOT Test Fees – but you’ll often find garages offering the service for less. Be wary of cut-price tests. They might sound tempting, but can often result in additional work as operators look to recoup their costs once your car is in the shop.

How do I check if my car needs an MOT?

There used to be an MOT reminder service to let you know when your next test is due, but now it’s up to you to be organised. If you’ve lost your last certificate or you’re simply not sure if your car needs to take the test, the simplest way to find out is online at MOT Check Status.

Just input your reg number and the make of your car and the system will tell you when you need to book it in. Create a calendar reminder and you won’t need to worry about it again.

When is my MOT due if my car is over three years old?

On the third anniversary of its initial registration date, your car will be due for its first MOT. You’ll need to get a test done every year on the same date for as long as you own the vehicle. You can even book your MOT up to a month early and still keep the same renewal date. This is a good idea, not only because it means you get 13 months for the price of 12, but it also gives you a month’s grace to drive around on the old MOT getting quotes for any work that needs to be done.

My car is new. When is my MOT due?

Any car under three years old doesn’t need an MOT. Check the official registration date of your car in its service book, or your vehicle registration document (V5) – the vehicle will need its first MOT exactly three years after this date. However, you can get it tested up to a month early. Remember that the MOT is not a substitute for a mechanical service, so always follow the recommended intervals in your log book to make sure you don’t invalidate your warranty.

Where should I go for my MOT?

While we can’t recommend an individual garage to you, there are three basic options. You could go to a franchised dealer, where labour rates are higher but you can normally expect a high level of service, specialist testing equipment and genuine replacement parts for your car. Alternatively, there are a number of fast turnaround chains like Kwik Fit or Halfords, which tend to be cheaper than main dealers and sometimes even beat the prices of your third option. That’s independent garages, which vary in quality from the highly reliable to the seriously dodgy.

Our advice is to use a centre you trust from previous experience or a friend’s recommendation.

What do I do if my car fails its MOT?

Although the MOT isn’t as comprehensive as a full service, there are still over 600 ways to fail it, so it’s no wonder that nearly half of all cars do. But rather than paying up straight away, remember that you do have some options. If you get landed with a big repair bill, ask the garage for more details about the work they say is required, so you can shop around. Some minor repairs can be retested at the same centre free of charge within 10 days, so it’s worth knowing what these are. You can find a list here Getting An MOT Retest.

How can I get my car prepped for the test?

It makes sense before your MOT to give your car the once-over yourself. You might find some obvious fixes – a new bulb or replacement windscreen wipers – that you can sort out quickly and cheaply, saving you some hassle when they inevitably crop up in the results. So do a quick tour of the lights and check your tyres for wear. A simple tread depth tool will tell you if they’re still above the legal limit. Listen out while you’re driving for any strange sounds and check that the car doesn’t pull to one side under braking. Finally, book in advance – at least a fortnight – to ensure you get a time that suits you. An appointment early in the day should avoid the inconvenience of a busy garage moving your slot to the following day.

Here’s your final checklist

When is my MOT due