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MOT: the complete guide

  Monday, 5 September 2016

MOT vehicle testing station sign

You probably already know about the MOT, Britain’s annual test of vehicle safety, road-worthiness and emissions. The MOT is a legal requirement in Great Britain, so it pays to understand the ins and outs of it.

We know, however, that everyone has to take a first MOT at some point.  That’s why we’ve put together this guide on everything you need to bear in mind when taking your vehicle in for its annual check-up.

When should you get an MOT?

The MOT test is designed to ensure that your vehicle meets road safety and environmental standards: as such, it’s something that has to be carried out annually.

You’re legally required to get an MOT for a vehicle either on:

  • The third anniversary of its registration, or
  • The anniversary of its last MOT, if the vehicle is over three-years-old

(Note: there are a few vehicles that need to be tested having been on the road for just one year. Check out the government MOT fees table to see if your vehicle is applicable).

Remember, you can be fined up to £1000 for driving a vehicle without a valid MOT, so it pays to get the test done promptly.

So, when is the earliest you can get an MOT?

An MOT is certified for a year and the date it runs out will be printed on the most recent certificate.  If you want, you can get an MOT up to a month (minus a day) before the certificate runs out and you’ll still be permitted to keep the same renewal date.

For example, if your MOT is due to run out on 14th May 2017, the earliest you could have the next one in order to keep the same renewal date would be 15th April 2017.

If you want to, you can get an MOT earlier than this. However the renewal date for the following year will then be different.

If your MOT has run out, you cannot legally drive your vehicle on the road and you will be prosecuted if caught. There are two exceptions to this rule:

  • If you’re driving to or from somewhere to have the vehicle repaired, or:
  • If you’re heading to a pre-arranged MOT test

How can you book an MOT?

MOT’s must be carried out at an approved MOT test centre. You can tell a certified centre because they’ll show the blue sign with three white triangles - the symbol that represents certification.

Important: don’t pay more than you have to.  MOT centres have maximum fees in place and cannot charge more than this.

How does the MOT test work?

A number of important parts on your vehicle will be checked to ensure that they meet the legal standards. If you want to, you can watch the test from a viewing area: but you’re not allowed to interrupt the person doing the testing.

For a more comprehensive guide on which parts are actually tested, you can check out the government pages for cars and motorcycles.  It’s also worth familiarising yourself with the MOT guide and inspection manuals, which provide a wealth of information.

Getting your test result

The MOT is either a pass or fail.  If your car fails the test, you’ll be given a list of things that need to be repaired before it can pass.

If it passes, you’ll be given an MOT certificate from the test centre and the result of the test will be recorded in the national MOT database.

You’ll also notice that your MOT certificate will show the mileage recorded at the current and previous three test passes.  It’s important to have a quick look at these figures - which are recorded as the ‘odometer reading and history’ - as you need to report any mistakes on the reading to the MOT centre within seven days in order to obtain a replacement certificate.

If you fail

Unfortunately, this happens.  If your vehicle fails, you will be given the ‘*Refusal of an MOT test *certificate’ from the test centre, and again the result will be recorded in the MOT database.

If you want to, you can appeal the result.

In the result of a fail, you can take your vehicle away if your MOT certificate is still valid. If your MOT has run out, however, you need to take your vehicle to have the failed defects fixed.

Remember, your vehicle is legally required to meet the minimum standards of road-worthiness at all times.  If it doesn’t, you can be fined up to £2,500, be banned from driving and also incur three penalty points on your licence.

What happens if you want to appeal?

As we mentioned above, you can appeal an MOT test failure and you can also complain to the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA). 

If you want to, you can take your own action against an MOT test centre through trading standards, legal proceedings or through reporting the centre to the police.  It’s worth noting, of course, that the DVSA won’t help you take action against the centre.

Appealing to the DVSA

If you want to appeal to the DVSA, you need to fill in their own complaint form and send it to them within 14 working days of the test. They will then offer you an appointment within five days to recheck your vehicle - you’ll need to pay the full test fee again - and send you an inspection report listing any vehicle defects and advisory changes that need to be made.

What if it’s the other way around?

If you think your car has passed when it shouldn’t have, the process is very similar. You should fill in the complaint form and send it to the DVSA within the following time limits:

  • Within three months of the MOT if the problem is corrosion related
  • Within 28 days if the vehicle has passed for other defects

Is your MOT certificate genuine?

You can check this by looking at the MOT status page here.

Are there any exceptions to the MOT?

Yes, there are a few vehicles that don’t require an MOT:

  • Cars and motorcycles made before 1960
  • Goods vehicles powered by electricity
  • Tractors

Lorries, buses and trailers still require a test, but it’s not an MOT as such.  Click here to find out more about the annual test for these vehicles.

Contact the DVSA

If you’ve got any questions about your MOT, you can contact the DVSA here:

Telephone: 0300 123 9000
Monday to Friday, 7:30am to 6pm

Keep your car in tip-top condition

One of the most effective ways to ensure your car is in great condition – and has a better chance of passing its MOT – is through replacing those older parts. Remember, ASM Auto Recycling has an online store full of high-quality parts here.

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