MOT Guide: 11 Things You Need to Know About the MOT

MOT Guide: 11 things you need to know about the MOT in white text in blue and orange squares with white background on left hand side and mechanic conducting MOT inspection on right hand side

The MOT is one of the most important responsibilities for every driver. As such, you must understand exactly what you need to do to keep your MOT valid at all times. That’s why we’ve created this helpful MOT guide.

By the end of our guide, you will understand:

  • What the MOT is
  • How much an MOT costs
  • The MOT checklist
  • When a car’s first MOT is due
  • How to check your MOT due date
  • And more

 

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What is an MOT?

The MOT is the only form of car maintenance required by law. It is a thorough inspection of a car’s roadworthiness, designed to keep everyone safe on the UK’s roads.

The MOT was first introduced in the 1960s. Cars were becoming more common, so the Ministry of Transport (now Department of Transport) created much stricter safety guidelines to ensure drivers looked after their vehicles.

The test has evolved a lot over the years, with the most recent changes coming in 2018, but the principle and purpose have stayed the same. That’s why every vehicle must have a valid MOT certificate at all times, with only a couple of exceptions. If your car is under SORN (Statutory Off-Road Notice) conditions or over 40 years old, it is exempt from the test.

Many other countries have an equivalent safety test. This allows foreign drivers to drive in the UK for up to 6 months (as long as the car is fully taxed in their home country and carries the proper licence plates). The most notable country without any form of mandatory maintenance is the USA.

 

What does MOT stand for?

‘MOT’ stands for Ministry of Transport Test. So, while many of us refer to it as an ‘MOT Test’, we’re actually just repeating ourselves.

 

Three white overlapping triangles on blue background on white sign with 'MOT' underneath and white van speeding past in motion blur shot in background
When you’re looking for an MOT centre near you, look out for this symbol. It means they’re one of the 21,000 registered MOT centres in the UK.

 

When is my first MOT due?

Most vehicles need their first MOT once they reach three years old. For example, if your car was registered in March 2019, its first MOT would be due in March 2022.

The first test for ambulances, taxis and private passenger vehicles (with between 9 and 16 seats) is due one year after their registration. For example, a vehicle registered in March 2019 had its first MOT due in March 2020.

While your vehicle is less than three years old, it’s usually covered by a warranty and doesn’t need an MOT. With proper servicing, the chance of a serious fault developing in the first three years is very low. After that, or if you neglect your servicing schedule, wear and tear become more of an issue. That’s when an MOT becomes essential.

You can book an MOT in the first three years if you want, it’s just not required by law.

 

 

How long does an MOT last?

An MOT certificate is valid for twelve months. This means that you must book an MOT every year once your car turns three years old. For example, if your first MOT is due on 31st March 2022, you must book another MOT by 31st March 2023 and then so on.

 

Is it illegal to drive without an MOT?

Driving a vehicle without an MOT is illegal under UK law. You can receive a £1,000 fine for this offence, as well as a £2,500 fine if your vehicle is found to be dangerous or unroadworthy. You also face three points on your driving licence and a ban if you fall foul of this fine.

The only time you can drive a car without a valid MOT is on your way to a pre-booked MOT appointment.

 

Police car and motorbike pulled over black 4X4 vehicle on UK city road and three police officers in high-vis jackets standing by car and talking to driver
It’s illegal to drive in the UK without an MOT, so, to avoid getting pulled over and fined, find your MOT due date with our free MOT checker today! Photo by Oliver Hale on Unsplash

 

Check My Previous MOT

To avoid driving your vehicle illegally, you must make sure you know when your MOT expires. The due date is clearly labelled on last year’s certificate. If it’s your first MOT that’s due, the required date is three years from the date you purchased the vehicle. For example, if this is the 27th May 2019, your first MOT is due no later than the 27th May 2022.

If you’ve lost last year’s certificate or can’t find your vehicle’s due date, enter your reg number into our free MOT checker here. We’ll consult the DVLA (Driver and Vehicle Licencing Agency) database and instantly show your MOT expiry date. If the due date is rapidly approaching, you can book an MOT near you through our quick and simple booking tool.

Else, you can enter your email address to sign up for our free MOT reminder service. We’ll send you a reminder email four weeks before your MOT expires, and then another two weeks before the due date. With our free reminder service, you’ll never miss the due date again!

 

How early can you book an MOT?

While your MOT due date is one year after the previous test, you can book an MOT one calendar month, minus a day, before the expiry date. This will keep the same expiry date for the following year. For example, if your MOT expires on 27th August 2021, you can book your test from the 30th July up to the 27th August to keep the same expiry date in 2022.

If you book your MOT more than one month in advance, your MOT expiry date changes for the following year. For example, if you book an MOT on the 26th July 2021 and your expiry date is the 29th August, your next expiry date is the 26th July 2022.

Booking an MOT at least two weeks in advance of your expiry date brings plenty of benefits. Should your vehicle fail the test, you must fix the issues and have it retested before the expiry date to keep it road legal. If you book an MOT at the last minute and your vehicle fails, you make your life even more stressful.

 

 

How much is an MOT?

The price of an MOT depends on what class your vehicle falls into and what garage you choose for the work.

Cars form Class 4, which means the maximum price most drivers will pay is £54.85. This price has been set by the DVLA, so garages legally cannot charge you more than this for a car MOT. The price is also not subject to VAT.

However, when you compare and save on an MOT near you, you can find a much better deal. Many garages charge less than £54.85 and also offer MOT discounts when you book a service at the same time. This gives you great value for money and peace of mind about the quality of your car. An MOT is not as thorough as a car service, so a pass certificate doesn’t mean that your car has no problems.

The average MOT price on BookMyGarage is £43.33, over 20% cheaper than the maximum price. Enter your reg number and postcode into our online booking tool to compare and save on MOT deals near you today!

 

Save time and money on your MOT today by comparing garages near you

 

How long does an MOT take?

An MOT takes between 45 minutes and an hour.

As a result, many garages offer an ‘MOT while you wait’ service. Often, refreshments and WIFI are provided in garage waiting rooms. Alternatively, many offer vehicle collection and delivery to make your life more convenient. While there is usually an extra charge for this service, it can help you fit your MOT into your busy life better.

 

Mechanic holding a yellow clipboard inspecting a car engine during an MOT
Mechanics will be incredibly thorough during your MOT, but the process itself only takes between 45 minutes an hour.

 

MOT Checklist: What does the mechanic check?

The DVLA MOT checklist instructs testers to inspect 21 parts of your vehicle. This checklist is as follows:

 

MOT Checklist with MOT checks listed out over white background with blue MOT triangle symbols in background

 

You can check many of these parts before your test and, hopefully, help your car avoid failing the MOT. Find out how with our full MOT checklist here.

 

What do I need to take to an MOT?

As all the information about your vehicle is now available online, you don’t need to take any documents with you to your MOT.

However, a garage may ask for a physical copy of last years’ MOT certificate and your vehicle logbook. These help them confirm some important details about your vehicle. If you don’t have either of these documents, you can find out how to recover a lost MOT certificate here, and apply for a new vehicle logbook here.

 

 

Recap

The MOT (Ministry of Transport Test) is the only form of car maintenance required by law in the UK. Your first MOT is due as soon as your vehicle reaches three years old and then you must book a test once a year after that. Garages cannot charge more than £54.85 for the test, but many offer lower prices and extra discounts when you book your MOT alongside a car service.

To find the best MOT deal near you, enter your reg number and postcode into our online booking tool to compare instant prices from garages in your area.

Mandy Weston

Mandy is an ex-mechanic, with 22 years’ experience in the motor industry. As an in-house motoring expert, Mandy is the go-to woman for any relevant questions that our customers have; both garages and drivers. From specific problems with your car to general maintenance, Mandy is a reliable source of information and advice. Her passion for motoring is a huge factor to her success and the huge wealth of knowledge that she has. She now uses her remarkable grasp of the industry to write regular content for our readers to help drivers understand their car better, avoid being ripped off by garages and save money on their motoring requirements.