The MOT: Your Ultimate Guide

The MOT your ultimate guide in white over an image of a mechanic holding a clipboard and checking a car engine bay

The MOT process is confusing enough for experienced drivers, let alone newly qualified ones. There’s a lot to remember, and we often find new things every year as our vehicles develop different problems. 

But what is an MOT? 

We’ve created a three-part ‘Ultimate MOT Guide’ to help explain everything you need to know about your MOT. In this first part, we’ll focus on the test itself as a whole. By the end of this post, you’ll know what this test is, how to book one, why it’s important and what you need to do on the day.

Whether you’re completely new to this process, or you just need a helpful refresher, this Ultimate Guide is the perfect place to learn whatever you need. 


Is your MOT approaching? Looking for a high-quality, affordable local garage to conduct it? Use Book My Garage’s Comparison Tool to book your test and find the best deal today!


What better place to start than by explaining exactly what an MOT is?


What does MOT stand for?

Simply, a Ministry of Transport Test (so yes, it’s just MOT not MOT Test). The Department of Transport, (formerly the Ministry of Transport) is responsible for running and maintaining the public transport network in the UK, which stretches to include driver safety. Vehicles have needed an MOT in one form or another since the 1960s.


What is an MOT and why is it important?

The MOT is a thorough yearly inspection of vehicles aged three years and over (four in Northern Ireland). It’s one of the most important documents your car needs and the only vehicle maintenance required by law. There are slightly different tests for different types of vehicles, but they all need an MOT certificate of some description.

Your vehicle undergoes a wide range of checks, designed to test its safety and roadworthiness. Without a yearly test, many unsafe vehicles would remain on the roads – causing untold danger to all drivers. Many of the checks are simple aspects of your car: lights, wipers and brakes are just three. Because of this, you can conduct a range of pre-MOT checks at home. 


Find out how to get your car ready for its test with our MOT Checklist


Where can I book my MOT?

You need to choose an authorised MOT centre, of which there are 21,000 in the UK. It might sound difficult to find one near you, but Book My Garage’s network covers the whole of the UK (excluding Northern Ireland) and has over 9,000 approved MOT centres to choose from. All you need to do is enter your registration number and postcode and then find your perfect garage. For a quick and simple process to book your MOT, choose Book My Garage today!

To find out whether a garage near you offers MOTs, just look for this official blue sign featuring three overlapping white triangles. 


Three white triangles on a blue background. The unmistakable MOT symbol
Look for this sign outside a garage – it’s a sure sign they offer MOTs.


Are there any MOT exemptions?

If your vehicle is less than three years old, it doesn’t need an MOT – although that doesn’t stop you from booking one anyway! Car warranties generally last three years and include regular servicing, so there’s a lower chance of faults developing. After the warranty expires, booking a car service is the driver’s responsibility, so problems may not be dealt with regularly. As soon as your warranty expires, your vehicle will need its first MOT.

Any vehicle registered more than forty years ago, that hasn’t been ‘substantially changed’ in the last thirty years, also doesn’t need an MOT. To find out whether your car meets these criteria, read the Department of Transport guidelines.

The only other exemption is if your vehicle has a SORN (Statutory Off-Road Notice). You can apply for a SORN on any vehicle which you don’t plan on driving for a while. It means you don’t pay unnecessary vehicle tax, need an MOT certificate or, in some cases, an insurance policy. 


To learn more about a SORN, and whether it’s suitable for you, click here


How can I find when my MOT is due?

Your MOT due date is always on your previous MOT certificate. If you don’t have this, you can check your MOT due date online. Just enter your registration number and we’ll tell you your due date. That way, you always know the best time to book your test.


When can I book my MOT test?

To secure a vehicle’s first MOT, you will need to book the test no later than three years from the date of registration. For example, if your vehicle was registered in on 1st April 2018, you will need to book the test before the 1st April 2021.

If you need an MOT renewal, you must book the test before the expiry date of last year’s certificate. For example, your MOT certificate is valid until the 15th March 2021. You would need to book your test on or before this date. 


Mechanic filling out MOT certificate while inspecting car engine bay
You need a valid MOT certificate at all times – it’s illegal to drive without one!


However, leaving it until the last minute can make the MOT more stressful than necessary. You can book your test up to one month, minus a day, before its expiry date and keep the original day for next year. For example, if you booked between the 16th February and 15th March 2021, the 15th March would still be your expiry date in 2022. 

This is a big advantage for drivers. If your vehicle fails its MOT, you need to complete all the repairs and get it retested before you can drive it again. Getting it done before the deadline gives you time to fix any additional problems and not be worrying about driving without an invalid MOT – which is actually a criminal offence!


For more information about the fines associated with an invalid MOT, check out part two of our ‘Ultimate MOT Guide’ here!


How much does an MOT cost?

The maximum price a garage can charge, by law, for an MOT is £54.85 – but many garages on the Book My Garage network offer the test for much less! You can also get an even better deal on your appointment if you book a full service at the same time.


How long does an MOT test take?

The test itself takes between 45 minutes and an hour, so it’s worth waiting at the garage if you expect your car to pass with flying colours. Plenty of our garages offer refreshments and a comfortable waiting room as well as dedicated viewing areas so you can watch their mechanics at work. 


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 around an hour.


What do I need to bring to my MOT test?

The garage needs access to your old MOT certificate and your V5C (vehicle logbook). While they might appreciate you bringing both these documents with you, MOT certificates from May 2018 onwards are available online and they should be able to find your details in the system if you don’t have a copy of your logbook. 


How do you find a lost MOT certificate?

While you don’t specifically need the documents anymore, it’s worth having a copy of your current MOT certificate at all times. Many buyers like to see it when they purchase and you need the details on the certificate to tax your vehicle or change the tax class (i.e. free tax for a disabled driver). If you can’t find yours, there are two ways of getting hold of another copy.

First, you can head to this page and download a new certificate for free. All you need is your registration number and the 11-digit number from your logbook.

If you can’t print the certificate at home, you can head to any test centre and give the same details to have them do it for you. This costs £10.


Is there anyway of making an extended MOT easier?

If your vehicle needs repairs and you’re left without a vehicle for several days, it can be distressing. To keep your life moving, many of our garages offer a loan car, vehicle collection and delivery or customer drop-offs with their appointments. We always tell you whether a garage offers these option on our booking tool. We also include any extra fees these services may incur upfront.

You can filter by garages that offer these options once you’ve entered your registration number and postcode. Find garages near you that offer this option on our directory of over 9,000 UK garages.


Happy couple smiling in front seats of grey car on sunny day
Many of our garages will keep you smiling if your vehicle needs repairs, thanks to loan cars and collection and delivery services.


What happens after an MOT test?

The garage will issue you with a VT20 pass certificate or VT30 ‘refusal’ form and explain to you any Advisories or Minor faults they’ve found. If all goes well and your car passes, you’ll then pay for the test and drive away with a valid MOT certificate. 


Need to know what happens after an MOT failure? Check out part two of our ‘Ultimate MOT Guide’ for all the answers!


Need some recommendations for a garage near you? Here are some of our favourites:


Need a garage closer to you? Check our our full directory of over 9,000 UK garages to book your MOT!



There is a lot to remember when it comes to your MOT. Here are the three key points:

  1. Every vehicle registered over three years ago needs an MOT, with only limited exceptions.
  2. You can book your MOT up to a month, minus a day, before the expiry date and it’s easy to do so with Book My Garage. All you need to enter is your registration and postcode to start comparing garages!
  3. An MOT usually takes around an hour and the maximum price a garage can charge for the test is £54.85.

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.