Master the mysteries of the MOT

Mechanic in workshop

The world divides into those who know when their MOT is due, and those who have no idea. If you are in the latter camp – or if you simply want to find out more about the whys and wherefores of the Ministry of Transport test – it’s worth spending a bit of time looking under the bonnet to determine your obligations and what’s involved.

The MOT is certainly something to take seriously. Drive your car without a valid certificate and you risk prosecution and a fine of up to £1,000. You could also invalidate your insurance cover and end up footing the bill for any damage caused in an accident from your own pocket. The only exception to this is if you’ve booked your car in for its MOT and you’re actually driving to the test centre. KwikFit reckons 9% of motorists – over 3 million people – don’t know that an MOT is compulsory. That could go some way to explaining why an estimated 335,000 motorists a month miss their test. MOT Angel, a booking agency, says some drivers have missed their deadline by up to a year – and it estimates that 15% of car, motorbike and van owners have no idea when their MOT is due. Ignorance is not confined to the MOT, however. According to KwikFit’s research, a further 9% of drivers don’t know car insurance is compulsory and 10% say the same about having a valid tax disc.

The three-year rule

The number of drivers scrambling to get an MOT done on time – or missing the due date entirely – is expected to surge this month, as a fresh batch of cars reach the age of three (March sees a surge in new car sales each year as people buy to get a ‘new year’ registration plate). New cars fresh off the production line are exempt from MOT tests for the first three years they are on the road. But if you buy a new car, you are legally required to have an MOT three years after it was first registered. The MOT must be completed within that three year span. So if you bought a car that was registered new on 21 March 2011, you’ll need to get the MOT done by 21 March 2014. Ambulances, taxis and buses must have an MOT after one year.

Plan ahead

Whether your car is due its first test or is in line for its fifteenth MOT, you can have the test done up to a month before your current MOT expires. Should your car fail the test, this means that you can still continue to drive it while you shop around for the necessary parts or repairs – provided it is not un-roadworthy. One way to ensure you do not miss the date is to set up an MOT reminder – either on your mobile phone, or simply by writing it in the forward planning section of your diary – say a month before your next MOT is due. You can then book a test in at that stage, thereby avoiding paying over the odds, or worse still incurring hire car or taxi costs while waiting for your car to be allowed back on the road. The government offers its own text reminder service but be warned: if you don’t get a text for whatever reason, you can’t use this as an excuse for not getting your vehicle tested on time.

MOT test fees

The MOT test fee depends on the type of vehicle. The MOT fees shown are the maximum a test centre can charge, and aren’t subject to VAT.

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