What is an MOT?
An MOT is an annual test that checks the safety, emissions and roadworthiness of a vehicle, and is a legal requirement for most vehicles over three years old.
How long does an MOT test last?
An MOT lasts for about 45 minutes, but can take up to an hour.
The MOT test received a major shake-up in May 2018 when stricter criteria was introduced. New fault categories were brought in – ‘minor’, ‘major’ and ‘dangerous’ – which indicate to an owner just how serious a problem might be.
‘Major’ or ‘dangerous’ problems are an automatic MOT fail, while ‘minor’ or ‘advisory’ problems are repairs that need to be considered but your vehicle is still safe enough to pass its MOT.
What's covered in the MOT test?
During the MOT test the garage will check:
- Suspension and brakes: to see if they are in good working order
- Bodywork of car: to look for signs of corrosion or other serious damage
- Petrol cap: to ensure it fits properly and that there are no leaks
- Size, pressure and tread of the vehicle's tyres: to check they meet legal requirements - this doesn’t include the spare tyre
- Lights, mirrors and doors: to ensure they are working properly
- Seatbelts and seats: to make sure they are safe. Seats should be able to move forwards and backwards and be secured in two or three positions
- Registration plates: to ensure they are visible and secure
- Exhaust pipe: to make sure it’s not noisy, falling off or emitting smoke. The vehicle will also need to meet the requirements for exhaust emissions, depending on its age and fuel type.
Any smoke of any colour coming from the exhaust could be marked as a major fault. This is also the case if there is a suggestion that the diesel particulate filter has been tampered with or the engine needs attention.
What else is examined?
The garage will also check:
- Windscreen and wipers: the windscreen is checked for chips and scratches, while wipers must be working correctly
- Speedometer: to ensure it’s operating fully. If any of the lights have been modified to change their colour, your car will fail its test
- Steering: to check for absent or dysfunctional steering locks
- Battery: if it’s not secure or has a leaking electrolyte, your vehicle won't pass its MOT
- Tow bars: these must be free from inappropriate modifications
- Airbags: these must function correctly
- Screenwash: if the reserve is too low this is an automatic fail
- The horn: to see if it’s loud enough
What documents do I need to take to an MOT?
If your vehicle is going for its first MOT test, it’s best to bring your V5C vehicle registration document with you.
For all other MOTs, you can take your V5C registration document and your current MOT certificate along with you, but this often isn’t required as garages can usually access the required documentation online.
How much does an MOT cost?
The cost of your MOT will vary depending on the garage, but there is a maximum limit on the amount you can be charged as set by the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA).
The maximum cost for an MOT is currently:
- £54.85 for cars (seating up to eight passengers)
- £29.65 for motorcycles
You can see the full list of fees on the gov.uk website.
What are council MOTs?
Your local council's own MOT testing centre will also carry out MOT tests, so this could be worth considering.
Although the testing stations are for council vehicles, such as buses, by law they also have to be open to the public.
Be aware that if you do take your vehicle to one of these testing stations and it needs repairs, the repairs will need to be carried out elsewhere. But this also means the testing centre is less likely to find fault with your car in an attempt to earn a little more money.
Local council testing centres can cost slightly more than garages, but this is generally because garages hope to make more money out of you through repairs.
What are the common reasons for failing an MOT?
More than a third of cars and vans failed their MOT in the 2018/19 financial year, and the most common reasons included:
- Lights and electrical equipment
How can I help my car pass its MOT?
There are a number of steps you can take to increase the chances of your vehicle passing its MOT. These include:
- Checking the lights: including headlights, rear lights, indicators, fog lights, brake lights and hazard lights. If any bulbs have blown, you can usually replace them yourself fairly easily
- Checking the tyre pressure and tread: the legal minimum tread is 1.6mm
- Checking the windscreen: looking for cracks and chips and whether the wipers work properly or are damaged. Remove anything from the windscreen that could potentially part obscure your view, for example a satnav
- Checking the warning lights on dashboard: make sure they are all working correctly
- Checking the exhaust: turn on the engine and make sure the exhaust isn’t leaking or emitting smoke
- Cleaning the registration plate: make sure you can read it clearly and that it is attached securely
- Topping up your screenwash: as well as the brake fluid and oil levels
It’s also a good idea to check the horn, seatbelts, seats and mirrors all function properly. Check the fuel cap is secure too.
What happens if my car fails its MOT?
If your car fails its MOT and the test was carried out at a garage, you will be entitled to a free retest, as long as the repairs are carried out at the test centre and the retest is done within 10 working days.
If the repairs are carried out away from the test centre, you can still have a free retest providing it's done the next working day and it failed for a particular reason.
Finally, if you took your car to a local council test centre for its MOT and the repairs are carried out elsewhere, you'll have to pay for a partial retest, but it will be up to half price providing it is done within 10 working days.