MOT and tax

Your guide to sorting an MOT

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Everything you need to know about tax and MOT including how much it will cost.

Need to tax your car?

When is my MOT due?

An MOT is compulsory by the time your car reaches its third year anniversary of registration – or the anniversary of the last MOT if it’s more than three years old.

You can easily check when your MOT is due by entering your registration details on the government’s website. It will also tell you when your road tax is due.

Where can I get my MOT done?

You shouldn’t have far to hunt. Many garages offer MOT services, and garages that don’t often have a local relationship with a test station ‘down the road’. It’s also easy to book an MOT online.

‘Fast-fit’ operators also offer MOT services, sometimes with special offers on ancillary parts like batteries, bulbs and exhausts to tempt you in. Your local council may offer an MOT service too.

But there’s nothing like building up a trusted relationship with a local independent who can alert you to potential MOT issues well before they rear.

For most people it’s a Class 4 MOT that’s needed. This covers cars, small vans and motor caravans up to 3,000kg.

Where can I get a cheap MOT?

Usually with a bit of shopping around. All businesses need to make a living. The concern is that garages offering cheap MOTs are then under pressure to make up that low fee by charging more for any work they do on your car.

That might be advising the owner that a replacement vehicle part is needed rather than a cheaper, more inexpensive repair. Or they might exaggerate the seriousness of problems. In other words, the initial saving of a cheap MOT might not save you money overall. Choose carefully.

The Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) monitors MOT results but their monitoring does not usually extend to follow-up repair quotes.

How much does an MOT cost?

The Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) allows MOT stations to charge a maximum £54.85 for an MOT (even though the hourly labour rate is often higher).

Some test stations will dip below £30 to attract custom – with the expectation of making money up from any follow-on work. Few garages operate effectively on rates of below £30 an hour – that’s simply profit-loss and manpower maths at work.

What does an MOT check?

An MOT will examine:

  • Suspension and brakes - to see if they are in good working order
  • Body work - to check for corrosion or other damage
  • Petrol cap - to check it fits property
  • Tyre tread, pressure and size
  • Handbrake – to make sure there is the correct tension
  • Lights, indicators, mirrors and doors - to see if they are working properly
  • Seats and seatbelts – to check the driver’s seat moves forwards and backwards and the belts are not damaged
  • Registration plates - to make sure they are visible and secure
  • Horn – to check it is loud enough
  • Exhaust - to make sure it’s not falling off, noisy or emitting smoke
  • Windscreen – to check for chips and scratches and make sure the wipers are working
  • Speedometer – to check it works fully
  • Steering – to make sure there are no absent or dysfunctional steering locks
  • Battery – to check it’s secure and isn’t leaking
  • Screenwash – to make sure the reserve isn’t too low (an automatic fail)

35.4

What if my car fails its MOT?

If your car fails its MOT, you can still drive if your previous MOT certificate is still valid and there are no ‘dangerous’ problems highlighted by the new MOT. If your MOT fail is ‘dangerous’, that overrules your old MOT and you risk a £2,500 fine if you drive.

If you think ahead and fix problems before the MOT, your car will stand a good chance of passing. If your car does have problems the MOT notice will highlight:

  • dangerous’ or ‘major’ problems: these are an automatic MOT Fail
  • minor’ or ‘advisory’ problems: not serious enough to warrant an MOT Fail

These categories are new and part of a major road standards overhaul in May 2018, the result of a European Union Roadworthiness Package directive.

Should you feel a need to complain about the standard of an MOT test you can appeal the result. But do try and get a thorough understanding of the situation from the MOT test station before complaining.

Grades of MOT testing

Is it illegal to drive without an MOT?

You can legally drive your car on the road without a valid MOT if you are driving to a pre-arranged MOT, or driving to a place to have previously established MOT defects fixed.

If you live in a more remote part of the UK this might be a 15-mile drive. There are no set mileage limits set down. But the exemption criteria is super-tight – so best not to stop off for a cup of tea or do any shopping en route.

  • Your insurance may only cover you for the legal minimum level of cover – for third-party injury or damage – if you are driving without insurance
  • It is still an offence to park a car without an MOT on the road
  • You can’t tax your car without a valid MOT

How long does an MOT take?

Most MOTs take around 45 minutes, sometimes a little longer. Some test centres will suggest bringing in your car first thing in the morning and request that you pick it up sharpish when ready. Many garages have space pressures, so try and be a bit flexible.

Can I get an MOT through my council?

Yes you can, though check on your council’s website first. The standard fee applies.

If the vehicle is retested within 10 working days there should be no additional fee. If it is not carried out within that 10-day period you will likely be charged the full MOT test fee again.

Is a council MOT better?

In some circumstances, yes. Council test centres have no vested interest in making money from MOT repairs. Their only job is to carry out tests.

But if your car does fail, it’s up to you to find another garage to carry out the repair.

Plus council MOT test stations never discount the MOT fee – though they can’t charge above the standard £54.85 fee.

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