MOT Overview

The MOT can be a bit of a mystery to people who aren’t really that familiar with car maintenance.

It’s got a reputation as that annoying thing that comes around to bite you on behind every year, sapping your bank account. There is a point to the test though.

Here’s my brief overview of what an MOT test actually is, the key things you need to know and why the test is important.

What is an MOT?

An MOT is a test that you are legally required to have every year on cars older than three years old in England, Scotland and Wales (In Northern Ireland, the test has to be carried out on cars older than four years old).

The three words stand for ‘Ministry Of Transport’ test, and it’s used to test the roadworthiness of your vehicle.

Not any old mechanic can carry out an MOT test – only authorised garages are allowed to. There are around 21,000 of these scattered across the UK. You can find out if your local garage is authorised to carry out MOT tests by looking for a blue sign with three white triangles.

The test usually takes around an hour and if you car passes it, you’ll be able to drive the car away straight after. If the car doesn’t pass though, you won’t be able to drive the car on the road until the faults – or ‘defects’ as they’re called in the test – have been fixed.

Why do I need to get an MOT?

Well, the main reason is because it’s against the law not to and you won’t actually be able to drive your car without a valid MOT certificate.

You can be fined up to £1,000 and have your car immediately impounded if you’re found to be driving without a valid MOT certificate.

That’s because the MOT effectively tests the roadworthiness of a car, with particular emphasis on the safety and protection that the car offers the driver, passengers and other motorists. It’s a worthwhile test – not just a piece of stupid bureaucracy.

What’s tested in an MOT?

A lot to be honest. Although, that said, not much related to the technical aspects of the car’s performance, like the engine, clutch or gearbox is actually tested in the MOT.

This is because the MOT is mainly a test about the safety of your car, and if it breaks any laws, rather than how good it is to drive.

The performance and condition of the following things are tested:

  • Vehicle Identification Number and number plate
  • Lights
  • Steering
  • Suspension
  • Wipers and washers
  • Windscreen
  • Horn
  • Seats and seatbelts
  • Fuel system
  • Emissions
  • Bodywork
  • Doors

How much does an MOT cost?

It varies, depending on which garage you go to. The official price for an MOT costs £54.85 for car and £29.65 for a motorbike but this is only the maximum figure that can be charged. A lot of garages might offer cheaper rates to try and convince you to choose them to do your MOT.

What happens if my car fails the MOT?

You’ll have to pay for any parts and labour associated with fixing the car, if your car doesn’t pass its MOT.

If you leave the car at the garage to get fixed within 10 working days, you won’t have to pay for a retest. If you take the car out of the garage to get fixed somewhere else, you’ll need to get it re-tested within 10 days.