Can You Drive Without An MOT? And What To Do If You Forget

Chloe Murphy 6 minutes Published: 26/08/2021

We all know the panic and frustration of realising you’ve missed an important appointment. 

Routine car maintenance jobs can be tricky to keep track of, but for your own and others’ safety, it’s important to stay on top of any necessary servicing and repairs. 

Whether you’ve missed your MOT test, or completely forgotten that it was expiring at all, the first question likely to come to mind is, “Can I still drive my car without an MOT?” 

If you just use your car for every day getting around, like your work commute or heading to the supermarket, it can be tempting to make a quick journey anyway. But there are countless dangers that come with driving without a valid MOT certificate. 

We’ll go over what could go wrong, the fines you could face, and how to make sure you don't end up driving without an MOT.

forgot mot

Can you drive a car without an MOT?

Other than being a potentially dangerous road safety hazard, it’s illegal to drive your car without an MOT. 

MOT tests follow DVSA (Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency) guidelines to make sure all cars meet the requirements to be roadworthy. Without an MOT, you won’t have evidence that your car is safe to drive, or be able to renew your road tax.

Police cars are fitted with Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) systems which scan your registration number plate and tell them if you’re driving without MOT.

However there are some exceptions, and you won’t need an MOT if:

  • You are driving to the test centre for your car’s MOT appointment - This is allowed provided the car is safe, but when you can book your test up to one month before your MOT expires, there’s no excuse to leave it to the last minute! If you’re pulled over before you reach the testing centre, you need to have proof of your appointment handy.
  • You are driving it to and from another garage to be repaired - If your test has identified enough faults to result in an MOT fail, it’s important to check first with your mechanic that it’s safe to be on the road.
  • Your car is less than three years old - Brand new cars are assumed to be in great condition so there’s little reason to carry out extensive checks. (If you like to have a consistently reliable vehicle, leasing could be a great option for you (find out how leasing a car works!)
  • Your car is over 40 years old - Once your car hits 40, you can declare your car as MOT exempt. However, as car insurance policies require your car to be roadworthy, you’ll still need to keep it in good condition.

If you get an MOT fail at your test whilst your previous MOT is still valid, you can also technically still drive your car anyway, as you’re covered until the expiry date of the previous test - there may still be issues with this, so read on to find out more.

However, if your MOT tester has identified dangerous faults, this means they have found defects that pose an immediate threat to the safety of yourself and others. You should not be driving the car, and the faults should be repaired as soon as possible.

dangerous car

What happens if you get caught driving without MOT?

Driving without a valid MOT not only poses a risk to yourself and other road users, but can result in serious consequences and hefty fines much greater than the cost of an MOT.

If you get caught without an up to date MOT certificate, you’ll initially face fines of up to £1,000. But if your car is found to be dangerous, you could get:

  • Three penalty points on your driving licence 
  • Fines of up to £2,500
  • Banned from driving

Even driving under a previous MOT after a recent MOT fail risks fines. Though your MOT may technically be valid, if police stop your car and determine it doesn’t meet the minimum standards of roadworthiness, you could be hit with any or all of the above.

If you get involved in an accident without a valid MOT, you could also invalidate your insurance. Insurance providers may refuse to pay out so if you’re found to be the cause of the accident, or if any injuries arise, you could end up having to pay up to repair both your own and the other car affected. 

You are allowed to drive your car elsewhere or to a different garage to be repaired, but unless your mechanic determines it’s safe to do so, it’s a good idea to arrange services to relocate the car for you. You’ll have to cover the cost for this yourself, but it saves the stress of driving a car in a dangerous condition, and the risk of heavy fines.

police pull over driving without mot

What happens if I drive my lease car without an MOT?

If you’re leasing a car for three years or less, you won’t ever need an MOT. As we said, MOTs are required for cars between 3 and 40 years old, so if your lease car hasn’t reached its third birthday, you can skip over this.

If your lease car will be over 3 years old during your contract, it is your responsibility, not the leasing company, to ensure it is MOT’d. Check the fine print on your contract, but this is almost always the case.

You should never drive your car, lease or not, without a valid MOT. If you do so, you’ll be hit with all the same penalties you would if you owned the car.

Since the leasing company is the registered keeper of the lease car, they’ll be notified if your car is found on the road without a valid MOT. The same happens for other fines and breaches, like if you get a speeding ticket in your lease car.

They will pass on any fines to you, and may charge you an additional admin fee for the hassle. If you require any lease car repairs, this comes out of your own pocket. If you neglect to have your MOT done or any repairs carried out, you’ll be charged some whopping lease car return charges when your contract ends, which will cost more than fixing them upfront.

Some leasing companies have a clause in their terms and conditions which states that they can terminate the lease if further use could damage their company reputation. You’ll still often be liable for the remaining contract payments without the luxury of driving the car. So, long story short, don’t drive your lease car without an MOT!

lease contract terminated

How to make sure you don't drive without an MOT

If you haven't gathered already, driving without your MOT can be stressful, dangerous and illegal!

If your first MOT is coming up, you can get ahead of the game with our MOT checklist, and prepare everything you need to take to an MOT.

Concerned about your vehicle’s likelihood of passing the MOT? There are steps you can take to get an idea of how it will go and the costs you’re likely to incur. Just take a look at what is checked in an MOT, then you can easily carry out a pre MOT check yourself. You can prevent failing for some of the most common MOT fails.

But the best way to avoid ever driving without your MOT is to be aware of when your current one expires. 

You can check when your MOT is due with the MOT checker, and you can even set up an MOT reminder to get a free reminder one month before your vehicle is due its MOT. All you’ll need is your vehicle’s number plate, and a mobile number or email address to contact you by.