What To Do If Your Car Fails Its MOT?

Chloe Murphy 6 minutes Published: 26/08/2021

Regardless of the type of vehicle you drive, once your car hits three years old, you must get an MOT to assess your car’s roadworthiness. 

After you get an MOT for the first time, you’re then required to have an annual MOT test. Over the course of your driving life, you may find that you fail your MOT at least once.

It’s always disappointing when your vehicle fails, but it doesn’t mean it’s the end of the road for your car. Depending on the category of your MOT fail, you may still be able to drive away with your car that day. 

Whether you’ve failed your MOT or just want to be prepared, we’ll go through the different fail categories and what to do (and not to do) in the event of a failure. 

fail mot

What are MOT failures?

Though you previously simply passed or failed your new MOT, as of May 2018, MOT test centres categorise faults as minor, major or dangerous. 

Under the new system, both major and dangerous defects will qualify your vehicle as an MOT fail, while minor defects allude to issues that need to be addressed, but are not great enough to fail.

Minor Defects

A minor fault usually indicates an issue that poses no significant risk at present, but does require servicing, repair or replacement. In these instances, your car does still receive its MOT test certificate, but you’re advised to have the faults addressed as soon as possible.

Major Faults

With major faults, there is typically either a greater potential risk of injury as a result of a fault in your car, or the vehicle has an adverse impact on the environment. As this means your vehicle hasn’t met the DVSA’s minimum standards, this unfortunately does result in an MOT failure. 

Dangerous Faults

When classified as dangerous, this means that the MOT test has identified a dangerous fault or issue that poses a significant risk to both yourself and other drivers. Also resulting in an MOT failure, you won’t be able to drive your car until it has been repaired

mot fail categories

Can you drive your car away if it fails the MOT?

In the majority of cases, it’s highly recommended that if you fail, you don't set off driving without an MOT.

If your car has been identified as having dangerous faults, you should not be driving your car, and it’s advised that you have your car repaired as soon as you’re able to. 

On top of the huge risk you pose to yourself and other road users by driving your car anyway, you’ll face penalty points on your licence, fines of up to £2,500, and a potential driving ban. 

If you’ve been especially organised and had your MOT done before the expiry date of your old MOT certificate, you may still be able to drive your car if it fails. 

However, you should carefully consider whether you need to be driving a car that has potential to bring harm to yourself or others. Even if your current MOT is still valid, you should ensure your car meets gov.uk’s minimum standards of roadworthiness.

If your car is pulled over by traffic wardens or police, you could face serious fines or prosecution if your car isn’t safe enough to be driving. So when looking to have your car repaired elsewhere or at a different garage, it’s a good idea to consider having services relocate your car for you.

pulling car along failed mot

How long do you have to fix a failed MOT?

If your car has failed its MOT, there’s no need to panic or rush off to look for a new car - you can still take an MOT retest after your car has had its repairs. 

You can have the garage or MOT centre carry out your repairs, or arrange for your car to be taken elsewhere. 

As long as the car is returned within 10 days, you can have a partial retest carried out for a reduced price of the original test. Unfortunately, if you return your vehicle after 10 days, you’ll have to pay for a full MOT.

time to get mot retest

Can I hand back a lease car that has failed its MOT?

Since you don’t need to get an MOT done until the car is three years old, you may not need to get an MOT done on your lease car at all. 

If your car is three years or older by the time your car lease ends, you’ll likely need to get an MOT done. Check the fine print of your specific contract - many leasing companies insist you have the MOT done before you hand it back, even if you’re not going to be handing it back to them even as soon as the day after it is done.

As per your contract, you shouldn’t hand back a lease car that has failed its MOT. For one, you are breaching your contract, and will be hit with some hefty lease car return charges. Secondly, you’ll be hit with lease car repair charges that will most likely be higher than if you got the MOT fail spots fixed yourself.

lease car mot fail

What is checked on the MOT test?

Though your MOT typically only takes around 45 minutes, you may be surprised at the extent of what is checked on an MOT

Testers need to ensure the roadworthiness of your car with a series of checks that assess all major concerns like brakes, tyres (tread depth and overall condition), and exhaust and emissions. 

They will also assess your windscreen (and wipers), registration plates, seatbelts, brake lights, mirrors, and your car’s Vehicle Identification Number (VIN). 

This could seem like a lot of areas to find fault, but there are steps you can take to make your vehicle more likely to pass.

How to avoid MOT failure

One of the best ways to avoid an MOT fail, is to have an MOT checklist to hand.

Some of the most common MOT fails involve more trivial failures that could have easily been remedied before your test.

With so many of the aspects assessed by the MOT centre easily looked over yourself, one of the quickest and simplest ways for motorists to achieve success is to carry out a pre MOT check

This involves carrying out a series of quick checks on everything from your seats to screenwash, and can quickly identify any faults your MOT is likely to pick up on.

how avoid mot fail


Regardless of the reason your car has failed its MOT, there’s still a lot you can do to fix your MOT status. 

Whether you’ve failed due to a major or dangerous fault, the best thing to do is avoid driving your car, have your repairs quickly addressed, and return your car within 10 days to ensure you qualify for a MOT retest.

If you haven’t had your MOT yet, you can avoid any unwelcome surprises at your MOT by carrying out a pre-MOT check. This involves everything from topping up your washer fluid to checking your number plate is clean and visible, 

Even if your car isn’t diesel or petrol fuelled, you’ll still have to get an electric car MOT. Driving without a valid MOT certificate is likely to cause more damage than good, so with the cost of an MOT capped at £54.85 for a car, there’s no good reason to be driving without one! 

A pretty surefire way to make sure you're not caught last minute with an MOT fail-worthy vehicle is to keep on top of your regular car maintenance checklist - these car maintenance tips will also help too!