MOT Testing Guide: Everything you need to know

Car maintenance

4 January 2023

One of the most important parts of driving on the UK’s roads is making sure your vehicle is safe to use and a big part of this is getting an annual MOT check, something which is part of UK law.

You may not be aware of need-to-know information around MOTs, so whether you’re a new driver or just getting back on the road, it’s time to get familiar with our easy-to-follow MOT testing guide.

In this section:

What is an MOT?

Wondering what does MOT stand for? MOT is short for Ministry of Transport, which is the department which set up this scheme. An MOT is a check-up on the condition of your car to assess whether it’s safe to run on UK roads.

Remember that as a driver in the UK you are required to get an MOT test done annually for pre-owned vehicles, or after three years from registration for a new vehicle.

What is tested in an MOT?

From the condition of your car’s tires to the usability of your steering wheel, most of your car's important functioning features will be examined during your car’s MOT test, such as:

Car part What is checked
Body of the car, including vehicle structure Condition of engine mounting, seats, boot, doors, registration plate, vehicle identification number
Electrical equipment and reflectors Positioning and condition of horn, battery, towbars
Exhaust, fuel and emissions Leaks in exhaust system, legitimate limit of carbon monoxide and hydrocarbon
Front and back view of the road Clear view via the mirrors, windscreen and condition of wipers
Brakes Condition and efficiency of breaks and warning lights
Seatbelts Secure seatbelts and working restraint system

When to get an MOT check?

You need to get an MOT check every year so remember to book your MOT test annually. You can also get your car MOT check earlier if you wish.

The window for a new test can be either a month prior to or after your previous date of certification without affecting the original expiry date anniversary.

Driving without an MOT

You may be thinking, but what happens if you drive without an MOT? To drive without an MOT is, in fact, illegal and unsafe. If you are found driving without a valid MOT certificate, you can be fined up to £1,000 and even have your vehicle taken away from you.

Without a valid MOT, you also jeopardise the safety of your passengers, as the car may have issues that need to be looked at by a professional mechanic that you may have overlooked.

MOTs exist to ensure an annual check-up of your car is done to identify all the obvious and not-so-obvious issues and make sure your car is legally safe to drive. They are also a condition of most insurance policies so be sure to get this in place before looking for cover.

How much does an MOT cost?

You may be wondering how much does an MOT cost? It can vary depending on your vehicle and the MOT station. The maximum fee an MOT station can charge for a car is £54.85 and £29.65 for motorcycles but you may find stations with lower fees.

Council MOT Centre

If you’re looking for a cheaper MOT test option, you’ll be pleased to know that most councils have their own MOT testing centres that are typically lower costing than private garages. It’s worth knowing that the council must provide these stations to the public by law.

These MOT testing stations don’t usually do repairs, so if your car is in seemingly good condition, it’s a good idea to get your MOT check done at a council MOT centre and you may save on costs.

How long does an MOT take?

The average time an MOT takes is between 45 to 60 minutes; however, if an issue is identified, then it could take longer to investigate and carry out fixes, depending on what repairs need to be made.

MOT exemption

If your car was built or first registered more than forty years old, then it’s exempt from MOT testing.

According to the Department for Transport, these are classified as historic (classic) vehicles; the only exception to this is if substantial changes have been made to your vehicle in the last thirty years. This could include changes to the body, axles, engine or chassis.

Why do cars fail their MOT?

There are many minor and major reasons that cars may fail their MOT test. The most common issues are:

  • Lightbulbs - 30% of all faults related to lighting and signalling
  • Tyre condition and pressure - 10% of all faults related to tyres
  • Mirrors, wipers and washers - 8.5% of all faults related to the driver’s view of the road

How to check MOT history?

Whether you’ve bought a car from a dealer or need to find out the last time your vehicle had an MOT check, you can find a vehicle’s MOT history by using the government’s MOT history portal. To access the car’s history, you will need your vehicle’s number plate and your 11-digit number from the vehicle’s logbook.

We hope you found this guide useful. At AXA, we want to keep you on the road – if your car is not road ready find out how to get your car prepared for your next test.

When you’ve got a valid MOT, AXA car insurance is here to help you stay protected!