Does my car need an MOT?

5 minutes

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Every car needs an MOT to prove it’s roadworthy. Mechanics make these annual health checks of your vehicle against a list of safety points.

But how do you know when your car needs an MOT? How do you go about organising it? And what does the test include? Read on to learn more about car MOTs. 

MOT rules discussed in this article relate to England, Wales and Scotland. Northern Ireland has a different MOT system. 

Does my car need an MOT?

Yes, your car will likely need an MOT. The rules differ depending on your vehicle’s age though: 

  • New cars do not need an MOT until they reach three years old.
  • Once your car is three years old, it requires an MOT every year. 

These annual MOTs must be carried out within a year of the previous MOT. Everyday life is busy enough with family, work and friends, so it can be difficult to keep track of upcoming MOTs. 

Previously it meant scribbling dates in calendars and diaries and sticking garage reminders to the fridge. Thankfully, things are much easier today. The simplest way to know when your car needs its next MOT is to use the GOV.UK Check MOT Status tool.

When does my car needs it first MOT? 

A brand new car needs its first MOT when it reaches three years old. Technically, it’s due the day before the third anniversary of its first registration. That means you can drive your new car for three years without taking it for an MOT. However, there are exceptions for some vehicles:

  • The one-year MOT exception: New ambulances, taxis and private passenger vehicles must have an MOT after one year rather than three. 

When can you have your MOT?

Your MOT lasts for one year. Generally, you want to renew it as close to the expiry date as possible. That’s not a legal requirement though. You can choose to renew your MOT earlier, but the most economical way is to keep it closer to the actual expiry date. 

MOT within one month of expiry

The rules allow you to renew your MOT up to one month before the current certificate expires without losing that original expiry date. So, if your MOT runs out on May 15th you can book your next MOT in for as early as April 16th. The idea is you get as much of the year from your current MOT but still have a few weeks to make any repairs, should your car fail its next MOT. 

MOT earlier than one month of expiry 

You can also book your car MOT for earlier than one month before the current certificate expires. But should you choose to do this, you’ll lose the original expiry date. The new expiry date will revert to within one day of the date of the latest test . This means that you lose weeks of the MOT you’ve already paid for. 

Why do I need an MOT?

It’s against the law to drive your car on UK roads without a valid MOT certificate – it’s as simple as that. The certificate shows that your car meets the road safety and environmental standards set by the Government. If you fail to renew your car’s MOT, you can face:

  • Prosecution if caught driving or parking your vehicle on the road.
  • Vehicle tax renewals being refused.
  • Fines of up to £1000 if caught driving without an MOT. 
    Invalidating your car insurance. 

Your MOT checklist 

This section covers everything you need to know about taking your car for its MOT. Pick up tips for before you get to the centre and learn what happens to your vehicle during the test. 


When booking an MOT, you must use an approved MOT test centre. Whether it’s a family-run garage or a national chain, businesses approved to carry out MOTs must display a blue sign with three white triangles.  

The first thing to do is contact the garage or test centre to book. You might have to do it over the phone at smaller garages, but national chains will likely have easy online booking systems you can use. 

Before arriving at the test centre, it’s worth spending some time cleaning and maintaining your vehicle. 

  • Clean your car inside and out to make it a more pleasant experience for the MOT technician. Make sure the number plate is clean and readable.  

  • Top up all your fluid levels – engine oil, coolant and water – so the technician can tell you look after your car and give it what it needs to run well.
  • Make sure your lights are working – including side lights and indicators – and replace any worn out bulbs. 
  • Check your tyres are at the right pressure levels (type your reg into an online tool for the ideal PSI numbers) and check your tread depth to make sure you're within the legal limit. 


When you drop your car off for its MOT at an approved test centre, a qualified technician will test all relevant parts to see if they're working to the legal standard. For cars, this includes checking: 

  • Exhaust emissions
  • Battery Seatbelts/SRS
  • Brakes
  • Doors
  • Electrical wiring
  • Exhaust system
  • Fuel system
  • Horn
  • Lights 
  • Mirrors
  • Seats
  • Steering/suspension
  • Tyres
  • Wheels
  • Wipers/washers

Explore the full list at GOV.UK 

Your car will pass or fail its MOT. Should your vehicle pass, it will be assigned one of the below:

Pass: The best mark your vehicle can achieve when tested. All standards are met. 

Advisory: Your car passes but the MOT has flagged some potential problems.  

Minor: Your car passes but only just – there’s an issue that will need fixing soon. 

What if my car fails its MOT?

Your car may fail its MOT. This means it hasn’t met the legal standards set out by the government to be roadworthy. When carrying out the test, the technician will grade your vehicle on numerous parts and processes. If any of these are listed as ‘dangerous’ or ‘major’ your car will fail its MOT. 

There’s a difference between the two types of fail: 

• Dangerous fault: Your vehicle will fail outright, and you can't drive it until it's been repaired. 

• Major fault: Your vehicle will fail outright. You can drive it, but it needs repairing as soon as possible.  

What happens next? 

1. The garage will give you a document to confirm that your car failed. This document is called a Refusal of an MOT test certificate. 

2. You’ll then need to book the car in to repair the ‘dangerous’ or ‘major’ things that caused it to fail. It’s often easier – and cheaper – to do this straightaway and leave your car with the same garage. 

3. Once repaired, you’ll need to have your vehicle re-tested. You may or may not have to pay for this second MOT test.


It's also worth knowing how often you need to service your car and how you can keep an eye on the health of your vehicle yourself using a car maintenance checklist.

Can I drive with a failed MOT? 

It depends on two things: 

• Dangerous or major – which did your vehicle fail on?

• When was the existing MOT due to expire? 

Dangerous fault 

With a dangerous fault you can't drive your car away for any reason. If you do drive a vehicle that failed its MOT on a ‘dangerous’ fault, you could:

• Receive a fine of £2,500

• Be banned from driving

• Get three penalty points on your licence

Major fault

If your car failed on a major fault, it’s slightly different, with two possible options:

• Your car fails its MOT on a major fault but your existing MOT certificate is still valid – you can drive your vehicle. 

• When the existing MOT certificate has expired, you can only drive your vehicle to have the major problems it failed on repaired or to drive to your MOT retest at an approved centre.  

However, be careful as your vehicle may still be deemed ‘unroadworthy’ by police should they stop you – which could lead to prosecution.

Want to get insured after your MOT? 

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