Male car mechanic checking under car

What to expect from an MOT

Confused about what it means to get an MOT test done on your car? Our guide has all the answers.

Whether you're new to owning a car or you’ve been motoring for years, you might feel a bit confused about what the MOT test is, how often it’s needed and whether it has an impact on the way you can use your car. 

We’ve got the answers to your questions. If you want to know when your car’s going to need an MOT, how much it’ll cost and what’s involved, read on.

What does MOT mean?

The MOT test, or MOT as it’s more often known, was first devised by the Ministry of Transport – hence the name. The idea behind it was – and remains – to check cars each year to make sure they’re still fit to be used on the road.

How long does an MOT test take?

The MOT test usually takes about an hour but if you’re booking your car in for a test you should bear in mind that if it fails you’ll probably want the garage to put the faults right and that work will take extra time to be completed.

When does my car need its first MOT?

New cars don’t need an MOT but it becomes an annual requirement once your car reaches three years old. 

If you’re buying a used car that’s less than three years old its first MOT will be due on the third anniversary of the date it was first registered. If you don’t know the precise date you can find this information on your car’s registration document. Otherwise, you can always check with the Government’s MOT test check website:

How often do I need to MOT my car?

Once your car’s had its first MOT test, it’s legally required to be tested every 12 months after that. The test doesn’t have to take place on the exact date – you can have a new test carried out up to a month before your current certificate expires, if that suits you better. The test date is forward-dated to the expiry date, so that you don’t lose out by having the test done in advance.

Do I need to take my old MOT certificate with me?

No, the MOT system is entirely computerised so the test centre will be able to tell how much time is left on your current MOT and forward-date it if necessary.

How much does an MOT test cost?

MOT test centres are allowed to set their own prices to carry out tests but there’s a maximum fee they’re allowed to charge; for cars, that’s currently £54.85.

Can any garage carry out my MOT test?

No, to be able to carry out MOTs, a garage has to meet certain requirements and be certified as an MOT test centre. Not every garage chooses to do this.

Did you know?

All MOT testing stations are obliged to allow you to watch the test being done, if you wish, and will have an MOT test viewing area for this specific purpose. You’re not allowed to speak to the tester while the test is underway, though.

What is checked on an MOT test?

There’s a long list of components that an MOT tester has to look at. Briefly, it consists of:

  1. Lights, horn, battery and electrical wiring
  2. Safety-related lights on the dashboard
  3. Steering, suspension and braking systems
  4. Wheels and tyres
  5. Seat belts
  6. Bodywork and structural integrity
  7. Exhaust and fuel systems

In addition, the tester will check that your car meets pollution emissions standards and that the windscreen, mirrors and wipers are in good condition.

Is the oil level checked on an MOT test?

No, a car’s engine oil level isn’t part of the MOT test. However, you can usually ask the garage carrying out the test to check your oil level in addition to doing the test. Some garages will throw this in for free, others might ask for a small charge.

Should you service a car before its MOT test?

You don’t need to, but it isn’t a bad idea. If your car’s just been serviced, it might fare better when its pollution emissions are tested because its engine may end up running more smoothly. 

Many garages will offer a price for a combined service and MOT and if you get both done at the same time it’ll cut down on inconvenience.

What kind of paperwork is there with an MOT?

At the end of the test, you’ll be given a certificate that shows whether your car has passed or failed its MOT. If it’s failed, you’ll also be given a list of the reasons why. 

You might also be given a list of ‘advisories’ even if your car passes the test. These are defects the mechanic has noted but which aren’t significant enough for the car to fail the test. It’s a good idea to get these fixed sooner rather than later because they might develop into more serious issues.

Can I drive my car after its MOT expiry date?

The only time you’re allowed to drive your car after your test certificate has expired is to a pre-booked appointment to get a new MOT test carried out. In other words you can’t drive it unless you’re taking it for a test that you’ve booked beforehand.

Can I drive my car if it fails its MOT?

If your car fails its MOT you’ll be allowed to drive it home but if it’s particularly unsafe the garage might recommend that you don’t. 

You can then drive it to a pre-booked appointment to have the faults it failed on repaired. You don’t have to have the faults repaired by the same garage that carried out the MOT if you don’t want to.

Other than that, you’re not allowed to drive your car if it’s failed its MOT.

Can I park a car on the road with no valid MOT test?

No, if your car fails its MOT and you drive it home again, or if your car’s MOT certificate has expired, you’ll need to keep it off the road until it’s passed a new MOT test. 

Every Cazoo car completes a thorough 300 point inspection before it goes on sale and if it’s more than three years old it comes with a recent MOT with at least six months to go before the next one is due.

To book an MOT at a Cazoo Service Centre, simply choose your nearest Service Centre and enter your car registration number.

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