Car Insurance

How to do an MOT check

We all know you must have a valid MOT, road tax and insurance to drive on our roads, but what can you do if you can't remember when you last had your MOT, have lost your paperwork, or want to check an MOT history before you buy a second-hand car?

 - 5 Min Read
Last updated and fact checked:
How to do an MOT check
  • Checking MOT status is simple and quick online.
  • New vehicles don’t need an MOT test for the first three years.
  • Penalties for driving without an MOT include hefty fines and points.
  • You can set reminders to avoid forgetting your MOT due date.

MOT check: FAQs

  • Why is an MOT so important?

    An MOT is a legal requirement in the UK, and it is vital because it confirms that the vehicle is roadworthy. When you have your car tested for its MOT, experts give it a thorough check, and this then enables them to either provide you with information on the work required to bring it up to standards or confirm its roadworthiness with an MOT test certificate.

  • What happens if I drive without a valid MOT?

    If you take your vehicle on the road without a valid MOT certificate (other than those exempt), you could receive a significant fine, penalty points, and even a driving disqualification in more severe cases.

  • How often does the car need to be MOT tested?

    You must test your vehicle at a valid MOT centre annually to obtain a new MOT certificate. These certificates last for 12 months from the date of your test, and you should get the following test arranged before the current certificate expires to avoid taking the car off the road if any work is required.

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Conducting an MOT check ensures your vehicle is roadworthy and adheres to environmental standards.

Whether you're a seasoned driver or new to the road, learning what a full MOT check entails will give you confidence and peace of mind, making your journeys safer and more enjoyable.

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What is an MOT test?

Each year, your vehicle must undergo an MOT test to confirm that it meets safety and environmental regulations for driving.

"MOT" stands for Ministry of Transport, the government department that checked vehicle roadworthiness when introducing the test in 1960. Today, the department and the DVSA control the English transport network, including road, rail, aviation and maritime, and associated areas like transport emissions and the future of transport.

As of 2023, there are over 23,000 active MOT test centres across England, Scotland, and Wales.

What does an MOT test include?

First, the examiner verifies the vehicle's identification and registration details, including the vehicle's registration number (number plate), Vehicle Identification Number (VIN), and make/model. The MOT test also checks:

  • Lights and signalling.
  • Steering and suspension.
  • Brakes.
  • Tyres and wheels.
  • Seatbelts.
  • Windscreen, wipers and mirrors.
  • Horn.
  • Exhaust and emissions.
  • Fuel system.
  • Vehicle body and structure.
  • Driver's view of the road.
  • Under the bonnet.
  • Vehicle emissions.

Additional tests might be conducted depending on the vehicle's age and type. For example, vehicles with air conditioning systems undergo a separate inspection of the A/C system.

If your car is in good shape, it will sail through the test, earning you a 12-month valid MOT certificate. However, if there are safety issues, the test will be unsuccessful. In this case, you'll get advisory notes detailing the fixes needed before a retest.

How do I check my own vehicle’s MOT details?

The fastest and most accurate way to check a vehicle’s MOT status is online by using the service on GOV.UK.

  1. Visit the website: Go to the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) website. The DVSA is responsible for MOT tests in the UK.
  2. Enter vehicle details: On the website, you'll find a section where you can enter your vehicle's registration number (number plate). Ensure you enter the registration number of your vehicle accurately.
  3. View MOT history: After entering the registration number, click the "Continue" or "Check Vehicle" button. You will then be able to view the current MOT status and the MOT history of your vehicle, including the results of past MOT tests, the dates of the tests and any retests, and any advisories or failures.
  4. Check specific details: Clicking on individual test dates allows you to access more specific details about each MOT test, including the test's mileage at the time and the location of its conduct.

It's important to note that the MOT history check provides information on the results of MOT tests conducted from 2005 onwards. If your vehicle's MOT history does not appear, it could mean that it's too new to have been tested (cars under three years old do not need an MOT) or that the information still needs to be updated in the system.

Research estimates that around 28% of Brits miss their car MOT check before their current one expires. Not only is driving without a valid MOT illegal, but this could also result in a hefty fine (up to £2,500), points on your licence, or even a driving disqualification.

That's why staying mindful of your next MOT due date is crucial. Setting up an MOT reminder is a smart move to prevent it from slipping your mind.

Checking the status of a second-hand car

Opting for a pre-owned car is a smart move that can help you save some cash and give you a wider range of options. It's also a great way to avoid the fast depreciation of new cars. But it's essential to make sure that the used car you get is reliable and safe.

If you're considering buying a car, check if it has a valid MOT. This means it has been inspected for safety and roadworthiness in the past 12 months, saving you time and giving you peace of mind.

Digging into a vehicle's MOT history before finalising a purchase is incredibly valuable. It provides a wealth of information, such as the car's mileage history, past MOT failures and the reasons why, and the most recent MOT test results.

It's imperative to be cautious; there were over 1,320 cases of MOT fraud between 2021 and 2022. Even if the seller claims the used vehicle has a valid MOT certificate, verifying it using the official GOV.UK MOT checker is wise.

Navigating MOT checks with confidence

Mastering the art of MOT checks empowers you to ensure your vehicle's safety and compliance today.

Looking ahead, exciting shifts in vehicle testing, like virtual simulations, real-time diagnostics, and environmental impact evaluations, are set to reshape the MOT landscape. This understanding equips you for the journey ahead and the upcoming exciting advancements.

Image Credit: Andrea Piacquadio at Pexels

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