Why does my car need an MOT test?

First published: 23rd September 2018
It comes around every year (if your car is more than three-years-old), just like Christmas. It's car MOT time!

The MOT test was set up way back in 1960, and it's a legal requirement.

If your car needs one and doesn’t have a valid MOT, you face a £1000 penalty, as well as being unable to renew your road tax. It will also almost certainly invalidate your car insurance, which risks a further six-eight penalty points and invalidates any claims. So it's quite important to keep on top of them.

These are the most important facts you should know:
  • The test’s purpose is to check a car’s safety and roadworthiness, in particular its brakes and emissions.
  • It’s necessary on a vehicle’s third birthday, then annually.
  • It includes an extensive list of internal and external checks.
  • It is a visual check only: examiners are not allowed to change or remove anything on your car, which is why you still need to keep on top of servicing.
  • There are over 600 ways to fail.
The government caps the cost of the test at £54.85* (excluding VAT). Find out more in our How much should I pay for an MOT test article.

The test is controlled by the DVSA (Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency, previously known as VOSA), and MOTs must be carried out by a qualified and approved 'Nominated Tester' (NT).
Once the test is completed, you will receive either a Pass or Fail, with a certificate.

Just over 60% of vehicles pass annually. When this happens, the driver is issued with a VT20 MOT certificate. In the event of a Fail, the driver receives a VT30 certificate.

If you do fail, we've got more information on what to do next.

Before you book your next MOT test, find out how to pick the right garage, and how to prepare your car for an MOT.
Q: What happens if you have missed your MOT test?
A: It is legal to drive to and from a pre-booked test, but you should carry proof of your appointment in case you are stopped by the police.

Q: What can you do if you have lost your MOT Certificate?
A: Duplicate forms can be obtained from any test centre, but there is usually a fee (about £10).However, you are not required to bring anything with you to an MOT test, and MOT details can be reviewed any time by logging in to your account on Auto Trader.

*RRP for motorbikes is £29.65 (excluding VAT)
Related topics:
Car ownership