An MOT checks that your car is roadworthy – safe to be on the road. It is illegal to drive a car without an MOT. If you do, you can look forward to a £100 penalty from the police. A car has its first MOT at three years old and, after that, the MOT is annual.
The MOT confirms that your motor passes the minimum legal environmental and road safety standards. It checks exhaust emissions, whether your brakes work, damage or rust to the bodywork, the condition of your tyres, even whether your car horn hoots at the right decibel level.
“My first car was a Toyota Corolla Liftback. I loved it more than I did life itself – though it wasn’t a perfect specimen. The 1600cc engine could just about haul the thing along, the threadbare interior released interesting smells and the suspension barely kept its rusty belly from scraping on the ground,” says Top Gear presenter Richard Hammond.
What the MOT doesn’t check is mechanics. That’s why you still need to take your car for a regular service to check the gearbox, engine and so on.
Taking your motor for an MOT
Choose a garage that’s authorised to do an MOT; look for a logo of three blue triangles. The MOT takes around half an hour, and by law you have to be able to watch your car being tested. You’ll get a certificate if you pass, which you need to show to get road tax. Don’t lose the certificate; a replacement costs £10. A record of the pass is also kept on a central computer.
If your car fails, the document indicates what didn’t make the grade and what repairs you need to do to pass the MOT. You’ll then have to retake the MOT (but you may not need to pay another full test fee).
A car MOT costs around £53, and a motorbike MOT £29. Look out for garages doing deals. Some may offer a rate for MOT + repairs. Try to use a recommended garage so you’re not conned into phantom failures; a dodgy mechanic might make up faults and repairs that don’t exist. And it’ll be too late to complain once you’ve paid.