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DVLA MOT Checklist

Getting your car ready for its MOT test

Most car owners in the UK know that all vehicles more than three years old must undergo a yearly MOT test and obtain an MOT certificate, at least if they intend to drive them on public roads legally. This guide helps understand MOT tests and ways keep your car roadworthy before, during and after annual testing.

Attractive lady driving her yellow Ford Mustang to an MOT test station.

Understanding the MOT

Showing that a vehicle is safe to drive plays a crucial part in buying, selling, and transferring a vehicle’s ownership.

Of course, without an MOT certificate you (the registered keeper) could get fines, a driving ban, and points added to your license.

Below, you will find an MOT checklist detailing everything you need to know, including its purpose, what is checked, how to handle potential problems, and how to find the best test centre and save money.

An Introduction to the MOT

MOT refers to the Ministry of Transport, a government department established in 1919 and is responsible for UK roadways, railways, and waterways.

The MOT certificate was introduced in 1960 to test a vehicle’s safety, exhaust emissions, and overall roadworthiness and prevent anyone from driving a potentially dangerous vehicle.

At first, MOT certificates were only required for vehicles ten years and older. Since then, there have been many changes and additions. In May 2018, stricter measures were added to MOT tests, resulting in over one million vehicles being labelled ‘dangerous’ by December 2018.

Today, the MOT is required for all vehicles, from lorries to small motorcycles under 200cc to ensure they meet the DVLA’s minimum standards (Driving and Vehicle Standards Authority).

What’s Included in an MOT Check?

The VIN (Vehicle Identification Number) is checked to ensure it is present and legible alongside the registration plate (number plate) to ensure it is readable, secure, and in the proper format.

Then, checks are performed on the vehicle, including:

  • Bodywork
  • Mirrors
  • Doors
  • Tyres and wheels
  • Lights
  • Windscreen
  • Seats
  • Seatbelts
  • Horn
  • Brakes
  • Washer bottle and wipers
  • Emissions
  • Fuel system
  • Suspension and steering

You can quickly check many of these items before taking your car in for testing. It will help you avoid the added costs of repairs and retesting if your car fails for something simple, such as an empty washer bottle or faulty lightbulb.

Proof of MOT Testing

After a car has successfully passed the MOT test, it will be issued a VT20 MOT Test Pass Certificate. The certificate is designed to be easy to read and lists any defects or faults. If the MOT computer cannot print a certificate for whatever reason, an MOT tester can complete a ‘Contingency MOT Test Certificate.’

Vehicles that do not pass are given a VT30 MOT Test Failure Certificate.

Lady stood at the side of ocean.

Replacing a Damaged or Lost MOT Test Certificate

If your MOT certificate is lost or damaged, you can quickly obtain a duplicate by visiting any MOT test centre, and you will need to provide:

  • Vehicle registration details
  • V5C logbook reference number

You must pay £10 or half the fee of the full MOT test, whichever is less.

Currently, you cannot order a replacement certificate online, though you can check a vehicle’s MOT status and history.

Exemptions From MOT Testing

Some vehicles do not require MOT testing, particularly those that are very old or very new. Vehicles that are not required include:

  • Cars less than three years old from the date of registration or manufacture. (Most of these vehicles are still under warranty.)
  • Classic cars registered or manufactured 40 or more years ago have not been ‘substantially changed.’

If you are the owner of a classic vehicle and are not sure if MOT testing is required or not, the DVLA details specific exemption criteria.

You can also contact the Federation of British Historic Vehicle Clubs for more information.

If your vehicle is exempt, you must complete Form V112′ Declaration of Exemption from MOT.’ It must also be completed to purchase your car tax.

Check Your MOT Certificate Status Online

Multiple sources including any of the DVLA vehicle check websites, allow you to check a car’s MOT status online. It’s handy should you have misplaced your MOT certificate and don’t know the due date.

Services can be a helpful guide if you’re planning to buy a vehicle.

Third-party websites that offer MOT status checks and are trusted include the AA, CarVeto, Confused, Regit, and Halfords, though there are many others.

The top sites will include the manufacturer service history schedule, if available. To use these sites, you will need to know the vehicle’s registration number or number plate.

The DVLA MOT history checker includes the MOT certificate and car tax details. Here, you will be able to see the car’s detailed description, registration, and year of manufacture, as well as the MOT and tax due dates.

Female driver wearing leather helmet in a classic car.

Checking Your MOT History

You can easily search a car’s MOT history through various online services, including hpi check or you can always visit the official DVSA website.

You can get results for any tests performed in England, Wales, or Scotland since 2005.

To view this information, you will need the vehicle’s registration number. You will be able to view the car’s MOT test history, including passes and fails and any defects present on the car. You will learn the reasons for any past failures and advisory note.

The test centre uploads MOT test results to the central DVLA database.

Checking Your MOT Due Date

Without a valid MOT certificate, you run the risk of being fined as much as £2,500, three penalty points, or facing a driving ban.

Failure to have a valid MOT can affect your car insurance coverage.

Your MOT due date is listed on your VT20 MOT Pass Certificate. You can also use various online services, such as the Gov.UK MOT checker, to remind you of the upcoming date.

The Gov.UK reminder service alerts you via email or text that your MOT is due one month in advance, as well as two weeks later if your vehicle still hasn’t been tested.

How Your MOT Impacts Car Tax

A valid MOT certificate is required for more than just driving on public roadways. It is also necessary for taxing your car at the post office or online.

Be aware that car tax must be paid whether a car is regularly driven or parked unused on a public road. (If a vehicle has a Statutory Off Road Notification (SORN), it may not be taxed.)

If your MOT and road tax is due simultaneously, problems can arise if the tax runs out before the vehicle passes an MOT test. So it is strongly recommended that you take your vehicle to a garage or test centre for an MOT test around 30 days before the tax is due.

How Your MOT Affects Your Car Insurance

If you drive your car on public roads, it must be insured and have a valid MOT to be legal. However, you do not have to have an MOT to get car insurance or receive a pay out in an accident or theft. For example, if a car is declared SORN, it will not be driven, though you may still want to have the car insured.

If you drive a car without a valid MOT for whatever reason, your insurance company can deem your policy invalid but it is dependent upon the company and the policy documents.

In some cases, the financial ombudsman had challenged insurance companies that had refused a pay out based on a car not having a valid MOT when the car’s condition had no bearing on the accident.

If your car is SORN it may be legal to drive it directly to an arrange MOT test.


However, if your vehicle does not have a valid MOT and files a claim, you can anticipate your payout to be decreased to the non-MOT’d vehicle’s value. This is substantially lower.

How Much Does an MOT Cost?

The maximum amount you can charge for an MOT is £54.85, a price set by the DVSA.

However, it is a good idea to shop around to get the lowest MOT test price. This is particularly true if your vehicle is likely to be fault-free. However, if you expect your car may need substantial repairs, it may be best to go to a trustworthy garage (or council MOT test centre) for both the MOT test and the repair work. They may be more expensive, but they will give you peace of mind.

Choosing the Best Garage or Testing Centre

According to the MOT rules that went into effect in May 2018, a vehicle with a dangerous fault may not be able to be driven until it is repaired. If you anticipate vehicle repairs will be necessary, it is best to stay away from council MOT test centres, as they rarely do repairs.

Search Google with MOT test near me to find local MOT test centres or garages. Here, you can read reviews. It is also a good idea to ask family and friends for the best garage and test centre recommendations for your MOT test.

Selling a Vehicle Without an MOT

You can indeed sell a car even if it does not have a valid MOT certificate. However, it cannot be legally test-driven on the roadways by a potential buyer, and it must be removed on a lorry or trailer. It can delay a sale, which may not appeal to prospective buyers who need a vehicle now.

A car being sold without an MOT is likely to appeal to a much smaller group of buyers, making it harder to sell. Also, the sale price will be much lower than the sale price of a vehicle with a valid MOT.

If you are selling a car without an MOT, your best prospective buyer will likely be a trade dealer or online car buying service. They tend to have the resources available to move the car without much hassle, something a private buyer may struggle to manage.

Scrapping a Vehicle with no MOT

If a car fails the MOT test, you do have the option of selling it for scrap. Of course, you will not be able to drive it to the scrapping yard. Instead, your best option is to sell it to a scraping service that will collect it. You will probably be offered less than you would if you delivered it, but it will take considerably less effort on your part. No MOT is required if the car is being scrapped.

Common Reasons for MOT Failure

In the UK, millions of cars fail the MOT every year. Frequently, this is the result of something small.

According to the DVSA, the most common reasons a vehicles fails the MOT are:

  • Lights – 18%
    A blown bulb is a common reason for MOT failure. The bulb may be within the fog lights, daytime lights, reversing lights, hazard lights, and brake lights.
  • Suspension – 12%
    To check suspension, push down on the corner of the car. Let go and note how long it takes for it to return to the correct height. A longer time could indicate the shock absorbers need to be replaced. You will most likely want to test this before heading to a test centre for an MOT test.
  • Brakes – 10
    Brakes on a loose or irresponsible vehicle indicate a possible problem, as do those that don’t ratchet up properly. Again, you will want to get this checked before going to your MOT test.
  • Tyres – 7%
    The legal minimum for tyre pressure and the tread is 1.66 mm. You can also use a 20p coin in the tyre’s main grooves to see if you can view the outer border.
  • Windscreen – 7%
    Windscreen and headlight washers and wiper blades must be working and able to properly clean the glass. Any damage or chips in the driver’s central view should not be larger than 10mm or 40mm in the whole of the swept area.
  • Exhaust – 4%
    After starting your car and letting it run, check for any unusual noises or smoke. This is particularly important for diesel vehicles with a particulate filter.
  • Steering – 3%
    If you notice your steering is unresponsive or stiff, it is a good idea to have this checked out before taking your vehicle in for MOT testing.
  • Fluids
    Always check your car’s windscreen washer, oil, and brake fluid levels.

Additional Issues

Be sure to check your horn, seatbelts, mirrors, and fuel cap for any issues. If there are any warning lights on, have them checked. Finally, look out for any rust or holes near the vehicle’s structural locations. It will result in a failed MOT test.

Best Tips for Passing the MOT

Make sure that you plan for your MOT. Check over your car, find the best garage or testing centre, and consider the time and expense of potential car repairs or failures.

Before going in for your MOT test, give your vehicle a good once-over and a good cleaning.

Be sure to check your car’s brake fluid, water, and oil.

Replace old wiper blades on the car.

Look into your comprehensive car insurance policy. You may be eligible to repair some potential MOT failures, such as cracked windscreens, at no charge before going in for testing.