MOT check

An MOT is designed to make sure your car or van is safe and roadworthy. Find out what it involves, and why you need to renew it.

gocompare author
Updated 25 October 2022  | 3 min read

MOT checker

Enter your registration number into the box below to get results of the vehicle's MOT, including due date, MOT history, advisories and road tax status:*

*Results are only available for tests done in England, Scotland or Wales since 2005. Your results should be available as soon as the MOT centre has recorded the test.



What's an MOT?

An MOT is an official test that checks whether a vehicle is roadworthy and safe to drive. It also measures the vehicle’s emissions to determine whether they’re within the legal limit.

Named after the Ministry of Transport, the MOT is a standard inspection that all cars and vans more than three years old are legally required to have.

MOTs aren’t just a requirement for cars or vans though. They’re compulsory for a lot of different types of vehicles that use the road, including motorbikes, quad bikes and motor caravans.

For an MOT to be valid it must be done by trained specialists in an authorised testing centre, which could be your local garage.

If your vehicle fails its MOT you won’t be able to drive it away until the faults have been fixed. The only exception is if the faults aren’t classed as dangerous and you’re only driving to get it repaired. Once it’s passed the inspection, your MOT certificate is valid for 12 months.

Compare car and van MOTs, services and repairs with Motoreasy^

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^We do not offer a full comparison service on MOTs at Gocompare.com but instead have provided links to some companies that offer this service. Gocompare.com introduces you to Motoreasy which is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority. Gocompare.com’s relationship with Motoreasy is limited to that of a business partnership, no common ownership or control rights exist between us..

Key points

  • An MOT is a legal requirement for your car or van once it’s three years old
  • It checks the vehicle is safe to drive, safe for other road users and for the environment
  • Driving without a valid MOT is against the law and will invalidate your insurance
  • You can only drive without one if you’re going to an MOT test centre to have a pre-booked test

What does the MOT check?

An MOT checks for safety, roadworthiness and exhaust emissions. The main elements that are inspected include:

  • Lamps, reflectors and electrical equipment – This includes making sure the horn, battery and driving lights are all working and in good condition
  • Steering and suspension - The steering components and shock absorbers need to be working well and not show signs of wear or damage
  • Brakes - These will be tested to make sure they’re working properly, along with the brake warning lights and any anti-lock braking system
  • Wheels and tyres - These need to be the right size for your vehicle and in good condition with all nuts tightly fastened
  • Seats and seat belts – This includes making sure the driver’s seat can be adjusted and that all seatbelts are the right length and working properly

Is a vehicle service the same as having an MOT?

No. Although they both involve detailed checks, they’re different.

A service can be done by any qualified mechanic but an MOT is a legal requirement and has to be done by a specialist in an authorised MOT test centre.

An MOT follows the minimum safety requirements set out by the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA). On the other hand, a service is based on the manufacturer’s guidelines to keep the car or van running smoothly and reliably.

Unlike a service, an MOT doesn’t check the vehicles general mechanical condition, so parts like the engine, clutch and gearbox aren’t included in the inspection.

While the MOT makes sure the vehicle’s safe to drive, it doesn’t check whether it’s running as well as it could be. This is where a service can help.

When do I need to get an MOT?

You’ll need to do this three years from the date your car or van was first registered.

After this, you’ll need to get one done every 12 months so that your vehicle is retested by the anniversary of its last MOT.

It’s possible to get your vehicle tested up to one month minus a day before the MOT is due and still keep the original renewal date. This means the MOT would effectively be valid for 13 months.

But if you get an MOT more than a month before it’s due, the 12 months will start from that test date - unless you’re in Northern Ireland where the rules are slightly different.

When don’t I need an MOT?

You don’t need an MOT if your vehicle is less than three years old.

This also applies to nearly all cars and vans that were built or first registered more than 40 years ago (if they haven’t been altered or significantly changed in the past 30 years).

But even if you don’t need an MOT, you’re still expected to keep the car or van in a roadworthy condition.

If you need one but don’t have a valid MOT, the only place you can legally drive is to the MOT centre for a pre-booked test, and only if the vehicle doesn’t have a dangerous fault.

Why is it important to check when your MOT is due?

Basically, it’s important to check because it’s up to you to know when your car, van or motorbike’s due its MOT - you won’t be sent a notification unless you sign up to an MOT reminder service.

If you don’t renew your MOT in time and you drive or park your vehicle on a road, this is an offence and you could face a fine of up to £1,000, as well as your car or van being impounded.

You’ll also need an MOT certificate to renew your road tax for the year.

Plus, driving without a valid MOT means you’re potentially driving a vehicle that’s not safe. This invalidates your car or van insurance - so you might not be covered if you have an accident, which could leave you facing costly repairs and even legal action.

Where can I get an MOT?

You can only get an MOT at an approved MOT test centre.

Most garages will be able to do the test, so it’s best to find somewhere reputable and look out for the official blue sign with three white triangles.

If you’re in England, Wales or Scotland, you can easily check where your nearest authorised MOT test centres are.

And if you’re in Northern Ireland you can book an MOT online.

How do I check my vehicle’s MOT history?

You can do this by using our tool above, or the government’s free tool that allows you to check the MOT history of a vehicle.

The government tool will let you check results for tests done in England, Scotland or Wales since 2005.

You’ll need the registration number and the 11-digit number from the vehicle’s logbook (V5C) to see where the test took place.

It’s always a good idea to check the MOT history if you’re buying a car or van - especially if it’s more than three years old - as it can give you an idea of how reliable it’s been so far.

How can I maximise my vehicle’s chance of passing the MOT test?

There are a few checks you can do yourself to make sure your car or van is in good shape before the test:

  • Exterior – lights, wheels, wipers, windows, doors, registration plates, brake fluid, oil, fuel and general condition of the structure
  • Interior – seats, seatbelts, brakes, handbrake, warning lights, speedometer, horn, mirrors and make sure it’s tidy

Mechanical checks can be more tricky, but here’s a few things you can look at:

Suspension

On each of the four corners of your vehicle, use your bodyweight to push down and then release. The car or van should settle down quickly if your suspension is good. Any creaking or knocking sounds while driving could be signs of a problem.

Exhaust

There shouldn’t be anything loose, or any leaks. Start up the car and listen for any strange or loud noises as this could indicate corrosion. Lots of smoke coming out the exhaust could also suggest an issue.

Fuel tank

Check the parts you can see are secure and undamaged, with no leaks. The fuel cap shouldn’t be cracked and should tighten up well.

Brakes

Check there aren’t any leaks from your brake lines and that the brake discs aren’t warped or badly scratched.

Make sure to let the garage know about any problems you’ve found before the MOT, so they can be fixed before the test starts.