MOT check

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

GoCompare author
Updated 30 December 2021  | 3 mins 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 car, motorbike or any other vehicle is roadworthy and safe to drive.

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

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. But once it’s passed the inspection, your MOT certificate is valid for 12 months.

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Key points

  • An MOT is a legal requirement for your car once it’s three years old
  • It checks the car’s safe to drive, safe for other road users and safe 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

Is a vehicle service the same as having an MOT?

In a word, no. Although they both involve detailed checks on the car, they are different.

A service can be done by any qualified car 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 manufacturers’ guidelines to keep the car running smoothly and reliably.

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

So while the MOT makes sure the car’s safe to drive, it doesn’t check whether it’s running as well as it could be - and 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 was first registered.

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

It’s possible to get your car 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 car’s less than three years old.

This also applies to nearly all cars that were built or first registered more than 40 years ago (as long as 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 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 car doesn’t have a dangerous fault.

When’s my MOT due?

The first MOT your car will need is when it gets to its third birthday - or to be more specific, it’ll need one three years from the date the car was first registered.

After this, your car’s MOT will need to be renewed every 12 months. If you don’t renew your MOT it’s illegal to drive your car and you could face a fine or be prosecuted.

How to check when your MOT is due

If you haven’t owned the car from new or aren’t sure when your MOT is due, it’s easy to check using the government’s MOT checker tool.

All you need to do is enter your vehicle’s registration number and you’ll find out when your next road tax and MOT is due.

You can also sign up for a free MOT reminder service from to receive a text message or email to remind you when to get your next one booked in.

And if you live in Northern Ireland you’ll get a reminder in the post seven weeks before your MOT renewal date.

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

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 car on a road, this is an offence and you could face a fine of up to £1,000 as well as your car 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 car that’s not safe. This invalidates your car insurance - so you might not be covered if you have an accident and 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 or a place you trust and look out for the official blue sign with three white triangles.

If you’re in England, Wales or Scotland, you can also visit to find a list of your nearest authorised MOT test centres.

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

How do I check my car’s MOT history?

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

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

You’ll need the car’s registration number and you’ll need 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 - especially if it’s more than three years old - as it can give you an idea of how reliable it’s been so far.

What does the MOT check?

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

  1. Lamps, reflectors and electrical equipment

    Including making sure the horn, battery and driving lights are all working and in good condition

  2. Steering and suspension

    The steering components and shock absorbers need to be working well and not show signs of wear or damage

  3. Brakes

    These will be tested to make sure they’re working properly, along with the brake warning lights and any anti-lock braking system

  4. Wheels and tyres

    These need to be the right size for your vehicle and in good condition with all nuts tightly fastened

  5. Seats and seat belts

    Including making sure the driver’s seat can be adjusted and that all seatbelts are the right length and working properly

  6. Body, vehicle structure and general items

    This includes checking the bonnet, boot and doors, making sure the speedometer’s working and the registration plates are clear

  7. Fuel system, exhaust and emissions

    Your car’s emissions need to be within the legal limit and your exhaust should be securely fitted without any leaks

  8. Driver’s view of the road

    Your mirrors, windscreen and windscreen wipers will all be checked to make sure you have a good view of the road