Can you drive a van without an MOT?

Find out the dos and don’ts of van MOTs to help keep your van on the road and avoid some costly penalties.

Eve Powell
Eve Powell
Updated 7 November 2022  | 4 mins read

Key points

  • Vans more than three years old are legally required to have an annual MOT
  • Not having a MOT on your van can result in a fine and penalty points on your driving licence and it will invalidate your insurance
  • The only time you can drive without an MOT is if you’re driving to a pre-booked MOT test appointment

What is an MOT test?

The Ministry of Transport (MOT) test is a comprehensive check on your van or vehicle to make sure it’s roadworthy, safe to drive and has the right emission levels.

It’s a legal requirement for your van to have an annual MOT once it’s more than three years old.

This test must be done in an authorised test centre which will display a blue sign with three white triangles.

Once your van passes its MOT, you’ll be given a certificate. However, if your van fails it will need to be repaired and re-tested until it passes.

What happens if you get caught driving without an MOT?

Automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) cameras can be found everywhere including in police cars, on the roads and in car parks.

These cameras link to a national database which can immediately trigger an alert if a vehicle doesn’t have a valid MOT, insurance or road tax.

As having a valid MOT is a legal requirement, you could face a £1,000 fine if you get caught without one.

The penalty increases if you’re found driving your van after it’s failed its MOT because of a dangerous fault. If this happens, you can be fined up to £2,500 and receive three penalty points on your licence.

Is there ever a time I can drive without an MOT?

The only time you can drive without a valid MOT is if you’re driving to the nearest test centre - this must be one that’s a reasonable and acceptable distance from your home.

You’ll need to have a pre-arranged appointment and have evidence of this that you can show as proof if you’re stopped.

It’s also worth being aware that if you don’t have a valid MOT, you’re not legally allowed to park on a road. However, you will need insurance cover in the eventuality of an accident. 

Is my van insurance valid without an MOT?

No, if your van’s MOT expires or it fails its MOT your insurance is no longer valid, so you won’t be covered if you have an accident.

If your MOT has expired it’s illegal for you to drive your van on the road, except if you’re driving to the test centre for a pre-booked test.

If you’ve lost your MOT certificate you can get a replacement for free from the government website or you can go to any MOT test centre and get a replacement for £10.

To get the replacement certificate you’ll need to provide the van’s registration number and the 11-digit number, called the V5C code, from your van’s log book.

When will my new van need an MOT?

Your new van won’t need an MOT until it’s three years old, the MOT will need to be done by the third anniversary of its registration.

If your new van is older than three years - for example, if you bought it second-hand - it needs to be tested by the anniversary of its last MOT and then will need to have an MOT annually.

You can also check your MOT expiry date online and see past results of your van’s MOT tests.

What do I do if my MOT expires - and where can I book an MOT?

If your van’s MOT has expired, you won’t be allowed to drive it unless you’re on your way to a pre-booked test.

You’ll need to get your van’s MOT done in an authorised test centre, which is often your local garage.

You can check online to see whether a garage is authorised to do MOTs.

Can I book my van’s MOT early?

Yes, it can be a good idea to book your MOT appointment in early. You can renew your MOT as early as one month before your current certificate expires.

Booking early avoids you discovering there aren’t any appointments available just before your MOT expires, which would leave you unable to drive it until you get a slot.

Plus, if your van fails its MOT, an early appointment gives you time to fix the issues before the current certificate is out of date.

I've booked my MOT test – what can I expect?

Anyone insured to drive the van can take it to the test centre for its MOT. When you arrive, you’ll be told where you need to park, or you may be given instructions when you book your appointment.

The test typically takes around 45 minutes to an hour and you’ll usually get a call to let you know the results and when you can collect the van.

If you think your van is likely to fail its MOT, try to plan for this and arrange some alternative transport in case it needs to be off the road for a few days.

If it does fail, you’ll be told which issues need to be fixed for it to pass the test.

Depending on the problem, the van must either stay at the test centre to be fixed or it can be taken away to be repaired elsewhere, then it will need to be retested.

Once it’s passed the MOT, you’ll be given a pass certificate to take away with you.

How much does a van MOT cost?

The government sets a maximum price for how much MOT test centres can charge.

The cost you’ll pay will also depend on which MOT class your van falls into. This is based on the vehicle’s size and weight.

Vans up to 3,000kg will be in class 4 - the maximum cost for this MOT is £54.85.

Vans between 3,000kg and 3,500kg, it will be in class 7 - the maximum cost for this is £58.60.

Many garages charge less than the maximum fee, so it can be worth shopping around. But bear in mind that you’ll have to pay extra costs if your van needs repairs to pass the test.

What do I need to bring to an MOT?

You won’t need to bring much with you apart from your van, as approved MOT test centres can now access all the information online.

However, it’s always a good idea to bring your current MOT certificate and your V5C registration document with you.

If you can’t find either of these, the test centre should be able to access them on their system.

What do they check in an MOT?

An MOT checks that all the important parts of your van are working correctly and safely, so the inspection looks at the exterior, interior and mechanical elements.

The MOT will include checking the:

  • Bodywork and structure - This will be checked for rust, damage and corrosion and to make sure there aren’t any sharp edges that could injure someone
  • Brakes - Your brake performance will be tested for efficiency and safety
  • Doors - The latches need to work properly and doors need to open and close correctly
  • Fuel system - The MOT will test for leaks and that the fuel cap fastens and seals securely
  • Lights - They all need to be the right colour and working correctly
  • Number plate - The spacing and lettering should meet current regulations
  • Seats, seatbelts, and airbags - These need to be in good condition and fixed securely
  • Steering and suspension - These need to be in good condition and operating correctly
  • Tyres and wheels - The condition, size, type and tread must all be checked and tested
  • Windscreen - It will be checked for chips and cracks, the maximum permitted damage size is 10mm in the driver’s line of vision or 40mm elsewhere
  • Wipers and washer bottle - Your wipers need to work properly and give the driver a clear view of the road
  • Mirrors - All mirrors need to be in good condition

How can I avoid driving without an MOT in the future?

It’s best to set a renewal reminder - you can do this yourself or sign up for a free MOT reminder service.

Being prepared means you can book your MOT appointment early. This means if you do need repairs, you can get these done before your current MOT expires.