Your van needs to be safe and legal to drive on the road. Find out what’s checked in an MOT, how much it costs and what happens if your van fails.
Once your van is more than three years old it needs an annual health check called an MOT to make sure it’s safe and legal to drive on the road.
There are rules and costs associated with this that you’ll need to follow, even if you won’t be using your van or you’ll only be driving it on private property.
All vehicles more than three years old are legally required to have a Ministry of Transport test, also known as an MOT, once a year.
When it goes for an MOT, every vehicle falls into a specific MOT class.
Class 4 is the most common category as it includes most road vehicles. This means that cars and most vans will come under this class and they’ll be tested in the same way.
If your van is larger or weighs more than a standard van, it will fall into a Class 7 MOT, but the tests for both of these classes are still very similar.
The MOT class your van falls into will depend on what its gross weight can be. This is also known as the maximum laden weight - the total weight that the chassis can hold.
Most cars and vans will come under Class 4, whereas bigger goods vehicles - including larger transit vans, as well as vehicles like lorries and trucks - will be in the Class 7 category.
Generally, vehicles that can weigh between 3,000 and 3,500kg will fall into Class 7.
While your van itself is unlikely to weigh 3,500kg, the chassis may be designed to carry up to this amount. You should be able to find this information in your van’s manual.
The MOT will test your van’s safety and roadworthiness and these tests are carried out at authorised test centres all around the UK.
Often your local garage will be able to perform your MOT, and approved centres will display an official blue sign with three white triangles.
It’s always best to use a garage that you trust or one that’s recommended, but you can also find your nearest authorised test centre online.
Your van needs to have an MOT every year - failure to get one is illegal and will also invalidate your van insurance.
So to help avoid your MOT expiring, sign up for a free MOT reminder service.
The Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) sets a maximum price that test centres can charge for your vehicle’s MOT.
The fee can vary depending on the garage or test centre, but for a Class 4 goods van (up to 3,000kg) the maximum price is £54.85 and for a Class 7 van this goes up to £58.60.
If your van fails its MOT, the issues will need to be repaired and it’ll need to be retested.
The retest can be free if it’s left at the MOT test centre for repairs and retested within 10 working days. If you take your van away for the repairs to be done and bring it back for a retest, you may be charged a reduced rate.
Although there’s a maximum set price for MOTs, garages will often charge less and the price can vary depending on where you go - so it’s always best to shop around and compare.
The checks done on your van might highlight problems or issues that need to be fixed before it can pass its MOT and this can add to the cost.
But keeping your van in good condition and having regular services can help to reduce the chances of you needing to pay anything extra.
The MOT is done to make sure your van is roadworthy and that it meets minimum environmental standards.
This includes checking your van’s:
Body and vehicle structure - including making sure specific areas aren’t suffering from rust or corrosion
Towbar - if your van has a towbar it will be inspected to check it’s secure and in good working order
Fuel system - the MOT tester will check there aren’t any leaks and will make sure pipes and hoses are in good condition and that the fuel cap fastens and seals securely
Exhaust and emissions - the test centre will check the condition of your exhaust and make sure it’s not too noisy, doesn’t emit smoke, and that it meets the legal exhaust emission limit
Brakes - your brakes, including the handbrake, will be checked to make sure they’re safe and efficient
Lights - all lights, including headlights, brake lights and indicators will be examined to check they’re the right colour, are working properly and are positioned correctly
Bonnet, doors and tailgate - these must all open and close properly, all hinges and catches will be checked to make sure they’re in good condition
Suspension and steering - the MOT tester will make sure that your steering wheel is safe and that your suspension is working correctly
Tyres and wheels - these need to be in good condition, tyres need to be the correct size and have the right tread depth
Windscreen and wipers - your windscreen will be checked for cracks or chips that could affect visibility and your wipers will need to work properly
Seats, airbags and seatbelts - all of these elements are essential to your safety. They need to be in good condition and be working correctly and effectively
The MOT should only take 45 minutes to an hour to complete and often you’ll be able to collect your van on the same working day.
If your van passes the MOT, you’ll be issued with a certificate and usually a list of advisory notes - these are items on the van that are showing wear and will need to be repaired or replaced soon.
If your van fails its MOT, you’ll need to have the issues repaired before it can be retested which could mean being without your van longer than you were anticipating.
To make sure your van’s in top condition before it has its MOT, there are a few simple things you can do to prepare and give it the best chance of passing:
Check all lights, including brake and reverse lights, by turning them on and off while someone stands outside and watches to see if they’re working
Top up with air, tighten all wheel bolts and check tyres aren’t damaged and that each tyre has enough tread depth
Check for any chips on your windscreen and that washers have enough fluid to clear the glass. Also make sure that the wipers are working effectively
Make sure your number plates can be seen clearly and that they conform to DVLA standards
Check all bodywork is in good condition and there aren’t any pieces that could fall off or become loose. Look for any rust that could affect the suspension
Make sure the horn can be easily reached when you’re driving and that it sounds clearly to other drivers. Check your seatbelts are working correctly
Check to see that the engine oil, brake fluid, power steering fluid and coolant levels are all at the right level
It’s a good idea to ask a mechanic to check these before your van goes in for its MOT
When your van fails its MOT, you’ll be given a ‘refusal of an MOT’ test certificate explaining which issues have caused it to fail.
You’re not allowed to drive your van without a valid MOT and you’ll need to get the faults fixed before it can be retested.
If your van fails its MOT, you can:
It’s worth bearing in mind that you can be fined up to £2,500, be banned from driving and get three penalty points on your licence for driving a van that’s failed its MOT because of a dangerous problem.
If you use your van for business, it’s likely to be essential to your operation so you’ll want it back on the road as soon as possible.
If your business van fails its MOT you’ll still need to follow the same rules for getting it retested, even if this means keeping your van off the road until it’s fixed.
For this reason, it’s always a good idea to get any advisory issues fixed before your next MOT to help things go smoothly.
And always aim to book your test appointment early, you can do this up to one month before your current MOT expires. That way, if it fails, you’ll have time to get the repairs done before your current certificate runs out.
There’s also the option to appeal against your MOT result if you think it’s wrong.
If you disagree with the MOT result for your van, it’s best to start by discussing this at the MOT test centre.
If you’re still unhappy with the result or the explanation you’ve been given, you can appeal against the decision to the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA).
This needs to be done within 14 days of your van’s MOT and before any repairs are done.
The MOT appeals process involves completing and sending an appeal form to the DVSA. If the DVSA decides your van needs to be retested, you’ll need to pay the fee again, but you’ll get some or all of this cost back if your appeal is successful.
If you don’t have an MOT, you can be fined up to £1,000. To avoid this fine if you’re stopped while driving to the MOT test centre, you’ll need to have proof that you’ve got an appointment.
Not having an MOT will also invalidate your van insurance, so you won’t be covered if you have an accident.
And if you’re caught driving without insurance by the police, you could face additional fines and points on your licence.