What happens if your MOT fails

What happens if your MOT fails


Every car owner in the UK needs to pass the annual MOT inspection in order to keep their vehicle ‘street legal.’ But what happens if your car fails its MOT?  

First of all, don’t panic, you’re not the first person whose car has failed an MOT, and you won’t be the last. 

Although repairs can be costly and you won’t be left with much choice, with car finance options like Bumper available, you might find yourself back on the road faster than anticipated.  

You’ll want to get repairs done reasonably quickly — or do without your car until whatever’s broken is fixed.   

One way to avoid being in this position is to understand what an MOT inspection looks for as well as the most common reasons for MOT failure. That way you’ll be able to anticipate whether your car is likely to pass or fail.   

And if you think an MOT failure might be on the cards, it's a good idea to have a range of car repair payment options at the ready. That way if you do get caught out by an expensive set of MOT-mandated fixes, you’ll be able to 

manage it with minimum pain.

Worried about the costs? With Bumper you could benefit from 0% interest car repair financing and pay for car repairs in instalments in easy-to-manage monthly payments.  

So forewarned is forearmed. Here’s everything you need to prepare for a possible MOT #fail.   

What is an MOT?  

An MOT is the UK’s annual vehicle check that makes sure your car is roadworthy and won’t pose a risk to yourself or other drivers. The MOT itself is carried out according to the UK’s Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency 

Every vehicle older than 3 years must have a valid MOT certificate prior to it being driven on public roads. If you don’t have a valid MOT, and you’re caught, you can receive a fine of up to £1,000.  

Plus, your insurance company is within its rights to invalidate a claim if you can’t prove your vehicle was roadworthy at the time of the incident. 

mechanic performing tests during an MOT

How much does an MOT cost? 

The maximum price a garage can charge to carry out an MOT is £54.85 and that includes VAT. As this is the maximum price, you’ll find most garages set £54.85 as their average MOT cost.  

Most MOTs take about 45 minutes and can be carried out in one of over 20,000 licensed MOT stations in the UK.   

Considering the relatively low price of an MOT and the ease of getting one done, it’s well worth making sure yours is up to date in order to avoid hefty fees and invalid insurance.   

How to pass an MOT? 

In order to pass the MOT, your vehicle has to meet a strict set of criteria, based on your car’s size, age and class. If it doesn’t meet these criteria, and any faults are identified as being dangerous or illegal, your vehicle will automatically fail the MOT.   

For any shortcomings that aren’t dangerous now, but could be down the line, they’ll be flagged up as advisory, meaning you’ll need to remedy them prior to your next MOT.   

What happens if you fail the MOT?  

If your car fails the MOT, then you will be issued a VT30 Refusal of an MOT Test Certificate. This certificate will explain why your car failed its test as well as the repairs that need to be carried out in order to pass the MOT. 

Following the failed test, your car can stay at the garage for repairs and be partially rechecked for a free MOT within 10 working days. If more than 10 days go by, the car will need to go through a full MOT again at full cost.   

If you take your vehicle to a different garage for repairs, it can be re-inspected for half the normal MOT cost.

The half-price re-test discount can only be used once, so if your vehicle fails again, you’re liable to pay for a full MOT at the next test.

If you think you might struggle with the repair costs needed to pass your MOT, Bumper can help split your bill into interest-free instalments. 

Can you drive with a failed MOT? 

If you receive a VT30 certificate this means your car isn’t safe to drive on the roads and it is illegal to drive. So, no, you cannot drive your car with a failed MOT apart from in these two exceptions.  

You’re taking your vehicle to a test station for an MOT test booked in advance. 

You’re taking your car to get repaired after it has already failed the MOT.  

If you’re caught driving on a failed MOT, you can receive a fine of up to £2,500 and get three penalty points on your licence. 

Can you drive with minor defects or advisory items? 

Along with a clear pass or fail, there are two more possible results that you may see on your MOT certificate, minor defects and advisories. These fall under the category of “Pass with defects” as seen here

What is an Advisory item?  

When the MOT tester is inspecting your car, they may find issues that are not cause for an MOT fail but are not in perfect order.  

These can be logged as advisories, giving the MOT tester the opportunity to communicate the general condition of the car to the owner. The owner can then get these items repaired at their own leisure. 

Typical advisory items you may see on your MOT: 

  • Headlamp discoloured, but not affecting the output of light 
  • Number Plate discoloured, but not affecting readability 
  • Tyre worn close to the legal limit

What is a Minor Defect? 

Alongside advisory items, an MOT can pass with minor defects, these are listed alongside the note to ‘Repair as soon as possible' on the MOT, an example is seen here. 

Whilst there is no legal requirement to have these items fixed before the next MOT, it may be more likely for the next MOT tester to pay close attention to them when inspecting next year.  

Minor defects should be treated as a way of saving some money on car maintenance, often times items that are considered minor defects now, can become serious enough to be a major defect and therefore cause a failed MOT next time.  

Some examples of common minor defects include: 

  • Stop lamps not working (top) 
  • Registration plate light incorrect pattern 
  • Anti-roll ball link has slight play 

Do you need an MOT every year? 

If your vehicle is over 3 years old, then it will need an MOT every year.  

If you’ve had your vehicle tested at a garage before, they’ll likely send you a reminder when your next MOT is next due. But if you have recently purchased the vehicle, or you haven’t heard from the garage, you can easily go online to check when your existing MOT certificate expires.   

When to book an MOT 

Depending on your location and the type of vehicle you drive, most garages can fit an MOT slot in within a week. But it’s best to check well in advance so you’re not in any risk of missing your MOT expiry.  

A handy trick that the DVSA allow and even recommend, is to book your MOT one month in advance of the date your current one expires. The expiry date of the new MOT will remain as it was. 

In effect, this gives you a 13-month MOT at the same cost as a 12-month one.  

What does an MOT check consist of? 

It’s advisable to know what is being checked during an MOT, so you don’t get any nasty surprises. By knowing beforehand if there are any issues with your car, you can get them remedied prior to submitting it for its MOT.   

If you’ve got extended warranty cover through a third-party provider such as Warranty Direct, check to see if any mechanical or electrical issues are covered and get them fixed prior to the MOT.   

What is checked during an MOT:  

  • Number plate - This needs to be the right colour, fully legible and display the correct registration format for the year your car was manufactured. The font should also be the correct one and the plate itself an appropriate size. 
  • Lights - All need to work. It’s worth noting, some cars have more lights than are legally required, but if your car does have extra lights, they all must work.  
  • Headlights - Must be clear with unmarked lenses  
  • Indicators - Must flash when triggered, 
  • Number plate, reversing lights and fog lights - all need to be in working order  
  • Brake lights - must illuminate when the brake pedal is pressed  
  • Tyres -  These need to meet the legal minimum requirement in the UK of 1.6mm. Tyres should also not have bulges or cracks - if they do, they will fail. 
  • Windscreen wipers - These need to be in good working order and be effective at clearing dirt from your windscreen. Side note - rear wipers aren’t checked. 
  • Screenwash - Must be topped up and jets angled correctly. 
  • Seat and seat belts - Must be in good, workable order. 

Common MOT failures  

Knowing what is being checked is one thing, but also knowing what are common MOT failures, should help you ensure your car is in top condition, prior to being checked.   

a mechanic performing an MOT test

What can fail an MOT: 

  • Broken light bulbs 
  • Suspension issues 
  • Spongy brakes 
  • Illegal tyres 
  • Cracked windscreen obscuring driver’s view 
  • Stickers on the windscreen that could obscure your view 
  • Emissions 
  • Lack of power steering fluid 
  • Non-retracting seat belts 
  • Missing airbags 

How to avoid failing an MOT 

If you think your car may not pass straight away, or if you rely on your car to get to work and cannot afford for it to be off the road, there are a few steps you can take to avoid failing an MOT. 

Get a pre-MOT inspection 

Many garages will do this, for a small fee, they will often check every part of the car that usually gets inspected on an MOT, with the possible exception of a brake and emissions test. 

Once the mechanic has checked over your car they’ll give you a report, which should outline any issues with your car, without them causing an MOT failure. It’s a good idea to get this done at least 2 months before your MOT date. 

Address all the advisories on the previous MOT 

Advisory and Minor items are useful for identifying non-serious faults that could turn into serious ones. Check your MOT from last year, either by reading the V22 MOT certificate, or checking on the government website. 

Have your car serviced regularly 

Whilst servicing, many garages will also do a quick health check of your car, whilst it's on the ramps. This can help identify various common MOT issues such as worn rubber seals, cracked tyres, engine oil leaks and more. 

For more information on what each service level entails, check out our blog here.

Do a quick check before driving to the test centre 

As we’ve seen above, broken lights, windscreen issues and tyre problems are all common causes of MOT failures and are all things you can easily spot yourself.  

Download a pre-MOT checklist such as this one from the AA, and take a walk around your car. Remember to do this at least two weeks or so before the test, to give yourself time to get any items fixed. 

Worried that your next MOT might result in a hefty repair bill? Use Bumper to split your bill into interest-free instalments. You can benefit from 'buy now, pay later’ car repairs at over 4,000 trusted garages nationwide.

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