We’re all used to those little reminders from the government dropping through the letterbox. We get letters reminding us to file our self-assessment tax return, or that our car tax is due. It’s perhaps therefore surprising that there’s no default method for sending out reminders that your MOT is due. There are ways you can ask to be sent a reminder but these are opt-in services – you have to actively seek them out and ask to join. So it’s not always obvious when your MOT is due.
Requirements for MOT
The general rule is that vehicles don’t usually need a MOT until they are three years old. That means three years from the date of their first registration, not necessarily three years from the date you bought the car. Some vehicles, like taxis or buses, need a MOT starting from a year of use. This is usually because most vehicles of this type do more mileage than your standard family car, and there is a greater chance of injury to passengers or other road users if the vehicle is dangerous. If you live in Northern Ireland, you don’t need to submit your car for a MOT until it is four years old. There are however discussions about changing this to bring Northern Ireland into line with the rest of the UK.
The easiest way of checking when your MOT is due is by using the official government website. All you need is the car’s registration number. Enter the number, and the website will state the make and colour to check you have entered the correct details. Click to continue, and you’ll be taken to a page showing the vehicle’s current tax and MOT status. Two large boxes at the top of the page will show ticks if the tax and MOT is current. They will also show when the tax and MOT expires on that particular vehicle, which may or may not be on the same date. The website doesn’t update immediately after a new MOT check is carried out. As it can take five days for the website to update, don’t panic if you’ve just had your car’s new certificate and this isn’t reflected online.
If you’re the sort of person who forgets appointments regularly, then you can sign up to the government’s text message reminder service. You can only do this if you live in England, Scotland or Wales. People in Northern Ireland still receive a letter in advance of their current MOT expiring. All you need to register is your car’s registration number and a valid mobile phone number or email address. If you sell the car, or have it scrapped, you have to manually unsubscribe from reminders as it doesn’t happen automatically. There’s no fee for this service, just the cost of a standard text message.
Some of the larger garages also keep a record of which cars have had their MOT in a particular month, and will email or text reminders.
Where Can You Get a MOT?
Once you’ve figured out that your car, motorbike or van needs a MOT test, the next decision is about where you have it done. Luckily, you’ve got loads of choice and wherever you live in the UK, you should be able to find somewhere close to home, work or another convenient location.
What sort of places are testing stations?
Garages which are licensed and approved to perform MOT tests are known as testing stations. If a garage, or a mechanic working as a sole trader wishes to register to provide MOTs, they have to go through an approval process. This process is run by the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) which is a government body. Premises approved for MOT tests display a special sign which is three white triangles on a blue background.
There is a wide range of garages and mechanics approved to run MOT tests. Some are very small, single-mechanic operations in country villages who make their money doing MOTs for every vehicle in the area. In towns and cities, you may have more choice. Large car dealerships which sell new and used cars or offer servicing or body repairs will usually do MOT tests too. Lots of chain mechanics such as Halfords, Kwik-Fit or National Tyres will do MOT tests. In some areas there is also the option of a Council run testing station – the downside to this option is that these places don’t offer any repairs if your car fails. You’d have to take it away, have it repaired, and get it retested elsewhere.
Choosing a MOT testing station
The whole idea behind the MOT test is that it is a standard process, wherever you get it done. In theory, you should get the same service from a tiny independent as from a large chain garage. Most people choose a location which is convenient for either home or work. MOT tests can take around an hour, and you’re free to wait and observe should you wish to do so. Many people however choose to drop their car off in the morning and pick it up on their way home.
One of the advantages of using one of the larger garages for MOT testing is that you can get other things done at the same time. Many customers choose to get their annual service done at the same time as their MOT check. Others ask for their car to be valeted, or just washed. None of this is part of the core MOT test though, and will cost extra.
Price is another factor to consider when it comes to MOT tests. The fee set by the government is just the maximum price which can be charged for a MOT. Garages are free to charge less if they wish to do so. Many of the larger chains choose to discount their MOT costs to attract customers. If you’re having your car serviced or getting new tyres at the same time, you might be able to agree a lower price for the MOT.