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What to do if you fail an MOT

Cars over three years of age are required to have an annual MOT test to ensure they meet the minimum standards for roadworthiness. Your car’s mechanical condition, so things like the engine, gearbox and clutch – isn’t assessed, but if your car’s old or unreliable, the annual MOT can be a worry.

The latest figures from the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA), published on GOV.UK, reveal that in the 2015-2016 financial year, 27,894,036 class 3 & 4 (cars and small vans) MOT tests were carried out at testing stations throughout the UK and 36.8% of these resulted in an initial failure.

Failing an MOT

Regardless of whether your car’s MOT test failure has come as a complete shock or not, what do you need to do? The garage that tested your vehicle will record the failure in the national MOT database and will issue you with a VT30 ‘refusal of an MOT test certificate’ form.

Appealing the decision

If you think your car shouldn’t have failed its MOT test, you should discuss the results with the test centre first, after which you can appeal the decision within 14 days by contacting the DVSA. They will retest the car within 5 days and charge you another test fee, providing you with a full inspection report.

Don’t despair

Over a third of vehicles fail their annual MOT test on the first attempt, so it’s nothing unusual. After all, a car can fail an MOT test for around 600 different reasons, including straightforward things such as a brake light bulb not working or a blocked windscreen washer jet.

Driving your car after an MOT Failure

If your car has failed its latest MOT test on a date earlier than the expiry of your current MOT certificate, you can still drive it until the expiry date, providing your vehicle is driveable and roadworthy.

Cars that fail their new MOT test on or after the expiry date of the existing certificate can only be driven to a place where they’ll be repaired, whether that’s at home or at a garage, before being driven back to the original MOT test centre for a retest. You can drive your vehicle straight home after it fails an MOT providing it’s driveable and roadworthy, and the next journey will be for a repair or retest.


The repairs required to restore your car to a legally roadworthy condition will be listed out for you. If welding, intricate electrical rewiring and/or other more major repair work is specified, or if specialist parts need to be ordered by the repairer, it may not be possible for your car to be repaired for a while.


To require only a partial retest, your vehicle must be retested at the original testing centre within 10 working days. A partial fee is typically charged, unless you leave your car at the test station during this period.

If your car failed its MOT due to one or more simpler defects categorised by the DVSA including the battery, door hinges, fuel filler cap, lamps (lights), mirrors, registration plate or tyres, you can represent your vehicle at the same testing centre within one working day for a partial retest, free of charge.

For more advice on keeping your car roadworthy, particularly when conditions are at their worst, check out our guide >>

Insurance implications

Driving without a valid MOT certificate is illegal and could also invalidate your insurance, leaving you open to additional prosecution if detected by the police. Some insurers only provide third party cover for vehicles temporarily not covered by a current MOT, some will refuse cover entirely, not paying out in the event of a claim. Others may reduce a pay-out by a certain percentage to reflect a vehicle’s lack of MOT certificate.

It’s advisable to carefully check the wording in your motor insurance policy booklet and to contact your insurer if you’re in any doubt whether your insurance will be invalid if your car temporarily doesn’t have a valid MOT. Many car insurance companies will stipulate that a current MOT must be in force, the only exception being vehicles that are driven to a pre-booked MOT test or retest. If your car has failed an ‘early’ new MOT, it will usually be covered by insurance up to the current MOT certificate’s expiry date.

Improve your car’s chances of passing

The DVSA cites lightbulbs as the cause of 30% of MOT failures, while 10% are tyre-related and 8.5% are due to mirrors, wipers and washers. All these car parts ultimately relate to safety.

By carrying out basic vehicle maintenance checks, you can make sure your car stands a better chance of passing its upcoming MOT test. For example, light bulbs can be checked for loose connections and any blown bulbs replaced, tyre tread depth can be monitored to ensure it never falls below the legal minimum of 1.6mm, and coolant and screen wash fluid levels can be topped up. Some garages offer pre-MOT inspections, enabling them to carry out any work required to maximise your car’s chances of passing its next MOT.

So you know what to do if the worst does happen, read our essential breakdown tips >>