What Happens If Your Car Fails Its MOT? Your Options Explained

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When your car is three years old from the date of its registration, it will need an MOT- from then, each year you will need to take your car for an MOT retest. The MOT test, the acronym in which stands for Ministry of Transport, is an inspection to see if your car is roadworthy. It is done to keep you and other people on the road safe. In the UK it is a criminal offence to drive a car that doesn’t have a valid MOT.

Once complete, you will receive an MOT certificate which states whether your vehicle has passed or failed, with your test date and date of expiry to remind you of when your next MOT is due. 

But what happens if your car fails its MOT? We’ve put together a comprehensive guide on everything you need to know about an MOT fail.

What Gets Checked On An MOT Test?

As the MOT test is in place to make sure that your car is safe to be on the road, there’s a wide range of things that the examiner will check. The checklist below is an example of what a trained mechanic will go through to make sure that your car is roadworthy. 

Some vehicles are exempt from needing an MOT; they include cars, vans, and motorcycles that are over 40 years old as long as they haven’t been changed substantially over the years. Electric goods vehicles and tractors registered before 1 March 2015 also are not required to go through an MOT test. However, all vehicles are expected to be kept in roadworthy condition.


Brakes Your vehicle’s brake performance, condition and operation will be checked using a roller brake tester.
Bodywork MOT testers will check for any damage to your vehicle’s structure or bodywork such as sharp edges. They will also look for any excessive corrosion. This check will include your tow bar.
Horn The horn will be tested for effectiveness, including how loud it is.
Steering and suspension The condition of your vehicle’s steering and suspension components are all correct. 
Wheels and tyres The condition, size, tread depth, security and a number of other key points will be checked on your wheels and tyres. 
Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) MOT testers will ensure that your VIN is present and legibly displayed on your vehicle.
Windows and mirrors During the MOT test, your windscreen and mirrors will be checked for any chips or cracks.
Seat and seat belts Both seats and seatbelts are checked for security. Seatbelts should be in good condition and operate efficiently.
Lights Your vehicle’s lights will be checked for condition, performance, security and also colour/brightness during the test.
Exhaust and emissions It’s important your vehicle’s emissions are within the specified requirements. The exhaust will also be checked to ensure it is secure and without damage such as leaks.
Doors and openings Your doors will be checked to ensure they open and close correctly and safely. 

What Is An MOT Fail?

MOT faults are categorised into three different categories: dangerous, major or minor. Your vehicle will fail it’s MOT if it has a dangerous or major fault. A dangerous fault is more serious, and the vehicle cannot be driven until the fault has been fixed. Major faults should be repaired as soon as possible. 

Minor defects are not enough to fail the MOT. Think of these as warnings, they indicate to a vehicle owner that faults have been found within the vehicle but they are not serious enough to warrant a fail. It’s important not to ignore these issues, else you could fail any future MOT tests.

What Happens Once My Car Fails Its MOT?

VT30 Refusal

If you’re given the news that your car has failed its MOT, then you will be handed a VT30 Refusal of an MOT Test Certificate. You have received this certificate as your car has been deemed by the DVSA unsafe to drive on the road. On the certificate it will explain the reasoning for the decision so that you can understand the problem and get it sorted. You will need to keep hold of this form as it is needed to either appeal or have a retest.

Can You Drive Your Car Away If It Fails The MOT?  

If your vehicle has a dangerous fault, you won’t be allowed to drive it away from the garage you had the MOT test conducted in.

You will need to ask the garage for a quote. Our advice is to shop around and ask other local garages for a quote to get the best deal possible. It may be cheaper to tow the car to another garage and get the repairs done there. If you decide to get the faults fixed at another garage, beware that you may have to pay for a second MOT test as it will be the first time they are testing the vehicle.

If your car has a major fault, for example, a broken headlight, but is still deemed roadworthy, you will be allowed to drive the car away as long as the previous MOT has not expired. However, you will still need to get the faults corrected before the MOT expiry date else you will not get a new MOT certificate. You should always return the car within 10 days to the original garage to get the car retested for a partial retest. If you wait longer than 10 days, you will be charged the full amount for a new test. 

Can You Appeal An MOT Fail?

You may feel like the decision that has been made to fail your car’s MOT is incorrect. If you think the tester has been unfair then you may want to appeal the decision. Often the best way to go about this is to contact the MOT centre and see if there have been any miscommunications. There may be certain circumstances in which you are entitled to a free MOT retest. 

If after doing this you still decide to go ahead with the appeal, then it is important that you keep the car in the same condition as it was when you took it for an MOT originally. If you repair or modify the vehicle then the appeal will be denied.

The next step is to obtain an MOT complaint form, and send it to the DVSA (Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency). This needs to be done within 14 days of the original test date. Then within 5 days of that, you should be given a new appointment to retest your car. 

Appealing does come at a cost and it will be down to you to pay for the additional MOT test. However, if your appeal ends up being successful then you will receive a full or partial refund.

Easy Pre-MOT Checks You Can Do Yourself To Avoid An MOT Fail

1. Clean your vehicle

Before you take your vehicle for its MOT, clean it thoroughly both inside and out. From the front seats, to the back seats and finally to the boot. An unclean car could lead to an examiner refusing to perform an MOT.

2. Check your mirrors

Make sure that all of your mirrors are in good condition. If they are shattered then your vehicle won’t pass its MOT. This also includes internal mirrors.

3. Check your lights are working

Lights are a common reason for MOT failure, make sure that your brake, front and rear lights are working correctly. You can do this by asking a friend or family member to observe from outside the car.

4. Honk the horn

It sounds obvious but make sure your horn is in working order. Give it a few honks to make sure it isn’t faulty.

5. Top up fluids

Your vehicle requires all kinds of important fluids, including brake fluid, oil and screenwash. Make sure that these are topped up prior to the MOT test.

6. Check tyre tread and pressure

The legal tyre tread depth for cars in the UK is 1.6mm across the central three-quarters of the tyre, although most recommend a minimum tread of 3mm for tyre replacement. The tread must meet this minimum requirement across its complete circumference to be legal. 

You can check your tyre tread by inserting a 20p coin into the tread grooves. If you cannot see the outer band on the coin then your tyres are above the legal limits. 

If you are unsure of your car’s correct pressure level, you can often find the recommended pressure levels in the owner’s manual or in the fuel cap. You can then set the air machine to the recommended level whether at home or at a petrol station.

7. Check your windscreen wipers are in good condition

Inspect your wipers for any nicks or damage which could lower their effectiveness, and if any damage is found replace them immediately.

Scrapping Your Failed MOT Car

You can also sell a car after an MOT fail. This could be a great way to make some quick extra money, especially if the cost of repairs are worth more than the vehicle. Even when a motor is damaged, cars and vans that have the potential to be repaired still hold a lot of value. Here at National Scrap Car, we can collect your motor regardless of the condition it’s in, so you won’t have to worry about getting the repairs done.

If you decide that scrapping your car following an MOT fail is the best option for you, it is important that you declare your vehicle as SORN.

SORN stands for Statutory Off Road Notice, and is ideal for cars that are stored anywhere away from the public highway that aren’t going to be moving anywhere. By declaring as SORN, you are confirming that it absolutely will not be moving at all – even in an emergency. To find out more about scrapping your vehicle and what is involved including how much you could get, you can use our Instant Quote Generator and within 60 seconds, your motor will be given a valuation and a whole host of offers from local scrap and salvage dealers will be available for your perusal.