What to do if your car has failed its MOT

August 20, 2021 by Zoe Hicks – 10 mins read

Though it can be hugely disappointing when your car fails its MOT, it’s something that nearly 37% of drivers experience every year (according to DVSA data).

While this is not the ideal situation to find yourself in, it’s important to know what your options are in the event of a failed MOT, so that you can get back on the road as soon as possible.

Here’s what will happen if your car doesn’t pass, what to expect from an MOT retest, and what you can do if you want to appeal the decision.

My car failed its MOT: What next?

In the event of a failed MOT, the test center will issue you with a VT30 ‘Refusal of an MOT Test Certificate’. This will have your car’s details on it, as well as the MOT test number and the reasons why it didn’t pass. Be sure to keep hold of it, as you’ll need to present it in the event of a retest or an appeal.

Taking an MOT retest

You’ll need to address the issues listed on the certificate and carry out any repairs before having your car retested. Depending on the reasons for the failure, there are a few different MOT retest options, some of which can save you from paying any additional testing fees.

Leave it to be fixed: If the test center you’ve used also does repairs, you can hire them to fix the issues that caused the failure. If repairs are carried out within 10 working days, they can do a partial retest, where they will only test the issues listed on the VT30 certificate.

Bring it back within one working day: You’re entitled to take the car away for repairs and bring it back to the original testing center for a free partial retest. For a full list of acceptable reasons where this option is available, check out the DVSA website.

Bring it back within 10 working days: If you choose to have your car repaired elsewhere, you can take it back to the original testing center for a partial retest within 10 days of the initial test. You will be charged a partial retest fee, which is usually half of the original testing cost.

After 10 working days: If you bring your car back after 10 working days, you will be charged for a full MOT.

Appealing a failed MOT

If you feel that your car has unfairly failed its MOT and you want to appeal the decision, be sure to discuss the reasons with the testing center first, to clarify any miscommunication.

However, if you still feel that the decision was wrong, there are steps you can take. In the meantime, don’t carry out any repairs or modifications on the car, as this can cause the appeal process to be cancelled.

Obtain a complaint form: Fill out the ‘Complain about an MOT’ form and send it to the DVSA within 14 working days of the original test date.

An alternative appointment to retest your car will be arranged within five days. While you’ll be required to pay the full MOT fee again, you’ll be issued a full or partial refund if your appeal is successful.

My car failed its MOT, can I still drive it?

It’s illegal to drive with an invalid MOT certificate. If your car has failed and the date on your certificate has passed, you can only drive your car to be repaired or to a pre-arranged MOT appointment, and only if it is completely roadworthy at all times. Driving in a car that has a failed MOT is never recommended, and doing so might mean you are not covered by your insurance provider.

It’s estimated that nearly half of MOT failures can be avoided by doing simple, regular upkeep. Read up to find out what’s checked in an MOT and learn how to pass with flying colours!

Who needs an MOT test?

Whether you drive a car, van, or motorbike, you will be expected to ensure that your vehicle has a valid MOT once it reaches three years of age.

With the demands of everyday life often pulling us in all manner of directions, it’s often the case that drivers forget when to renew their MOT, resulting in a fine of up to £1000 if caught. 

Can you drive with a failed MOT?

If your car fails its MOT, you will not be able to drive it as the law states that it is illegal to drive any vehicle that does not have a valid MOT certificate. And remember, if your car does not have a valid MOT certificate, your insurance will also not be valid. 

If your vehicle fails its MOT, it is possible to get a retest providing you address the repairs that need to be carried out.

You can either address the repairs to your vehicle there and then, or take your car away for the repairs to be fixed. If you do decide to take your car away to be repaired, you will have to ensure that all repairs have been addressed within 2 -10 working days and you must bring your car back to the original testing center for a partial retest.

If the repairs to your vehicle take longer than 10 days to fix, you will be charged for a full MOT.

Selling an MOT failure

Many drivers decide to sell their vehicle if it has failed its MOT as the repairs often cost more to fix than the vehicle is worth.

If your car has recently failed its MOT or does not have an MOT certificate at all, selling your car can be extremely difficult, but not impossible.

This is because several scrap car dealerships will purchase a vehicle without an MOT. All you need to do is provide an accurate description of your vehicle and the dealership will provide the best price.

Declare SORN following an MOT failure

If you decide that scrapping your car following an MOT failure is the best option for you, you must register your vehicle as SORN.

SORN (Statutory Off Road Notification) is the designation that is given to all vehicles that are now exempt from road tax and SORN must be in place before vehicle owners can scrap their car.

MOT failure

If your car fails its MOT:

  • You will be given a refusal of MOT certificate (VT30)
  • Your vehicle must be repaired and retested to comply with MOT standards
  • You may not be covered by your insurance, so you are advised not to drive it, except to an approved test center or a garage for repairs.
  • Your refusal of the MOT certificate will state why your vehicle failed its MOT and what needs to be fixed for it to pass. The repairs needed could be specialized such as welding jobs or emissions failures, so it may not be possible to make them there and then.

If your car can be tested, repaired, and retested at the same location within a 10-working day period then there should be no additional charge for retesting, this is known as a partial re-examination. However, certain repairs cannot be fixed under a partial re-examination.

A partial re-examination will check the items that the car failed on in the original MOT test as long as they are one or more of the following items.

When is it possible to drive without an MOT?

MOT (Ministry of Transport) certificates are annual tests that ensure all vehicles on the road are safe to be there. The test itself is designed around a predetermined set of key areas, those being roadworthiness, exhaust emissions and general vehicle safety. All motor vehicles over three years old are legally required to have a valid MOT certificate issued by an authorized testing station or garage. Without one, you’re liable for prosecution. They are also a prerequisite for all car insurance policies, and without one, you cease to be covered by your policy.

The only two instances when it’s deemed legal to drive your vehicle without a valid MOT are if you are heading to or from a garage for repairs or if you are taking the vehicle to an authorized testing station or garage for a pre-arranged MOT test. Driving your vehicle without a valid MOT in any other circumstances is breaking the law.

If your vehicle has failed its test, the garage or test center will contact you, giving you all the details of why this happened. They will also give you a VT30 (Refusal of an MOT Test Certificate). A VT30 document contains all your vehicle’s details, the actual MOT testing number, and the exact reasons why the certificate has not been issued. You need to hang on to this document.

If your vehicle is getting old and/or showing any signs of problems, it might be wise to take it in to be tested before the current certificate expires. This will then allow you to ascertain what the major issues are, if any, that would prevent a new MOT certificate from being issued to you. Once you have this information, you can decide whether or not it’s worth carrying out the repairs, or whether to look at getting the vehicle scrapped. It’s worth mentioning at this point that should the pre-MOT checks come back with reasons to fail the test, you should limit your driving as you can be prosecuted for knowingly driving a vehicle with a fault.

Keep it, sell it or scrap it?

So, it’s decision time. If your car failed its test, you have three choices. Keeping the vehicle will require you to have the necessary works carried out and a retest once these repairs have been completed. Usually, as long as the car is returned to the testing center or garage within 10 days, the retest is covered under the initial charge; any longer than that and you may have to pay full price for another test.

You can arrange to have your vehicle returned to you and put it back on your drive or in your private garage. At this point, inform the DVLA and apply for a SORN (Statutory Off Road Notice). Now you’re in a position where you can advertise the vehicle for sale in need of repair or for spare parts.

Your final option is to scrap the vehicle. A commonly asked question is can you drive a car without an MOT to be scrapped? Unfortunately, you can’t for the reasons stated earlier in this article. You’ll need to contact an authorized treatment facility. These companies usually offer to come and collect your vehicle from you as part of the agreement. They will then issue you any monies agreed as part of the scrap valuation.

MOT error can land you a £2,500 fine

Motorists could land them a £2,500 fine for making an error after taking an MOT test in the UK. This follows a change to the rules in 2018 which saw several changes implemented.

The main change introduced in May of last year was three new failure and fault categories which rate the severity of an issue the car is having.

The three failure classes are now Minor, Major, and Dangerous.

If a car fails with a dangerous result it is now illegal to drive it on the public road, with the owner facing a £2,500 fine and up to 6 penalty points if they drive it to another garage to be repaired or to the scrapyard. It has always been illegal to drive a dangerous vehicle but the new rules make it explicit for motorists to understand. 

Diesel cars with a Diesel Particulate Filter (DPF) fitted must not produce smoke out any colour out of the exhaust or it will automatically fail the test.

March is one of the peak times for MoT tests and as the new guidelines came in during May 2018 many motorists will not yet have seen their car through the overhauled test and may be unfamiliar with some of the rules, in particular, those around driving the car after a failed test.

Driving an MOT-failed car has always been a grey area legally. Although the government website states that you can drive an MoT-failed vehicle away if your current MoT certificate is still valid and the car has not failed on a ‘dangerous’ fault it also adds that it must meet the minimum standards of roadworthiness at all times.


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