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Accidentally Driving Without MOT: What Can Happen? (Updated for 2023)

Written by, Bojana Atanasovska

Updated August, 22, 2023

Your MOT has expired, and you’ve forgotten to renew it. What now? 

Before you risk getting caught accidentally driving without MOT and face serious penalties, read through this insightful guide and find out everything there is to know about the MOT test. 

Let’s get started.

What Is an MOT?

An MOT is a mandatory inspection that confirms your vehicle fulfils the safety and environmental requirements and guarantees it is eligible to be on the road. 

An MOT is mandatory for all cars in the UK that are over three years old. 

An MOT mechanic checking the car engine at an MOT testing station

Can You Drive Without an MOT?

Sadly, there is no grace period for MOT. If your MOT has expired, it is illegal to drive around without one. There are a few exceptions to this rule (more on this below), but an MOT is a legal obligation for all motorists driving cars older than three years. 

The MOT test certificate is issued once a year and must be renewed by the date printed on the current MOT certificate. The earliest drivers can renew their MOT is up to a month (minus a day) before it expires. 

What Happens if You Are Caught Accidentally Driving Without MOT in the UK?

Some of the penalties you might get if caught driving with an expired MOT include:

  • A £1,000 fine
  • Your vehicle might get impounded

The fine for no MOT varies depending on how long it has been since your last test. In more serious cases, you could even be prosecuted for driving without MOT, even if it is by accident.

Can I Drive My Car If It Fails Its MOT?

Almost a quarter of vehicles inspected in Q2 2020 failed their MOT. Moreover, around 40% of cars are estimated to fail their first MOT. 

If your vehicle is one of those, you are probably wondering if you can continue driving it.

You can still drive a car with a failed MOT as long as your previous MOT is valid and no serious defects were found. 

If serious problems were detected, though, you ought to get your vehicle repaired and retested as soon as possible, or else you could get 3 penalty points, a fine of up to £2,500, and a possible driving ban. 

If your vehicle fails an MOT, you’ll receive ‘Refusal of an MOT Test Certificate’ called VT30. The reasons for the failed test are laid out in this document, which declares it unroadworthy. 

You should save the VT30 certificate for the purpose of booking a retest or appealing the decision. The vehicle has to be fixed before you can use it again. 

Two MOT mechanics working on a car's engine at an MOT testing facility

Can I drive a car with no MOT to a garage?

The testing centre cannot stop you from driving away with a car that has failed the test. 

If the testing centre cannot make the repairs required, it’s a much better idea to have the vehicle towed to a garage that would carry out the necessary repairs. Driving a car with a failed MOT test, even to a garage, is still illegal and subject to the same no MOT penalty. 

Note: If you’ve been fined twice in the past three years for driving a vehicle in a dangerous condition, you could get a six-month driving ban.

Can I drive my car to its MOT without tax?

Yes, but only if you are driving to a pre-booked testing appointment. if your vehicle is not taxed and has no MOT you are not allowed to use it on roads. You will need to SORN your car with the DVLA.

Can You Tax a Car Without MOT?

Your vehicle cannot be taxed without a valid MOT, so once your car passes the test, make sure to pay road tax as well, otherwise, you could face a penalty for driving with no MOT or tax.

Is car insurance still valid without an MOT?

No. If your MOT is no longer valid, neither is your car insurance. 

In other words, if you get into an accident, you will have to pay for damages out of your own pocket, including damages or injuries caused to your person and your vehicle as well as other people and their cars. 

On top of that, if you are caught with no MOT and car insurance, you could get 6 to 8 points on your licence, an unlimited fine or a ban on driving. Your vehicle could also be impounded. For instance, in 2019 alone, over 137,000 uninsured vehicles were seized across the UK, or one impounded vehicle every four minutes.

Is There an Exception to Driving Without an MOT?

There are three different scenarios where you are allowed to be on the road without a valid MOT:

1. Your vehicle is less than 3 years old

If your vehicle is new, you are obliged to get an MOT certificate by the time it hits the 3rd anniversary. It is expected that relatively new vehicles will be in good condition. Hence there’s no need for an additional check.

An MOT certificate is required if you intend to buy a second-hand vehicle. When buying a used car, whether privately or from a dealer, be sure to check its servicing history and whether it has a valid MOT. 

The same rules apply if you are using a company car. It is on you to get the car serviced and inspected as these costs are not covered by a company car allowance

You may be interested in: Do classic cars need an MOT?

2. If you are driving to a pre-booked appointment

You are allowed to drive to the authorised test centre without an MOT as long as you have already booked an appointment at a nearby facility, preferably a month before the certificate’s expiry date. It is still compulsory to carry some kind of proof for the appointment just in case the police pull you over. 

Remember that you need to drive straight to the testing centre in this case. Getting a few chores done on the way is out of the question, as you could face a fine for driving with no MOT.

3. Exemption

Once your vehicle reaches 40 years, having an MOT becomes voluntary. This is the limit when your vehicle starts to be considered exempt from MOTs, but it is still important that you strive to maintain it in good condition. 

How Can the Police Tell if Your MOT Has Expired?

Police cars are equipped with Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR cameras). The ANPR camera can detect a vehicle without an MOT by scanning the registration number and checking it against the national database, telling authorities that you are driving a car without an MOT almost immediately. 

In addition to police cars, ANPR cameras can be found in car parks and on the roads, significantly increasing your chances of getting caught without an MOT.   

ANPR camera looking down a highway as vehicles pass by

What Else Do You Need to Know About the MOT Test?

Here are a few final important considerations regarding the MOT test.

How long does a MOT test take?

Normally it takes anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour for the MOT test to be completed. However, if your vehicle fails the MOT test, certain repairs will be required, and you’ll be able to pick it up the next day. If there is a serious defect in question, you will have to wait until your vehicle is repaired and safe to use again.

How much does an MOT test cost?

The cost of an MOT test depends on the testing centre and the type of vehicle. Prices can vary from one testing centre to the next, however, there’s a maximum fee that testing centres are allowed to charge. 

The maximum you can pay for a MOT test for cars is £54.85. For motorbikes, on the other hand, the maximum fee is set at £29.65.

A full list of maximum MOT fees can be found on the official government site.

Note: The MOT fee may not be high, but the cost of repairs can run you up to £833, and that is on top of other car running costs in the UK. So make sure you keep your vehicle in good shape to avoid high repair bills.  

What do they check at an MOT test? 

The MOT test includes dozens of checks and an overall car structure check to eliminate the chances of corrosion or rust causing additional damage. If there is rust affecting the brakes or steering, your vehicle might fail the test. 

Here are just some of the things MOT testing centres check for:

  • Brakes
  • Bodywork
  • Doors and openings 
  • Horn
  • Lights
  • Seats and seatbelts
  • Steering 
  • Wheels and tires 

The MOT test also looks into emissions, so if you are thinking about remapping your car, check with a test centre to see if and how it will affect your annual inspection. 

Want to learn more about what to check before an MOT. Check out our detailed guide!

An MOT mechanic is running diagnostics on a car's engine

How long is MOT valid for?

There are two ways to do it. 

Either simply check your MOT certificate and the expiration date or click on the online MOT expiry checker. It is free and simple to use. 

How can I make sure I don’t forget my MOT?

The best way to remember that your MOT test is due is to visit the official government site and enter your vehicle’s details. You will get an automatic pop up telling you the date of your next test. 

Another option is to just sign up and get a free MOT reminder via text or email. It’s also possible to get a free replacement online if you happen to have lost your MOT certificate. 

Final Words

An MOT is a legal obligation and a safety precaution as well. Driving a potentially dangerous vehicle puts yourself and others at risk, so make sure you keep it updated and keep yourself, other drivers, motorists and pedestrians on the road safe! 

Frequently Asked Questions And Their Answers

Do you get points for no MOT?

Yes. You will get 3 penalty points if your car’s condition is deemed dangerous. Otherwise, you will be fined up to 1,000 pounds and receive a penalty for driving without MOT.

​What happens if you miss your MOT date?

You can’t drive your vehicle, as you could be prosecuted if you are caught without a valid MOT. However, to avoid it from happening, you can either set a reminder in your calendar or sign up and get a free reminder via text or email.

What if I cannot personally take my vehicle to a testing centre?

If you cannot take your vehicle personally, for example, if you are self-isolating, either ask someone to take it for you (provided you insure them on the vehicle), have an MOT centre collect the car for you (some provide this service) or wait until you are able to take the car in yourself. Just don’t forget to book an appointment beforehand.

Can a car with no MOT be parked on the road?

No. You cannot park a car without a valid MOT on the road. Parking on private property or a garage, until you get your MOT renewed, is allowed. 

Can you report a car with no MOT?

This can and should only be done if you know that a vehicle without MOT is being driven on the road.

Can you sell a car without MOT?

The short answer is yes. You can legally sell a car with no MOT. This is usually done in cases when the owner of the car doesn’t have the finances to fix, therefore, decides to sell it.

Can I drive my car without MOT if it is booked in?

Having a pre-booked appointment is one of the times you are permitted to be on public roads without an MOT. Make sure to book an appointment before your certificate runs out, as driving a car without an MOT is illegal. Even if you are accidentally driving without MOT, you could still get fined.

Bojana is my name and writing is my game. I am a content writer from Bitola who is always interested in the latest research in almost all areas of life. I have a Bachelor’s degree in English literature and a perfectionist character, both of which help me find the most accurate data and information available. Although I have my head stuck in studies and reports most of the time, I still have a bit of free time during which I enjoy knitting and watching classic 90’s Disney movies.