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MOT fines explained

14th July 2021

No-one likes to hear the news that their car has failed its MOT. In the past, this meant a trip to the garage for repairs, a re-test and, if you continued driving without an MOT, a fine up to £1,000. With more motorists driving without an MOT than ever, steeper fines have been implemented in the last few years, as well as new terminology to classify vehicle defects. Keep reading our guide to discover the three main categories for vehicle faults and the penalties you could incur for driving without a valid MOT.

Can I drive without an MOT?

Generally, it’s illegal to drive without a valid MOT certificate, as your vehicle has not met the environmental and road safety standards required by law. However, there are a few exceptions to this, such as if you’re driving to a pre-arranged MOT test.

Many motorists drive without a valid MOT because they think they won’t get caught out. To crack down on this, the new law means that MOT failures are automatically stored on a national database – so driving after an MOT with major or dangerous failures is strictly against the law. Not only will you risk being pulled over by the police, but you can even be caught by certain static roadside cameras, too.

MOT law

The old MOT test saw vehicles awarded with either a pass, a pass with some advisory faults, or a fail. In 2018, MOT law changed in line with the EU directive known as the European Union Roadworthiness Package, which uses the same terminology for categorising faults. As part of your MOT test, vehicle faults will be classified in one of three ways:

  • Dangerous – this results in an immediate MOT failure.
  • Major – this results in an immediate MOT failure.
  • Minor – your vehicle will pass its MOT test, but an advisory note will be provided with recommendations to make your vehicle safe.

Dangerous faults

If a car fails its MOT and is categorised as dangerous, this means there’s an immediate risk to road safety, and/or the car will have a serious impact on the environment. A dangerous fault could be having no functioning brake lights, or a steering wheel so loose that it’s likely to become detached.

Even if your previous MOT is still in date, you cannot drive a dangerous car until it is repaired and retested for its MOT. Driving a dangerous car will result in three points on your license and a £2,500 penalty. If you receive this fine twice over a period of three years, you could also face a six-month driving ban.

Major faults

A major fault is a defect that may affect the vehicle’s safety, put other road users at risk or have an impact on the environment. For example, if two of the three brake lights are inactive, this will result in a major defect on the MOT. Like with a dangerous fault, your vehicle will immediately fail its MOT test – and the DVSA advises that you should get any defects repaired immediately.

However, unlike vehicles with a dangerous fault, you can drive a vehicle classified as major if your old MOT is still valid, because you took your vehicle in for an MOT early. But your vehicle does have faults that may make it unroadworthy and, if stopped by the police, you could be prosecuted.

Minor faults

Minor is classified as having no significant effect on the safety of the vehicle or impact on the environment. The DVSA advises that it should be repaired as soon as possible, although a car with a minor defect will pass the test. An example of a minor fault is if a car has three brake lights and one of these isn’t functioning.

Latest checks to be aware of

In 2020, additional checks were added as part of MOT defect categories. These include everything from under-inflated tyres to contaminable brake fluid and brake pad warning lights. For a full list of everything that’s checked in an MOT test, as well as common MOT failures you can try to avoid, take a look at our MOT Test Guide.

If your car fails its MOT…

You will be presented with a VT30 ‘Refusal of an MOT Test Certificate’ – which informs you that your vehicle has not passed the test. This certificate also lists the reasons why your vehicle failed. Check out our helpful guide about what happens if your vehicle fails its MOT to discover what to do next.

Book in for your MOT test with Merityre

Don't risk putting yourself and others in danger by driving without an MOT. It’s simply not worth it – and it’s likely that you will be fined. Our fully trained team of specialists will expertly carry out a comprehensive MOT test on your car. Simply locate your nearest branch today, and book in for your MOT test.