What is an MOT Test?

The MOT test as it is now known was originally the Ministry of Transport Test and although the Ministry of Transport no longer has direct responsibility for vehicle testing, it is now in the hands of The Vehicle and Operator Services Agency (VOSA), a QUANGO created in 2003, the name stuck and the general public now usually refer to the original title.

The test was introduced in 1960 as a very basic safety check in an attempt to address the very real safety concerns at the time. In the early 60's many vehicles were regularly driven with critical defects, causing many serious accidents resulting in fatalities and serious injury.

The MOT test applies to the vast majority of road vehicles, with Motor Cycles, Trikes, Quad Bikes, Three Wheeled Vehicles, Cars, Dual Purpose Vehicles, Motor homes, Vans and Light Commercial Vehicles (up to 3500 kg Gross Vehicle Weight) and Passenger vehicles (up to 17 seats) usually tested in privately owned Test Stations, while larger Goods Vehicles and larger Passenger Vehicles are tested by VOSA staff either in VOSA owned and operated Test Stations or in a small number of Private Stations. A very small number of vehicles are exempt from test with the list of exemptions being reduced all the time, current exemptions apply mainly to Agricultural and some very limited used vehicles.

The MOT Test Checks whether your vehicle meets the minimum legal requirements for those items required to be tested under section 45 of the Road Traffic Act 1988. It does not tell you how long your vehicle will continue to meet these minimum requirements, It does not check that the vehicle is fully meets all legal requirements. You could be prosecuted if you are driving a vehicle that is in an un-roadworthy condition.

The List of Testable Items tested has massively increased over the years as The Ministry of Transport and more latterly VOSA have identified issues that may affect the safety of passengers and pedestrians, with additions in recent years of items that affect the application of law enforcement and items that may affect the environment.

Here is a list of the significant changes over the last 50 years.

  • 1960 Introduction of a Braking, Steering and Lighting Equipment Inspection.
  • 1968 Introduction of a Tyre Check.
  • 1977 Introduction of checks for windscreen wipers and washers, direction indicators, stoplights, horns, exhaust system, and condition of the body structure and chassis together with a more detailed check on seat belts.
  • 1991 Introduction of checks of the exhaust emissions for petrol engined vehicles, together with checks on the anti-lock braking system, rear wheel bearings, rear wheel steering (where appropriate) and rear seat belts.
  • 1992 Introduction of a stricter tyre tread depth requirement for most vehicles.
  • 1993 Introduction of checks of the rear fog, hazard-warning and number plate lamps; and of the driver's view of the road, body condition, body security, load security, doors, registration plates, fuel system and mirrors.
  • 1994 Introduction of a check of emissions for diesel engined vehicles, after minor procedural changes were put into place.
  • 1996 New and stricter emissions checks for spark ignition engined vehicles.
  • 1998 Seat belt installation check introduced for minibuses and buses.
  • 2009 Towbar check introduced.
  • 2011 Stricter emissions check for diesel engined vehicles.

With over 40 years experience in testing vehicles, the UK has considerably more experience in this field than any other country worldwide. We currently carry out over 30 million tests every year a figure that is increasing by around 10% per year, these tests are conducted in around 20500 test stations by approximately 70,000 testers.

The Test Certificate confirms that at the time of the test, without dismantling any part of the vehicle, that the vehicle met the minimum acceptable environmental and road safety standards required by the MOT regulations. This does not mean that the vehicle will be in a roadworthy condition for the length of time the certificate is valid. In addition the MOT Test Certificate is no guarantee as to the general mechanical condition of the vehicle. The Test does not cover the condition of the engine, clutch or gearbox. There are additional requirements if the vehicle is used as TAXI; these requirements are subject to an additional test to ensure that it is compliant with regulations laid down by the Local Authority.

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Why do I need an MOT Certificate?
When Does an MOT need to be done?
Can I Get a Duplicate MOT Certificate?
How Can I Check if my MOT is Genuine or Valid?
How can I obtain MOT Test History?
Can I use my MOT Test Certificate to Tax my Vehicle online?
Where can I get an MOT Test Done?
Can I Transfer my MOT onto another vehicle?
Who supervises the scheme?
What if I'm not happy with Testing Station or their Results?
What are the different Classes and Fees?
What is tested for an MOT Test?