MOT test to remain at three years from registration

Vehicles will continue to need an MOT test after three years, following the closing of a consultation into frequency changes by the UK government.

Plans had been drawn up to move the MOT test to four years after registration, with a potential to move to a 3-2-2 system suggested as well. Now, the government has responded to the consultation launched last year, stating that it is listening to drivers, and the current 3-1-1 frequency will remain in place.

“The issue of safety was raised by a large number of respondents, both from MOT testers and non-MOT testers such as motorists and other businesses, with particular attention given to the condition of safety-critical components such as tyres and brakes, which are essential to a vehicle’s ability to navigate safely,” the response states. 

“Due to these components being inherently friction-dependent, they experience wear throughout their use, and can wear below their safe limits without the knowledge of the vehicle owner if a sufficiently early inspection is not carried out. Although the legal obligation to maintain a vehicle in a roadworthy condition is that of the vehicle owner, there continues to be statistically significant failure rates in three-year-old vehicles.”

Concerns were also raised about electric vehicles (EVs) and their tyre-wear rates. As these cars are heavier than their petrol and diesel counterparts, they suffer from increased tyre wear, especially if non-EV tyres, which benefit from a stronger construction, are used. 

Cost of MOT test proportionate

One respondent to the consultation, which was launched in January 2023, stated that the price of an MOT test is insignificant compared to average motoring costs. 

“With the DVSA maximum price set at a shade under £55 per test, the price of an MOT amounts to little over 1% of the annual motoring costs of the average household… To put the test fee into perspective, at the current level of £54.85, it roughly equates to two-thirds of the cost of a single 55-litre tank of fuel (£81 for petrol and £92 for diesel), or only 24% to 29% more than just the VAT and duty elements on that tank of fuel alone… When considering the savings that might accrue to households from avoiding the three-year MOT test, we note that the saving would only apply for one year in any vehicle’s lifetime.”

Analysis from the AA suggests that an annual MOT can potentially save drivers between £200 and £400 as picking up developing faults each year means drivers aren’t hit with higher repair bills further down the road.

Changes would be ‘unfair’

The results of the consultation were comprehensive, with 83.58% of those responding stating that the first MOT test should remain at three years. Just 9% were in favour of moving the test to four years, while 6.74% were happy with a suggestion to move the first MOT to five years. 

The most common reason for the need to keep the MOT test at its present configuration was down to safety, with one retailer representative highlighting that today, new vehicles drive further than older ones, and with MOT test failure rates increasing with mileage driven, the first three years of a vehicle’s life can be the most important in terms of safety.

The consultation also provided an insight into the habits of motorists, with 49.13% of individuals stating that they have an MOT and service carried out, albeit at different times. A total of 36.74% said they have an MOT and service carried out at the same time, while 10.83% did not have a fixed approach. Just 3.05% said they did not get their vehicles serviced.

When it comes to undertaking service work, 65.15% said they would continue to have work done on their vehicle annually even without prompting by an MOT notification. A total of 71.43% said that if their vehicle had a fault, they would seek a repair before its MOT test due date. 

When it came to businesses that carry out MOTs responses, 19.47% of these stated that it would be completely unfair to assume that an extension to the first MOT would free staff to carry out other work, while 7.75% said it would be unfair. Only 1.06% said it would be a fair assumption. 

Assessing diesel emissions

The Department for Transport proposed introducing particle number (PN) testing for a more robust emissions assessment of modern diesel vehicles. Diesel vehicles affected would be those made with post-2013 powertrains.

Survey respondents were asked whether they believed that introducing PN testing was the right approach. Of those who expressed a view, most were in favour of introducing PN testing, with 40.6% backing the stance, while only 21.83% did not support the move.

The main argument for the introduction by respondents was based around a reduction in air pollution. In addition, a number stated that they had seen an increase in vehicles which had their diesel particulate filters removed. Testing particle numbers would stop this practice.

Industry responds

“We have listened to drivers and industry, and keeping MOTs in their current form shows once again that we are on the side of motorists,” stated Roads Minister, Guy Opperman.

“By offering clarity on MOT tests, alongside our recent street works consultation and unprecedented £8.3 billion to resurface roads, we are helping motorists drive with peace of mind and ensuring Britain’s roads continue to be some of the safest in the world.

With the constantly improving technology of modern-day cars and electric vehicles (EVs), the Department for Transport will continue to work closely with industry stakeholders and drivers to establish a programme of longer-term reform for MOTs. 

“To ensure they remain fit for the future, the government is exploring a more effective test for diesel particulate emissions, whether further improvements could be made to the MOT for electric vehicles and the transfer of some larger zero-emissions vans to more standard, car-style MOT testing.”

Mike Hawes, SMMT Chief Executive, added: “Government and the automotive industry have worked together to ensure the UK has some of the world’s safest roads. The decision to retain the existing MOT system is the right one, helping maintain this proud record and giving drivers confidence in car and van roadworthiness. 

“With vehicle technology continuing to evolve at pace in terms of both safety and environmental performance, we will maintain this collaboration with government and other stakeholders so that the MOT continues to be fit for purpose, helping Britain improve what is already a strong road safety record.”

Hayley Pells, Policy Lead at the IMI said: “We welcome the Government’s commitment to maintaining the first MOT at three years and annual testing thereafter. This aligns with our findings on the importance of regular checks for road safety and vehicle maintenance. 

“The decision to further explore modernising tests for electric and automated vehicles is a positive step towards addressing the unique challenges and advancements in vehicle technology. We also appreciate the focus on diesel emissions, which is crucial for environmental concerns. The conclusion of the consultation also underscores the need for ongoing adaptations in MOT testing to keep pace with rapidly evolving vehicle technologies and environmental considerations.”

Mark Field, IAAF Chief Executive, said: “Plans to extend the first test from three to four years have been met with the full power of the entire automotive industry including motorists, who have been united in their view that extending the test frequency risks driver safety.

“Every argument put forward to change the date of the first test has been overcome. An extended test won’t save motorists money and will in fact generate higher bills from worsening, unchecked problems. While it is right to consult on modernising the test process, the debate over the test frequency, the third in over a decade, should never be on the table.”

Stuart James, Chief Executive of the Independent Garage Association, commented on the decision, saying, “We are pleased that the government has listened to our concerns and opted to retain the three-year time period to first MOT. Public safety is paramount, and the decision aligns with our commitment to protecting motorists by ensuring the continued effectiveness of MOT testing in identifying potential safety issues as early as possible.

“The IGA looks forward to contributing to discussions on the future of MOT testing and other reforms. Our commitment to promoting road safety and protecting consumers remains unwavering, and we will actively participate in shaping policies that benefit both motorists and the industry.”

Stuart Lovatt, TyreSafe Chair, said: “This is a very welcome announcement from the Department for Transport and we applaud them for listening to the views of road safety organisations such as TyreSafe for factoring in the risks posed to road safety in extending the first test to four years. While TyreSafe supports any initiatives which helps reduce cost to road users and minimise their impact on the environment, the DfT has rightly pointed out the ‘saving’ of an MoT test fee is marginal when compared to the potential costs driving with defects can have on people’s budgets.

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