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MOT could move to every two years under cost-of-living suggestions

The UK’s annual MOT is once again under threat, as ministers look to ease the cost-of-living crisis by reducing the need for the regular checks to every two years.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson is seeking proposals to put forward next month, that would help to reduce costs for households. With energy and fuel prices rising, alongside increasing retail pricing due to various supply issues, the UK public is facing higher bills and daily costs than ever.

Therefore, Johnson is seeking ways to help reduce the burden, and will chair a meeting to look a domestic and economic strategy, which will agree measures to be implemented across various cabinet departments.

Threat to the MOT

At a cabinet meeting on Tuesday, it was reported that Transport Secretary Grant Shapps proposed that the MOT be carried out on vehicles every two years, rather than annually. This, he stated, would halve the long-term costs of the test. 

This is not the first time the UK’s yearly safety check has been threatened. In 2018, after a period of consultation, the government agreed against extending the requirement for the first MOT to four years, and adopting a 4-1-1 policy. Prior to this, there were suggestions around moving the MOT to a two-yearly requirement, which the aftermarket strongly fought against.

More recently, the MOT extension, which allowed drivers a six-month grace period during the height of COVID-19, has caused headaches for the market, as appointment slots fill up rapidly from September, but remain almost empty between April and August.

Meanwhile in Northern Ireland, a Call for Evidence has suggested most consumers agree with the country moving to a biennial MOT system, with a consultation now expected to take place. 

Industry responds

It is difficult to see how a £55 saving once a year will help towards easing the cost-of-living crisis, especially as drivers are aware of the expiry date on their MOT, and will be able to prepare for the cost. Maintaining a yearly check will also help garages spot components that are started to wear and will require replacement soon, meaning repair work can be spread out, rather than required in one go.

Stuart James, IGA Chief Executive commented: “In our opinion this whole plan is dangerous, unwanted and unreasonable. This proposal has been scrutinised at least four times that I have known of in the last 15 years, and every time it has been deemed detrimental to road safety.
 
“It is a fact that in times of economic hardship, motorists cut back on servicing their cars and it is the annual MOT that has kept the UK’s road safety at high levels thanks to the vital safety checks it carries out. Saving the cost of an MOT biannually is not worth the price of national road safety.
 
“This proposal will also fail to save motorists any money long-term as defects will go unnoticed for longer, which at best will cause more damage to vehicles and increase repair costs, and at worst cause unnecessary breakdowns and accidents.”
 
The IGA will be writing to the Transport Minister to make its position clear and explain how none of the dangers and risks have changed since previous proposals to reduce the frequency of the MOT test.

Mark Field, IAAF Chief Executive, added: “Each time the MOT test frequency has been called into question, it has been proven beyond doubt that extending the test frequency would actually mean an increase in repair costs for drivers, insurance premiums and harmful emissions, as well as reducing road safety as there will be an increase in defective vehicles on UK roads. It would also be a significant blow to thousands of independent garages and the entire automotive supply chain, who were able to remain open throughout the coronavirus pandemic, ensuring the safe and affordable mobility of essential workers and members of the public.”

Hayley Pells, Owner of Avia Autos and IAAF Garage Section head said: “It is surprising, given the decision to end the  six-month extension during the pandemic prematurely (when it was actively demonstrated how important this cost-effective check is to road safety), that this VAT-free inspection is considered as poor value for money. In order to maintain the legal obligation of the motorist for road worthiness, the only option would be a VAT-applied solution. I question if this is of better value to the motorist and have concerns regarding the safety of more vulnerable road users. Approximately one in three presentations for MOT testing in class 4 fail, and out of those failures – around 30 percent fail on brakes.”

Mike Hawes, SMMT Chief Executive, commented: “The industry shares the widespread concern over rising prices and the squeeze on household incomes. Safety, however, must always come first and, whilst today’s vehicles are more reliable than ever, regular MOTs ensure safety-critical components such as brakes and tyres, which wear out as a result of normal operation, are properly inspected and maintained. Stretching MOT intervals will undermine the safety net at a time when vehicle miles driven are increasing. To ensure the safety of our roads, drivers, passengers, pedestrians and other road users, inspections and maintenance must be carried out annually following their first presentation in year three.”

Responding to Shapps’ comments, the AA stated: “Though well intended, moving the yearly £55 spend on an MOT to every two years could make costs worse for drivers with higher repair bills, make our roads more dangerous and would put jobs in the garage industry at risk.”

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