How old does a car have to be to be MOT exempt?

    In the UK, vehicles over 40 years old are generally exempt from annual Ministry of Transport (MOT) testing and road tax, provided they have not been substantially changed. 

    If you do need to check an MOT for a vehicle, you can use our handy tool which provides all the information you need.

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    However, you must have the proper tax exemption documents to show that your car is a historic or classic vehicle and does not need an MOT. Otherwise, continuing to drive it can result in fines of up to  £2,500 and three penalty points on your licence for using a vehicle in a dangerous condition.

    Not having the right MOT and road tax paperwork can also drastically decrease your older vehicle’s resale value and make it a tough sell down the line. 

    MOT vehicle age exemption

    Generally, passenger vehicles and vans over 40 years old are exempt from annual MOT testing.

    According to the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA)’s 40-year rule, non-commercial vehicles do not need to get an MOT if they were first registered 40 years ago in the UK and have had no ‘substantial changes’ made in the past 30 years. 

    This exemption operates on a rolling basis, meaning it applies to vehicles registered more than 40 years ago that have retained their original chassis, body shell, engine, and transmission, or only had minor alterations. 

    So, if your car was built and registered before 1 January 1984, you are MOT exempt and can stop paying vehicle tax from 1 April 2024.

    However, you must register your older car or van under the Historic Vehicle taxation class with the DVLA. Putting your vehicle into the ‘historic tax class’ grants you a vehicle tax exemption because of its age. 

    Without regular MOT testing, vehicle issues may go unnoticed, increasing the risk of accidents or breakdowns. Owners of MOT exempt vehicles must ensure that their cars are roadworthy through regular maintenance and checks. Failure to maintain roadworthiness can result in legal consequences, including £2,500 in fines and penalties for driving an unsafe vehicle.

    It is also illegal to drive in the UK without car insurance. This is true even if your vehicle is MOT exempt. Specialist insurance policies tailored to classic or vintage vehicles may offer additional benefits or coverage specific to MOT exempt vehicles.

    Determining substantial changes

    Cars that have been registered for over 40 years do not need to have annual MOT tests if they have not had large-scale modifications.

    Older vehicles that have made ‘substantial changes’ may not qualify for MOT exemption, even if they have been registered for over 40 years. According to the DVLA, ‘substantial changes’ refer to modifications or alterations that significantly affect a car’s structure, functionality, and safety. 

    Certain components are exempt from this ‘substantial changes’ criteria and minor alterations can be made without affecting MOT exemption eligibility. These include changes to: 

    ✅ Brakes – Minor upgrades or improvements to brake components, such as brake pads, discs, or lines.

    ✅ Suspension – Changes to suspension components for improved comfort or handling, provided they do not compromise safety.

    ✅ Electrical systems – Upgrades to the electrical system, such as installing modern lighting or entertainment systems.

    ✅ Interior – Cosmetic changes to the interior, such as upholstery or dashboard modifications.

    You can book an MOT for your new car up to one month (minus a day) before the expiry date on your current MOT certificate. Tests must be performed at certified MOT assessment centres.

    Booking in advance helps you secure a convenient appointment and ensures that your vehicle remains compliant with legal requirements. Plus, booking is easy! Simply find an approved MOT test centre near you, schedule an appointment with your reg, and plan to arrive on time with all necessary documents, including V5C logbook.

    The MOT test usually takes 45 minutes to an hour, although timing varies.

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    MOT exemption declaration process

    Before declaring your vehicle as MOT exempt, we recommend consulting with professional mechanics for a full-body car inspection. This inspection will assess your vehicle’s condition and determine if it meets the DVLA’s criteria for exemption. Additionally, review your vehicle’s documentation, including its registration details and any previous MOT certificates, to confirm its age and modification history.

    If your vehicle meets all MOT exemption guidelines, notify the DVLA of your vehicle’s MOT exemption status. This typically involves filling out a declaration form and submitting it to the DVLA.

    Then, update your vehicle’s taxation class to reflect its exempt status from MOT testing as a historic or classic vehicle. This is a legal requirement to continue driving on UK roads. 

    Remember to keep all DVLA correspondence and documentation about your exemption status for future reference! 

    Additional considerations: 

    While consultation is recommended to ensure compliance and eligibility, there may be exceptions or specific circumstances where additional consultation is necessary. 

    Consider seeking specialist advice if your vehicle has undergone extensive modifications or restoration work. Speaking to historic vehicle clubs or associations may also be helpful if your vehicle belongs to a particular make or model with unique considerations.

    Financial benefits of MOT and road tax exemptions

    Qualifying for MOT and road tax exemptions as an older vehicle can lead to many savings for both car owners and people looking to sell. Highlights include: 

    • Tax and testing costs – exemption from annual MOT test and vehicle taxes save historic vehicle owners money and can reduce overall ownership costs.
    • Insurance premiums – While all UK vehicles are required to have insurance, premiums for older vehicles are often lower due to their lower resale market values. This can lead to savings on comprehensive coverage.
    • Maintenance and repairs – While older vehicles may require more maintenance, overall costs can be lower than financing and servicing newer cars, especially with DIY repairs and aftermarket parts.
    • Value over time – Older vehicles are past the initial period of steep value depreciation, meaning that they may maintain more stable value over time. This can lead to potential savings when selling or trading in the vehicle.
    • Resale price – If you’re in the market for a used car, you can save significantly by purchasing an older vehicle as advanced mileage and wear-and-tear typically contribute to value depreciation for older cars and vans. 


    Are vehicles over 25 years old tax exempt in the UK?

    That depends. Vehicles over 25 years old may qualify for Vehicle Excise Duty (VED) exemption in the UK, if they’re considered classic. Check with the DVLA for eligibility requirements and necessary documentation.

    How do I get a MOT exemption?

    To get a MOT exemption, ensure your vehicle is over 40 years old, hasn’t undergone substantial alterations, and declare it with the DVLA. If you are unsure of the age or any modifications made to your car, consult a mechanic.

    How can I check if my car is tax exempt?

    Verify your car’s tax exemption status by checking its vehicle details on the DVLA website. Eligibility depends on factors like age, emissions, and vehicle type.

    How can I track the value of my car?

    If you’re not sure what your car’s value is to begin with, it’s hard to know how much money mileage might take off the price.

    All vehicles depreciate at varying rates, with no rule of averages accurately describing any one car’s changing value. Motorway’s Car Value Tracker provides a free, reliable monthly price alert for up to six vehicles at once. 

    Follow changes to your car’s value to choose the best time to sell, and make informed choices about investments in your car’s maintenance.

    Need to sell your car?

    Want to learn more about owning, maintaining, and selling your car? Check out more of our guides here, covering everything from Clean Air Zones to car tax, and plate changes to part exchange. You can also check an MOT for any vehicle with our useful new tool.