Is there a grace period for an MOT?

    All vehicles need valid certification that they meet the safety and emissions standards outlined by the Ministry of Transport (MOT) to legally drive on public UK roads. Contrary to popular belief, there’s no grace period for renewing lapsed MOT certificates. 

    Driving with an expired MOT certificate is illegal and can result in fines and legal penalties. The only exception is if you are on your way to a pre-booked MOT retest or garage repair appointment. 

    Knowing a car or van’s MOT status is essential to assessing its roadworthiness, as well as for getting the best resale price if and when you choose to buy or sell.  

    Why exactly is this the case? We explore the ins-and-outs of MOT policy to help you make the best sales and purchasing decisions.

    MOT check

    Key MOT dates

    The MOT exam is a comprehensive vehicle assessment designed to ensure that all cars and vans on British roads are safe, fully functional, and adhere to the latest UK emissions standards. Knowing the key dates for MOT compliance is crucial for ensuring your vehicle’s roadworthiness – and staying on the right side of the law. 

    Years registered

    In England, Scotland, and Wales, all passenger vehicles that have been registered for three or more years must undergo an annual MOT exam. In Northern Ireland, cars and vans take their first MOT exam after being registered for four years and every year after. 

    New and newly purchased vehicles under three years old do not need to take the MOT exam. On the other side of the age spectrum, cars and vans over 40 years old and registered as ‘historic’ are exempt from the MOT.

    MOT certificate length

    The annual MOT exam typically takes around 45 minutes at a qualified MOT testing centre. Once your vehicle passes the exam, you will be issued a VT20 MOT Test Pass certificate and can continue driving as normal. 

    MOT Certificates are valid for one calendar year from the date of issue. The expiry date is printed on the current MOT certificate and can also be found via our free MOT Checker tool

    Remember: you’ll need to renew your MOT before its expiration to keep your vehicle legal and roadworthy. 

    Renewal timeframe

    You can renew your MOT up to one month before it expires while keeping the original expiry month and day (making that one less thing to remember!). Renewing early ensures continuity in MOT certification, helping you avoid last-minute rushes and ensuring your vehicle is safe and road-legal.

    Consequences of driving without an MOT

    Driving without an MOT is a criminal offence.

    Driving a vehicle without a valid MOT certificate can lead to serious consequences as it’s seen as putting the safety of you, your passengers, and bystanders at risk.

    If caught driving without a valid MOT, you could face a variety of penalties, including: 

    🧑‍⚖️ Legal penalties

    • Fines of up to £1,000 (£2,500 if driving a vehicle deemed ‘dangerous’ by the MOT)
    • Up to three penalty points on your driving licence
    • Vehicle seizure and impoundment

    🚨 Safety risks

    • Increased risk of accidents or breakdowns due to lack of essential safety and emission checks

    📝 Insurance implications

    • Potential voidance of necessary insurance coverage, meaning you would take on liability for any and all damages

    💰Financial burdens

    • Significant repair costs to meet MOT standards and fix vehicle damage 
    • Decrease in resale value as car may be seen as a riskier investment, impacting potential future transactions

    Exceptions to MOT renewal and testing

    Aside from vehicle age, the only exceptions to annual MOT tests – meaning the only times when you can legally drive without a valid MOT certificate – are as follows:

    • To a pre-booked MOT appointment at a certified testing centre
    • To a pre-booked repair appointment at a certified garage, mechanic, or testing centre

    Maintaining roadworthiness year round

    Stay ahead of the MOT by keeping your vehicle in shape all year long.

    Don’t let the condition of your vehicle sneak up on you. Keeping your car in top shape is the best way to prepare for the MOT. This includes: 

    • Scheduled maintenance – Follow your car manufacturer’s recommended service schedule. Regular servicing addresses issues that will likely be flagged by the MOT.
    • Fluid checks – Regularly check and top up fluids such as oil, coolant, brake fluid, and windshield washer fluid. This helps maintain optimal vehicle performance.
    • Tyre care – Check tyre pressure regularly and ensure they’re properly inflated. Also, monitor tread depth and replace worn-out tires promptly.
    • Brake system inspection – Regularly inspect brake pads, discs, and brake fluid levels. Faulty brakes are a safety hazard and can lead to MOT failure.
    • Battery health – Check your battery’s health and terminals regularly, or ask a qualified mechanic. Cold weather can affect battery performance, so be proactive in checking its condition.
    • Lights – Ensure all lights and signals are working correctly. Faulty lights are the top reason for MOT failure and can compromise safety.
    • Cleanliness and interior care – Regularly clean both the interior and exterior of your vehicle. This helps prevent rust and deterioration, which can damage your vehicle’s functionality in the long run.
    MOT check

    Late for your MOT? Follow these steps

    It happens: you blink and miss your MOT expiry date. As driving without a valid MOT is illegal and potentially dangerous, the first thing to do is stop driving immediately.

    Once your car is parked, schedule an MOT test as soon as possible. Remember: you can’t legally drive your MOT-less vehicle unless you’re driving to a pre-booked MOT retest or repair appointment, so the sooner you get an appointment slot, the better. 

    Before the test, make sure your MOT paperwork, including your V5C logbook and latest MOT certificate, is in order. We also suggest checking the condition of your vehicle to ensure that you won’t fall victim to some of the top reasons for MOT failure, many of which are simply, at-home fixes. 

    If your last MOT exam noted any issues, get the necessary repairs done promptly by a qualified mechanic. Be sure to keep all receipts. 

    Finally, book an MOT retest at a certified MOT test centre. Many centres offer free or discounted retests within a certain time frame of MOT expiry – call to see if this option is available to you. Once your vehicle passes the retest, you’re legally allowed to drive it again with a valid MOT certificate.


    What happens if my MOT is a day late?

    It is illegal to drive with an expired MOT, even if your MOT is overdue by only a day. The only exception is if you’re heading to a pre-booked MOT appointment or to a garage appointment to fix issues noted during your last MOT. 

    You risk fines of up to £1,000, penalty points on your licence, and even a total driving ban if you drive without a valid MOT.

    Can I drive my car for 10 days after MOT failure?

    No, you cannot legally drive your car at all after your current MOT certificate expires or after your vehicle fails its MOT exam. The only exception is if you’re going to a pre-booked MOT retest or a garage repair appointment. 

    Don’t risk it: the fines for MOT violation can be severe. 

    Can you claim insurance without an MOT?

    Generally, car insurance claims can be made even if your vehicle does not have a valid MOT. However, insurers may investigate collisions and deny claims if they find that MOT non-compliance contributed to an accident. Check your insurance policy for more specifics on how MOT compliance affects your coverage.

    How can I check my car’s MOT status?

    Motorway’s new MOT Checker allows you to check the status of your vehicle’s MOT for free. 

    Enter your vehicle registration number into our free tool and tap the ‘Check MOT’ button to get an instant response on if your MOT is valid. We also provide a countdown for when your current certificate runs out.  

    With the MOT Checker, you can explore your vehicle’s full MOT history and, if your car possesses a valid MOT certificate, set reminders for when to schedule your next exam. 

    Alternatively, you can see your car’s MOT status in its V5C logbook or via the DVLA website

    MOT check

    Ready to sell?

    Need to sell your car or check your MOT status, or want to understand more about documentation or maintenance? 

    Check out more of our guides here, covering everything from the paperwork you need when buying and selling, to various notices you may need to file with the UK’s driver and vehicle licensing agency.