How to check if your car or van’s MOT is up to date

    Keeping your car or van well-maintained is crucial, not least because it’s the best way of ensuring your own driving safety. The Ministry of Transport test – more commonly known as the ‘MOT’ – checks your vehicle’s environmental and safety standards. It is also a legal requirement.

    Car with up to date MOT on the countryside road

    How do you go about performing an MOT check to ensure your vehicle is up to date? In this guide, we’ll look at why MOTs are important, what they check, the potential costs involved, and the quickest way to confirm your vehicle’s status.

    What is the MOT and why do I need it?

    An MOT is a periodic maintenance inspection conducted annually on vehicles aged three years and older in mainland UK – four in Northern Ireland.

    A certified MOT examiner undertakes this examination, concentrating on critical aspects of the vehicle such as the brakes, lighting system, and even the windscreen wipers. They also conduct an emissions assessment to verify the vehicle’s compliance with established standards and check the engine is running as efficiently as possible.

    The MOT examination is a pass/fail system that assesses the minimum operational requirements necessary to ensure the safety of your vehicle on the road. However, it also involves a comprehensive list of checks and inspections. Including:

    • Internal checks – Within the vehicle’s cabin, the examiner will check the condition of the lights, the seats (and seat belts), the functioning of the steering wheel, the steering column, and the doors. It also looks at the condition of the internal mirrors, the accuracy of the speedometer, and even the effectiveness of the horn.
    • External inspection – Examiners will also check the vehicle’s exterior as part of the MOT. They will look at the number plates, lamps, and indicators, and then examine the car’s bodywork, tyres, and wheels. They will also check the condition of the wipers, exterior mirrors, and windows.
    • Under-the-vehicle checks – An examination of the car’s underside will also be conducted. Examiners will look at the steering and drive shafts and evaluate the condition of the car’s suspension and shock absorbers. A thorough check will be carried out on the brakes, wheel bearings, and exhaust and fuel systems.
    • Under-the-bonnet inspection – MOT examiners will also look under the bonnet to assess the car’s electrical wiring and battery health.

    Why verify a vehicle’s MOT status?

    A vehicle’s MOT history provides crucial insights into its past, any mechanical issues, and whether it has been properly maintained by previous owners.

    It is also a legal requirement. You’re only allowed to drive a vehicle without a valid MOT on the road if you’re getting it repaired or you’re going to a pre-arranged MOT test. Otherwise, if you drive on UK roads without a valid MOT, it can result in fines of up to £2,500, three penalty points on your driving licence, and potentially a driving ban.

    How do I check my car’s MOT status?

    Verifying the MOT status of your car, or any vehicle for that matter, is a straightforward process.

    The easiest way to get an MOT check is to head to TotalCarCheck. Simply, enter the vehicle’s reg number in the search box, and tap on the ‘Click to Check’ button. This will bring up a lot of details about the vehicle – including a display of the make, model, and colour to confirm its identity.

    TotalCarCheck's free MOT history checking tool. Just enter your reg.
    The easiest way to get an MOT history check is to visit TotalCarCheck.

    To see the vehicle’s MOT history, scroll down the page to the heading ‘MOT’, where you’ll see the vehicle’s MOT status. If the car is in possession of a valid MOT certificate, you’ll also be provided with the exact date that the vehicle’s next MOT is required.

    Further down the page, you’ll see even more information regarding the vehicle’s MOT. Under the heading ‘MOT History & Mileage’, you’ll find a comprehensive list of all the MOT tests that a vehicle has had in its lifetime.

    Assuming the vehicle is more than three years old (or four in Northern Ireland), this information will be dated by year and will provide you with mileage readings and details about any advisory or failure notices that were recorded by the tester during the vehicle’s MOTs.

    Why is it important to check when your MOT is due?

    There are several reasons why everyone should check their MOT due date, including:

    • It’s a legal requirement – Every driver must obtain an MOT to drive their vehicle in public, as it ensures the safety of other road users, passengers, pedestrians, and the road infrastructure.
    • If you don’t have an up-to-date MOT, you won’t be able to drive your car on public roads – If your car has missed its MOT date, you can only drive it to an MOT testing station or workshop. If you are stopped by the police and cannot provide an appointment letter, your journey will be considered unlawful. So, if you do miss your MOT date, it’s crucial that you drive carefully to the test centre and remember your paperwork.
    • It will give you time to identify issues – Many drivers arrange a pre-MOT service for their car or inspect their vehicles themselves before the due date. By knowing when your MOT is due, you can carry out all necessary checks and be more confident that you will pass without incurring any MOT failure codes, potentially saving money in the process.

    How much does an MOT cost?

    The UK government sets the maximum cost for an MOT on a car – which is currently £54.85. However, the actual price can vary from one garage to another, so it’s advisable to compare prices in order to find the most competitive rate.

    The make of a car can also have an impact on the price you have to pay. For example, in 2023, the average cost of an MOT on an MG is £39.71. Whereas, on average, the cost of an MOT on a Smart car is £42.63. The current average cost across all manufacturers is £41.50.

    On average, an MOT test takes around 45-60 minutes to complete. However, if your car fails the test and requires repairs, the service can take a lot longer.

    What’s the best way to perform an MOT check on your car or van?

    TotalCarCheck’s online platform allows you to access a range of important info about your vehicle – including MOT status, road tax, insurance details, VIN confirmation, emissions compliance, and safety recall information.

    Keeping your car or van up to date in the UK is essential for your safety and legal compliance. Although a lot of the information is provided for free by TotalCarCheck’s website – such as the MOT status check – if you need a more in-depth look at your vehicle, you can trade up to their ‘Gold’ or ‘Silver’ services, where you will be provided with an even wider range of vehicle checks – including write-off checks, outstanding finance checks, logbook loan checks, and salvage history checks. These are essential resources if you’re buying a used car and want to be sure of its entire history.

    Ready to sell?

    Need to sell your car, 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 DVLA.