When will a new car need its first MOT?

    All cars need a valid certificate from the Ministry of Transport (MOT) to legally drive on UK roads. But when do you need to schedule your car’s first MOT test? 

    mot image

    UK regulations dictate when vehicles must undergo this essential safety and emissions inspection. In England, Scotland, and Wales, cars are required to have their first annual MOT test once they’ve been registered for three years. In Northern Ireland, all cars four years and older must have an annual MOT exam. Before these dates, you are not obligated to take your car in for testing.

    Maintaining an updated MOT is an essential part of car ownership. Driving without a valid MOT certificate could mean risking a fine, points on your licence, or a driving ban. Missing an MOT can also have a big impact on price when you’re buying or selling a car.

    MOT inspection timing

    a man testing a car for its MOT
    It’s crucial that you have a valid MOT certificate when driving in the UK.

    New cars must have their first MOT test three years after their initial registration date (or four years after if you’re registered in Northern Ireland). This timeline is based on safety and regulatory concerns. 

    Despite being relatively new, vehicles can still develop mechanical faults and safety issues over time. After three or four years, they’ve typically racked up enough mileage and undergone sufficient wear-and-tear to warrant a comprehensive inspection. 

    Conducting the MOT test at this point helps identify potential safety hazards, mechanical issues, and emissions concerns to ensure your vehicle remains roadworthy and environmentally friendly.

    Finding your renewal date

    Determining when your car’s first MOT is due is crucial to complying with legal requirements and ensuring your vehicle remains roadworthy. While new cars typically do not need to have their first MOT until they’ve been owned for three or four years, you can find your exact MOT expiration date via:

    ✅ V5C Logbook – Also known as the logbook or registration certificate, the V5C contains essential information about your vehicle, including its registration date. Your reg refers to the date that your car was officially registered with the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA). This date serves as a crucial reference point for various legal and administrative purposes related to vehicle ownership and operation. Your car’s first MOT will be due three or four years from this date, depending on where you live in the UK.

    ✅ DVLA website – Visit the DVLA for official information on your vehicle’s MOT history. Enter your reg and the system will provide details of your car’s MOT history, including the dates of previous tests and when the next MOT is due.

    ✅ Vehicle service records – Information on your MOT may be recorded in your car’s maintenance and servicing documents. Check your records or invoices from when the vehicle was purchased or serviced for any mention of the MOT due date.

    ✅ MOT testing station or garage – Provide your garage with your reg so they can check their records to determine when your first MOT is due.

    See our guide for more information on how to check if your car or van’s MOT is up to date

    Booking an MOT test

    cars in garage
    New cars should schedule their first MOT test three or four years after registration, depending on where you live in the UK.

    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.

    What to expect during the MOT 

    As a comprehensive vehicle safety and functionality exam, the MOT inspects various car components and systems, including:

    • Braking system 🚩
    • Bodywork
    • Exhaust emissions
    • Exhaust system 🚩
    • Fuel system
    • Horn
    • Lights and signals 🚩
    • Registration Plates
    • Seats
    • Seat belts
    • Steering and suspension 🚩
    • Wheels and tyres 🚩
    • Windscreen 
    • Wipers and washer bottle

    🚩 = common areas of MOT failure

    In addition to making sure the above components are functioning correctly and meet legal standards, the exam assesses the overall condition of your vehicle, noting any visible signs of damage or corrosion.

    mot image

    Preparing for your first test

    Many issues that lead to MOT failure can be easily fixed before the test. Common reasons for failing the MOT include worn-out brakes, faulty lights, and exhaust emissions exceeding acceptable levels. 

    In addition to regular car maintenance, prepare your car to pass its MOT with flying colours with our top tips: 

    Check lights and signalsEnsure all exterior lights, including headlights, indicators, brake lights, and fog lights, are working correctly. Replace any faulty bulbs or damaged lenses.
    Inspect tyresCheck tyre tread depth and condition for damage. Ensure tyres meet the minimum legal tread depth requirement (1.6mm) and are inflated to the correct pressure.
    Test brakesTest brake functionality by applying firm pressure to the brake pedal. Check for any unusual noises, vibrations, or signs of brake fluid leakage.
    Examine suspension and steeringInspect suspension components and steering system for wear, damage, and fluid leaks. Ensure there is no excessive stiffness in the steering wheel.
    Review windscreen and mirrorsCheck the windscreen for cracks, chips, and other damage that could obstruct the driver’s view. Inspect mirrors for stability and clarity of reflection.
    Assess exhaust emissionsEnsure the exhaust system is secure and free from leaks. Check for excessive smoke or unusual emissions during vehicle operation – one method could be to request a mechanical inspection before your MOT.
    Verify essential documentsEnsure your Vehicle Identification Number and registration documents, including the V5C logbook and MOT certificate, are present and up to date.
    Clean interiorRemove any clutter or debris from the interior. Ensure seats, seatbelts, and dashboard components are in good condition.

    For more advice on preparing for the MOT, be sure to check out our comprehensive MOT guide

    After the MOT test, your car will get one of three possible grades: 

    🥇 Pass – Vehicle meets safety and environmental standards, and a new certificate is issued and valid for the next 12 months. You can continue to drive as normal.

    🏁 Advisory – Vehicle meets safety and environmental standards, but potential issues have been detected and should be monitored. While these issues do not meet the MOT failure criteria, it’s crucial to address them to prevent future MOT failures. 

    ❌ Fail – Vehicle cannot be driven on UK roads. You will receive a failure report outlining identified issues with the car; schedule repairs and an MOT retest ASAP to get back on the road. 


    Can I get my car tested before the three year mark?

    Yes, you can have an MOT test before the three year mark (or four year mark, if you’re in Northern Ireland). Early testing can be scheduled within one month of your current MOT’s expiry. 

    What happens if I miss the MOT due date?

    You cannot drive or park your vehicle on the road if your MOT is expired. Driving without a valid MOT is illegal and can result in fines, points on your licence, and even a total driving ban. 

    If you miss your MOT renewal date, contact your local MOT testing centre as soon as possible to schedule an appointment.

    Are there any penalties for not having a valid MOT?

    Yes! Driving without a valid MOT can lead to fines up to £1,000, potential prosecution, and your insurance may be invalidated, risking financial and legal consequences.

    The only exception is if you are driving your car to be repaired before its MOT retest

    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.