Driving without an MOT – what’s the risk?

Driving without an MOT – what’s the risk?
The MOT is a legal requirement for cars and vans over three years old (four years in Northern Ireland). However, under certain circumstances, you may be able to drive a vehicle after it has failed the MOT or after its MOT certificate has expired.

Regular car maintenance is key to passing the annual MOT. However, sometimes all it takes is a lapse of care or attention for your pride and joy to fail the test.

If you’re unsure about using your car after failing an MOT test, or driving without a valid certificate, then read on.

Driving without a valid MOT

Whether it’s driving with an expired certificate, using your car after a failed test, or buying a new car, there are a few MOT grey areas.

To make sure you know where you stand, here are some of the common scenarios you might find yourself in.

1. Your car failed an MOT test

It’s possible that your car fails a new MOT test while a current certificate is still valid. If this happens and no ‘dangerous’ problems are found, you can take your vehicle away for repairs and return at a later date for a full or partial retest. 

However, your car must meet the minimum standards of roadworthiness at all times. 

You can appeal against a fail decision if you wish.

2. You missed an MOT test

If you have missed your test and your certificate has expired, you can be prosecuted for driving without an MOT.

You can keep on track with your car's maintenance by getting a service or MOT plan to spread the cost over two years.

3. Your vehicle is recalled

To find out if a fault leading to a vehicle recall could invalidate your MOT, it’s best to ask your manufacturer. 

Their decision won’t have been made lightly, so you can assume the problem is serious and will probably impact the roadworthiness of your car.

4. You’ve just bought a car

Most cars don’t need an MOT certificate until their third anniversary of registration (fourth anniversary in Northern Ireland).

If you’re buying a second-hand car, you should check it’s MOT status and arrange a test, either at the point of sale or one that you can drive to immediately. You can check the MOT status of a vehicle for free with the myRAC app.

MOT due?

Find a trusted local garage with the RAC stamp of approval.

MOT due?
MOT due?

Can i drive my car without an MOT if it is booked in?

Yes, you can drive a car to a pre-booked MOT test without a valid MOT certificate, even if it is on SORN and doesn't have car tax.  

The vehicle must have insurance and you should check the policy is valid for driving without an MOT, as some insurers may not cover vehicles under these circumstances.

There is no law on how far you can drive a car without a valid MOT to a pre-booked appointment, but you should try and keep the distance as short as possible. Otherwise, if you are stopped by the police or involved in an accident, then you may still be could still be prosecuted for any defective parts on your vehicle. 

Some garages and MOT test centres will collect and return your car, so it's always worth checking this before using a car without a valid MOT on the public road. 

If your car has failed the MOT due to a 'dangerous' defect then you should not use it on the road and arrange for it to be transported to a garage by trailer or recovery vehicle with all four wheels off the road. 

Driving your car after failing an MOT

You can only drive a car that’s failed an MOT test if your current certificate is still valid and no serious problems were found. 

If your car fails an MOT with ‘dangerous’ or ‘major’ problems, you might not be allowed to drive it until these have been fixed. You’ll be given a ‘refusal of an MOT test certificate’ which is recorded in the MOT database. 

If you drive a vehicle deemed ‘dangerous’ you can be fined up to £2,500, as well as receive a driving ban and 3 penalty points.

Vehicle damage and MOTs

Throughout a routine MOT test your car is inspected for damage to the exhaust system, engine and specific areas of the vehicle’s structure and body. In short, your car could fail an MOT as a result of damage. 

After an accident, your insurance provider will assess any damage to your vehicle. If your car is categorised A (scrap only) or B (break for parts) your car is no longer fit for the road and your MOT certificate becomes invalid.

It’s unclear whether an S (structurally damaged but repairable) or N (Not structurally damaged, repairable) car’s MOT would still be valid. It’s best to ask your insurer on a case-by-case basis.

Find out more about insurance write-off categories and what they mean.

You can check the MOT history of a vehicle for previous damage by entering its number plate on the Government’s online tool.

Need a quick repair before your MOT test? Try a mobile mechanic that will come out to your home or work and do the fix at a place that suits you.

Vehicle modifications and MOTs

The DVLA use a point system to decide if modifications to your car mean your vehicle needs a new registration number. There’s no need to apply for a new MOT if your car keeps the registration, but a new number plate will need a new certificate to match.

What is the penalty for driving with no MOT

Driving a car with no MOT can result in a hefty fine and penalty points on your driving licence.

If your vehicle has failed the MOT and is in a dangerous condition then you could lose your driving licence.

What is the fine for driving without an MOT?

You can be fined up to £1,000 for driving a car without a valid MOT.

If you drive a vehicle deemed ‘dangerous’ by an MOT test, you can be fined up to £2,500, be banned from driving and receive three penalty points.

How can I be caught for driving without an MOT?

After an MOT test, your garage will update passes and fails to the DVSA’s database. This information can be accessed by anybody with your number plate and could lead to prosecution.

Systems on board police cars and Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) cameras can also flag cars without a valid certificate.

Can I report someone with no MOT?

You can contact your local police about a vehicle being used on a road without an MOT.

You’ll need the vehicle’s:

  • number plate
  • make and model
  • colour
  • location

The police will investigate and could charge the driver with a £1000 fine.

How can I avoid missing my test?

Users of the myRAC app can see the MOT history of their vehicles and set maintenance reminders to make sure they book their services and MOTs on time. RAC members can also look through all their post-breakdown forms

If you wish to receive free text message or email reminders a month before your MOT is due for renewal, you can subscribe to the Department for Transport’s free service.

You’ll need:

  • the vehicle’s number plate
  • a mobile phone number or email address

You can keep on track with your car's maintenance by getting a service or MOT plan to spread the cost over two years.

Give yourself the best chance of passing by following our MOT checklist.

Are you experiencing a car fault, warning, or mechanical problem on your road trip? Find a local mechanic with the RAC.

If your MOT is due or if you would like to book your vehicle in for a full car service, you can book online with your local RAC Approved Garage or a RAC Mobile Mechanic today. Benefit from the RAC Service and MOT Plan with affordable monthly payments to plan ahead for your MOT and regular annual services. 

RAC Breakdown Cover from £7 a month*

RAC Breakdown Cover from £7 a month*

*£7 a month for new, single vehicle Basic cover. Comparison based on www.theAA.com closest equivalent cover as at 12/04/24.

RAC Breakdown Cover from £7 a month*