What is the difference between an MOT and Service?

What is the difference between an MOT and Service?
The annual service and MOT are vital for keeping your car in a good condition and road legal, but it’s not always clear how they differ and why you should spend your money on both.  

When it comes to car maintenance, the MOT and service serve two different purposes and it is important for all drivers to have both carried out by a professional mechanic.

The annual MOT test and service can be carried out by an approved garage. If you lead a busy lifestyle, you can also call a mobile mechanic and arrange for them to carry out the service at a time and place of your choosing. 

This guide looks at the key differences that separates the MOT and service – and why they are both vital for car owners.

What is the difference between an MOT and service?

If you are looking to have a service or MOT on your vehicle, then there are some key things for you to learn.

Although they both result is a safer and cleaner running vehicle, there are actions carried out by a mechanic that will only be included in one or the other.

What is an MOT

An important part of owning a vehicle is to book your annual MOT (Ministry of Transport) test.

This is a legally mandated inspection carried out by a certified mechanic to ensure your car meets the necessary safety and environmental standards.

If you own a new car, it will not need an MOT until the third anniversary of the vehicle's registration (four in Northern Ireland).  After that, it will need to be an annual test. Avoiding your MOT, may lead to hefty fines and legal action.

What is a car service

Although this is not a legal requirement – it is important for all vehicle owners to consider.

A car service involves routine maintenance and checks performed on a vehicle by a qualified mechanic. They should be carried out every six or 12 months – depending on the type of car service.

Servicing leads to a vehicle being safer, reliable, and more economic. It also helps avoid major issues than can lead to an MOT failure.

What's included in an MOT?

During an MOT test, a mechanic will carry out tests on all the major components as well as other parts of the vehicle to ensure it is safe and road worthy.

Below are some of the common checks that are conducted:

  • Fuel system
  • Seatbelts
  • SRS
  • Steering
  • Suspension
  • Windscreen wipers
  • Windscreen and other windows
  • Electrical system
  • Electrical wiring
  • Battery
  • Lights and signals (internal and external)
  • Registration plates
  • Boot, bonnet, tailgate, or tow bar
  • Tyres
  • Wheels
  • TPMS
  • Horn
  • Exhaust system (and levels of emissions)
  • Mirrors
  • Doors
  • Seats
  • Body structure
  • Brakes (and linked systems)
  • Clutch
  • Gearbox
  • Other parts of the engine
  • VIN number displayed and correct

The mechanic will also check some of the vehicle's fluids (and if they are filled up). If a car is too dirty and filled with clutter, then it could lead to a refusal to take the test. Make sure to clean your vehicle and top up fluids before dropping it off.

What's included in a car service?

Although there are some similarities between a service and MOT, there are several other things that are included in a service.

There are two types of service – a full or interim.

The RAC offers a 77-point inspection what should be carried out every year or 12,000 miles – whichever comes first.

Below is what is included in a full service:

  • Changes to engine oil
  • Oil filters
  • Air filters

When it comes to an interim service, this includes a 50-point inspection – and should be carried out every six months or 6,000 miles. Also, this should happen whichever comes first.

Here is what is included in an interim service:

  • Engine oil change
  • Oil filter change

The RAC also offers another option – which is an oil change. This should be conducted whenever it is necessary.

Find out about the car service options here.

How much is an MOT and service?

When it comes to a service and MOT, there are certain price points that drivers need to be aware of.

According to the Government, the maximum fee for an MOT for a car is £54.85.

Of course, if it does fail, then whatever the issue is, then it needs to be fixed.

This could be a minor issue, or a major failure where extensive – and often expensive – works needs to be conducted.

In regards to a car service, an interim with the RAC starts at just £191, and a full service from £205.

This price can vary depending on the make, model, and size of the vehicle – as well as the location you are having the service.

If you have any questions about MOTs or services, then please leave them in the comments below.

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

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