We’re all leading increasingly busy lives, and it’s easy to lose track of important things like doing your tax return, making an appointment at the dentist or even getting a MOT for your car. If you’ve taken your eye off the ball and have suddenly realised your certificate has expired, what should you do next?
Isn’t there a two-week grace period?
This is one of those myths which you hear time and time again. People will often say that there is a 14 day grace period after your old MOT expires. Arrange a re-test within that fortnight’s window, and you won’t get into trouble. Unfortunately, this is a completely false myth. There is no period during which you won’t be prosecuted after your MOT expires. As soon as the clock ticks over to a second past midnight on the day after the certificate expires, you could be in trouble if the police stop you.
How do the police know anyway?
MOT testing and certificates have been going digital. Every time your car goes through a MOT test, the garage will upload the results onto the DVLA website. Anyone can access this information at any time, and it’s particularly useful if you want to check up on the history of a second-hand car you’re thinking of buying. It can also help you check up on when exactly your MOT is due as the website will clearly show when the MOT expires.
Further bad news is that if you are stopped driving around without a valid MOT certificate, the police have the right to issue a fixed penalty fine and points on your licence. The usual fine for a car without a MOT is a fixed penalty of £100 plus three points on your driving licence. The maximum fine is up to £1000, but if you pay the fixed penalty straight away it is unlikely to get that far.
Is My Car Exempt?
There are some cars which are exempt from MOT tests but you shouldn’t assume that this exemption is granted automatically. Cars or other vehicles which are used exclusively on private grounds such as holiday parks or country estates don’t need a MOT as they are never on the public highway. Similarly, there is an exemption for some small island groups such as the Isle of Scilly or some of the Scottish islands. The DVLA will not know that your car is on one of these islands, so you have to claim the exemption. Cars which are off the road for repair or storage don’t need a MOT, but in order to avoid reminders about road tax or insurance you should complete the Statutory Off Road Notification, more commonly abbreviated to SORN. Finally, the MOT test doesn’t apply to vintage cars which are at least 40 years old. However, even though your car doesn’t need a formal MOT, you still have a legal responsibility to make sure it is roadworthy. Many drivers of vintage car ask mechanics to run through a test broadly equivalent to a MOT to make sure they are on the right side of the law.
Booking A New Test
There is only one exception which applies to driving on the road without a MOT. If you suddenly realise that your current MOT has expired, you are allowed to drive your car to get to a pre-booked appointment. If you are stopped by the police, they will expect to see proof that you have a test appointment somewhere, they aren’t just going to take your word for it. Similarly, if your car fails the MOT and needs work done, you will have to get it repaired before driving it home.
Timing A MOT Test
Although the penalties for driving around without a MOT are fairly hefty, there are measures in place to try to help make life easier. We’ve already covered the fact that the grace period for an expired MOT is a myth. Perhaps this stems from the fact that you have a bit of flexibility in the weeks before your MOT expires. You have the four weeks in the run-up to your MOT expiring to arrange for another test. If you get a MOT within this four week window, the year’s validity will run from the expiry date of your current certificate. If your MOT has already expired, the new certificate will run from the date it was issued, not from the date the previous MOT expired. As a driver, you can use this four week period to your advantage. It allows you some flexibility over when you book your test, and you might be able to select a slot which is more convenient, cheaper, or both. Other drivers opt to get their cars serviced at the same time as the MOT check and the reminders from the garage about an impending service may prompt you to remember that your MOT is due at the same time.
Reminders for the MOT Test
The DVLA do offer a service to remind you a month before the MOT is due but this is an opt-in service. It doesn’t happen automatically, so unless you’ve signed up through the website to receive emails or texts, you won’t receive notifications. There is no charge to receive text or email reminders from the DVLA so it’s well worth signing up. Garages may also offer their own reminder service to help customers get organised with MOT tests. Every garage does something different, and might send a letter in the post, phone you, or send texts or emails. It’s always best to opt in to marketing information from your garage if you are likely to forget to make appointments.
If you service your car every year, it makes sense to try to get this to coincide with the time when the car has its MOT too. If this arrangement is possible, then the garage will send you reminders about booking your service too. Use whatever method works for you to keep on top of your calendar. Getting points on your licence or a fine just isn’t worth the risk.