The first phase of the Government’s controversial proposal to delay MOTs by 12 months in a bid to save motorists money during the cost-of-living squeeze draws to a close today.
A Department for Transport consultation on extending first MOTs from three to four years – and possibly making tests every two years rather than one thereafter – was launched in January and is due to conclude at midnight.
MPs believe delaying first MOTs will collectively save motorists over £100million a year and have little to no impact of road safety figures.
While the consultation findings won’t be published immediately, any decision to adjust MOT schedules would be the biggest shake-up to the test for decades.
Many motoring bodies contacted by the DfT are broadly against the delays, but three in five This is Money and MailOnline readers are in support of extending the period between roadworthiness checks if it saves them money…
The DfT’s consultation on proposals to extend first MOTs from the third to fourth year, and to make the test biennial rather than annual thereafter, is due to close at midnight tonight. Here’s how you can have your say…
How much does an MOT cost?
MOTs were first introduced in 1960. The name derives from the Ministry of Transport which is now the Department for Transport.
The test was originally required ten years after a vehicle’s registration. From then on, MOTs were carried out annually.
Under today’s rules, new cars, vans and motorcycles have their initial MOT in the third year and then once a year thereafter.
The test checks a number of vehicle parts including the lights, seatbelts, tyres and brakes to ensure they meet legal safety standards.
MOTs for cars are capped at a price of £54.85 (including VAT), with repair bills on top.
The DfT says drivers are usually charged an average of £40 for an MOT.
Drivers can be fined up to £1,000 for using a vehicle without a valid MOT certificate and it will also invalidate their insurance.
A brief history of the MOT
1960: MOT test is introduced. The test was required ten years after a vehicle’s registration. From then on, MOTs were carried out annually.
1967: The time before a vehicle’s first test is reduced to three years after registration.
1968: Checks on tyres were first introduced.
1969: A new check on legally-required seat belts.
1977: Test now covers windscreen wipers and washers, indicators, stop lights, the horn, the exhaust system and the condition of the body structure and chassis together with a more detailed check on seat belts.
1990s: New checks on exhaust emissions for petrol and diesel vehicles. Other different areas covered include anti-lock braking systems.
2005: A new computerised administration system for issuing test certificates.
2012: Checks on ‘secondary restraint systems’ such as a vehicle’s airbag, the battery and wiring, electronic stability control, the speedometer and steering lock.
2017: Change in historic vehicles’ MOT exemption from all pre-1960 vehicles being covered to a rolling 40-year exemption.
2018: Three new defect categories introduced: minor; major; dangerous. The two latter defect types automatically results in a failed test.
2020: A six-month MOT extension was put in place by the Government in response to the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic. This was introduced on 30 March – just days after the first lockdown was enforced – and ended on 1 August the same year.
Why would the Government want to extend MOT schedules?
On 18 January, the DfT launched its MOT consultation on proposals to require new cars, motorbikes and vans in Britain to have their first test four years after they are registered, compared with three years currently.
Views on the frequency of MOTs – which under existing regulations are every 12 months after the first test – have also been sought as part of the consultation, which could see MOTs carried out biennially (every two years).
A government document said: ‘We are considering if it is appropriate to move to testing every two years rather than every year, reflecting the progress in improving vehicle safety.’
The Government is considering extending MOTs to help hard-up motorists to save money during the cost-of-living squeeze
The DfT said it wants to ‘ensure roadworthiness checks continue to balance costs on motorists while ensuring road safety, keeping up with advances in vehicle technology, and tackling vehicle emissions’.
Neil Greig, IAM Roadsmart’s director of policy and research says the DfT’s proposed changes are linked to two things: ‘…one being Brexit because we can do things our own way now and MOTs was linked to EU Law, but secondly the cost-of-living crisis.’
Ministers believes by delaying the first test for new vehicles it could save hard-up motorists around £100million a year.
Another argument put forward by MPs for extending MOT schedules hinges on electric cars becoming more popular as we get closer to the ban on sales of new petrol and diesel models from 2030.
With EVs having fewer moving parts to check, ministers believe the existing frequency of MOTs is no longer required.
A raft of safety technology fitted to all modern cars is another reason for MPs to consider an extension to periods between tests in a bid to help ease the financial strain on drivers.
The Government also argues that extending MOT schedules will put Britain in line with other European nations like Denmark, France, Italy, Spain and Portugal where cars have their first roadworthiness check at four years and once every two years thereafter.
While extending MOTs would certainly help motorists save money, it come be a hammer blow for many motor traders.
The Government’s own internal assessment estimates that Britain’s 23,400 approved test centres could be starved of up to £123.6million a year.
A huge fall in MOT-related income would likely put many garages out of business.
How many cars fail MOTs each year?
Official figures from 2019 show that 34 per cent of vehicles fail their initial MOT test and require repair to see a pass.
And analysis of the latest MOT records showed that almost one in ten cars (8 per cent) fail due to ‘dangerous defects’, with dodgy brakes and worn tyres the most common issue.
Analysis of official MOT data published by the RAC last week found that around 7.3million vehicles on our roads fail the roadworthiness test each year.
Around 2.4million of these are cars and vans with items listed as ‘dangerous’ defects, the majority of which are related to the brakes and tyres.
The motoring group reviewed Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) MOT records for the 12 months to March 2022.
Lighting issues accounted for just over a quarter (25.5 per cent) of all MOT failures while faulty or broken suspensions represented just under a fifth (18.3 per cent) of all fail issues.
Problems with brakes (17 per cent) and tyres (12 per cent) were the third and fourth biggest reasons for an MOT failure, with bad visibility – likely cracks in windscreens – rounding out the top five, representing 8.7 per cent of all MOT failures.
The most common ‘dangerous defects’ highlighted by MOTs are linked to tyres and brakes
However, problems with brakes and tyres identified by MOT stations should be the biggest concern for drivers as they are the more common ‘dangerous defects’ that result in vehicles automatically failing the test.
In these most serious cases, where an examiner states a vehicle cannot be driven until that defect is repaired, brakes and tyres represent 88 per cent of all such failures, emphasising just how critical it is for drivers to carry out routine checks on these items.
Although the biggest causes of MOT failures have remained consistent over many years, the proportion of tyre failures has increased slightly from 10 per cent in 2018/19 to 12 per cent in 2021/22.
What you, MailOnline and TiM readers, want to see
Since the consultation was announced, we have been running a poll asking MailOnline and This is Money readers to have their say on whether MOT schedules should be extended.
At the time of publishing, it had received 1,035 responses, with people voting 62 per cent in favour of making MOTs a biennial requirement – the remaining 38 per cent wanting the test to continue annually.
If you haven’t already registered your vote, we’ve posted the poll here for you to have your say…
And have your say in reader comments below, telling us why you believe MOTs should or shouldn’t be extended.
What car makers have said about delaying MOTs
While readers are broadly in support for delaying MOTs, the motor industry and car makers are largely against the proposal.
The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) believes UK motorists are ‘strongly in support’ of keeping the first MOT at three years, based on survey results from 1,784 drivers.
Some 67 per cent said they are concerned that extending MOTs would ‘put lives in danger’ with three quarters agreed that the typical £35-to-£45 cost of a test is a ‘price worth paying for the peace of mind it provides that their car is roadworthy’.
The SMMT calculates that for the average driver the savings from extending first MOTs would pocket motorists only 23p to 29p a week for the first three years.
The trade body said: ‘While billions of pounds of investment by vehicle manufacturers has made vehicles safer for drivers and other road users thanks to innovations such as collision avoidance systems, adaptive cruise control, autonomous emergency braking and blind spot monitoring, the MOT test often remains the first opportunity to identify natural wear and tear on safety-critical components such as tyres and brakes.’
Nearly a quarter (23 per cent) of all adults polled by the SMMT said they don’t regularly check that their brakes are working correctly, almost a fifth (19 per cent) fail to monitor the condition of their tyres(which should be done monthly), and 17 per cent don’t test if their lights and indicators are functioning.
That’s despite three areas accounted for nearly a quarter of a million failure items alone in 2022.
Mike Hawes, SMMT Chief Executive, said: ‘Safety is the number one priority for the automotive industry and the MOT is a crucial component in keeping the UK’s vehicles and roads safe.
‘Our survey shows that drivers support the existing MOT frequency and that there is little appetite to change it, despite the increased cost of living.
‘If changes to the MOT are to be made, these should enable testing of advanced electrified powertrains, driver assistance technologies and connected and automated features, as drivers value the peace of mind the MOT offers.’
What experts say about extending MOTs
The motoring group surveyed 14,500 of its members about MOT delays. And more than three quarters (77 per cent) said they do not wish to change the annual MOT.
The poll also found that more than nine out of 10 drivers (92 per cent) say that an annual MOT plays a key role in keeping dangerous vehicles off the road.
Jack Cousens, head of roads policy for the AA, said: ‘On safety grounds alone, it would be foolish to move away from an annual test and indeed moving the first MOT to four years as many cars show up with brake or tyre defects in that period.’
The IMI has raised its concerns about the economic risk of extending MOTs, which could put many testing stations out of business
Institute of the Motor Industry (IMI)
The IMI, which represents works in the motor trade, has surveyed 1,058 of its members – 55 percent of which offer MOTs from their business – and 500 motorists.
It says it received ‘resounding confirmation’ from 87 per cent of the motor industry that the first MOT should not be extended due to increased road safety risk.
However, consumers were split on the delay with just 51 per cent wanting initial MOTs to remain at three years.
Hayley Pells, policy manager at the IMI said: ‘Whilst only 51 per cent of motorists we surveyed felt the same, we believe there is sufficient weight of evidence to give the Department for Transport a very clear indication that any change to the start date would be detrimental for all road users.’
The IMI also highlighted the potential economic risks of a change to the MOT start date, with almost nine in ten (88 per cent) industry insiders believing that extending the date of the first MOT will have an impact on garage income.
‘Whilst 1 in 5 respondents who run MOTs from their business believe it is fair to assume that any fall in the number of MOTs will free up garage staff and allow them to complete other tasks, the reality is that for nearly two thirds a quarter of their income is dependent on conducting MOTs,’ added Hayley Pells.
‘The wider economic risks of any change cannot, therefore, be ignored.’
The IMI also exclusively told This is Money that extending MOT schedules would put EVs at greater risk due to their higher failure rates caused by defective and worn tyres.
The road safety charity has also urged for the Government to stick to the current MOT schedules.
Neil Greig said: ‘The reality is tens of thousands of vehicles do fail it’s MOT at three years and fail on things like brakes and tyres.
‘That means for an extra year they could be out with illegal tyres, poor brakes, broken lights and unless they are stopped by the police which is increasingly unlikely these days, they won’t think about it until the fourth year when they must go for an MOT.’
In terms of the impact on road safety, he added: ‘Analysis shows that if you move to a four-year MOT it’s predicted there will be one extra death a year and 10 extra serious casualties, so why would a government want to do something that they know could kill one and seriously injury more people?’
Hugo Griffiths, consumer editor at car buying and selling website Carwow laid out his synopsis on the proposals to extend MOTs.
‘There’s daft, there’s foolhardy, and then there’s proposing to require MOT tests every two years rather than annually,’ he told us.
‘Few potential government policies make less sense than this. Because while the move would save a projected £100million a year on a national level, MOT tests are legally capped at £54.85, making them perhaps the best-value service drivers get.
‘Car owners tend to put their cars through these vital roadworthiness checks come annual service time, so there’s barely much of a convenience bonus in setting a biennial requirement for them.
‘And for less diligent car owners, or those who may struggle to keep up with maintenance schedules, an annual MOT acts as a vital health check and safety net for the millions of cars on our roads that are over three years old.
‘Doing away with this requirement makes about as much sense as a motorcyclist saving a couple of hundred quid by not buying a crash helmet.’
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