After all that time spent preparing for an MOT, it can be frustrating to hear your car hasn't passed. But don't fret, failing an MOT is a lot more common than you might think. In 2021 alone, almost 1.3 million vehicles failed to pass their MOT.

Frustrations and numbers aside, you're probably wondering what happens next when it comes to the legal stuff following a car's failure. To make sure you're staying within the law, we'll talk you through the options that are available should you fail your MOT.

What is an MOT failure?

If your car fails its MOT, then it means the tester has found a 'major' or 'dangerous' problem with your vehicle as it relates to any section of the test. These issues are deemed as such because they can put yourself, other road users, roads themselves or the environment at serious risk. As a result, they must be repaired and retested before you return to the road.

What happens if I fail my MOT?

Upon failing your MOT, you'll be issued with a VT30 Refusal of an MOT Test Certificate. This certificate will detail the reason(s) why your car failed its test, while also signifying your car isn't safe to drive on roads. The problems must be seen to before you can drive it again.

Make sure you keep hold of this certificate. You'll need it when you book a retest, or in the event you decide to appeal the decision.

Can I still drive my car if I fail my MOT?

No. It's illegal to drive your car without a valid MOT. If your car has failed, and the date on your certificate has passed, you can only drive your car in the following circumstances:

  • When driving to the garage for repairs
  • When driving to an MOT centre for a retest
  • If the previous MOT certificate is still valid and no 'dangerous' problems were found, the car can be driven normally until the certificate expires. However, you'll still need to repair the issues and get a retest

Should you want to move your vehicle to another garage, then you must pay to get it towed. If you drive your car after its failed its MOT, and you're unable to prove that you had a pre-arranged appointment, then you may:

  • Receive a fine of up to £2,500
  • Receive a driving ban
  • Receive penalty points on your driving licence
  • Run the risk of being prosecuted

Remember that your insurance may no longer cover you if you receive an MOT fail result, even if your certificate is still valid. Additionally, once your MOT certificate expires, then both your insurance and tax will also be invalid. Under no circumstances should you drive your vehicle.

driving a car

Taking an MOT retest

There are a few options available to you for a retest, providing what caused your MOT failure isn't too serious:

Leave it to be repaired at the test centre

Should the test centre also carry out repairs, it's worth asking them to fix whatever the issue that caused the failure in the first place. If these repairs are completed within 10 working days, they'll be able to carry out a partial retest. This involves testing only the issues that were listed on your original VT30 certificate. Should you pass this time around, you'll be given a new MOT certificate.

Bring it back within one working day

You may be entitled to take the car away for repairs and bring it back to the original testing centre for a free partial retest. This option won't be available if the test identifies faults it considers dangerous, but if you have the time to repair things and drive it back to the testing centre in one day, then by all means go for it. 

For a full list of acceptable reasons why you can drive away and return for a retest, check out the DVSA website.

Bring it back within 10 working days

After your car has been repaired at another garage, you also have the option of returning it to the original MOT test centre within 10 days for a partial retest. Partial retests are generally cheaper, costing around half of what the original MOT fee would've set you back.

Bringing it back after 10 working days

If you bring your repaired car back 10 working days after failing your test, the tester will carry out a full MOT test, which will cost the full fee.

How to appeal against a failed MOT test

Of course, you may feel as though testers have been overly harsh with failing your car's MOT. If this is the case, then you may decide to appeal the decision.

Discussing things with your MOT test centre should be your first port of call. Since the rules and regulations surrounding MOTs are fairly straightforward, there's a chance the failure was caused by a simple breakdown in communication.

If this doesn't resolve the issue, then you can always appeal the MOT test result. If so, make sure that the car is kept in the same condition it was on the day it was tested. Any attempt to modify or repair it will result in your appeal being cancelled.

Next, you should fill in this form before sending it to the DVSA within 14 working days of the original test date. They'll contact you within five working days to discuss things with you. Should your vehicle need to be retested, the DVSA will arrange a date with you. Keep in mind that you'll need to pay the full amount for another MOT test.

If your appeal is successful, you'll be refunded some or all of the fee.

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