It's not the test fee, but repairing "fails" that can cost a fortune. But did you know you can get MOTs done by local councils? They generally don't do repairs, so there's no vested interest to fail you in the hope you'll spend. Thousands report a huge difference.
This step-by-step cheap MOT guide includes a full list of nearly 100 UK council test centres.
In this guide
Motoring MoneySaving Checklist
MOTs: the rules
Originally called the 'Ministry of Transport' test, it's now just an MOT. Either way, it's a safety and legal must for cars, motorbikes or any other vehicle. You'll need to have MOTs when your car's over three years old (four years in NI).
A study of mainstream car models found the Suzuki Splash and Audi TT are most likely to pass their first MOTs, according to motoring website Honest John (May 2012).
Yet switching cars is a bit much, so ensure you know the rules to give your car the best chance of passing - and staying safe - for less.
RULE 1: It's your responsibility
The test information is held on a central database as well as on a paper certificate. It's the owner's responsibility to ensure their vehicle's certificate is valid, not for authorities to chase.
RULE 2: Know when to go
You need a test when the car's three years old (four years in NI), then annually after that. Timing is crucial, though. Get a test in the month before the current certificate ends and the new one will expire exactly a year from the original's end date (the earliest date you can do this is printed on your test certificate).
But get it tested more than a month before the MOT's due and it'll expire exactly a year later, meaning you lose out. To get a reminder six weeks before your test's due, use the Tart Alert.
RULE 3: Always book tests in advance if your certificate's run out
If your car's out of certification, you can drive it to the test centre provided the test's been booked. Plus, if it's failed the test, then to get the problems fixed you're allowed to go from the test station to a repair centre. The vehicle still must meet a certain standard of roadworthiness, otherwise you can be fined.
RULE 4: MOT test costs are limited
Companies can only charge up to the official maximum for an MOT. Many companies promote cheaper tests, which isn't surprising when you consider that often this guarantees they get the repair business too. The maximum test costs are £54.85 for cars or motor caravans and £29.65 for motorbikes. For a full list, see the Gov.uk website.
Do a DIY MOT check of avoidable fails
Nearly 40% of MOTs fail first time, and far too many are due to a simple avoidable reason. Don't worry — this is common sense, not mechanical sense. Some of the fails you can sort yourself, others will need a professional. Either way, sorting it before the test is usually cheaper.
One in five vehicles fail MOTs due to a bust light bulb.
So walk around to check your car's indicators and headlights, front and back.
|Reason for failure|
What % of MOTs failed (1)
Checks to do beforehand
Are all lights fully working? Have someone sit in the car while you walk around checking every light. Front, rear, headlights and dipped, hazards and indicators. If any aren't working, buy a new bulb for a few quid and replace it. It's easy in most cars, though a few do make it more complex.
Check suspension. While a full suspension check is difficult, to see if the shock absorbers have gone, quickly apply your weight to each corner of the car then release. It should quickly settle back.
Is there tension on the handbrake? Not easy to do yourself, and it will need a proper mechanic to fix. If your brakes feel loose and unresponsive, or the handbrake slides up without resistance and can't be ratched at a set level, it's likely there's a problem.
Check tyre pressure. To check tyre pressure, look up what they should be, and fill 'em up at a petrol station.
Check tyre tread. This is the depth of grooves for road grip. The legal minimum's 1.6mm for a car tyre (enough to let surface water slip through).
To measure, use the quick 20p tyre test detailed on the Tyre Safe website. Pop a 20p coin on its edge into the main grooves of the tyre tread. If the outer rim of the coin is hidden, your tyres should be legal. If you can see it, get them checked.
Is the driver's windscreen damaged? Damage in the driver's central view should be no larger than 10mm. In the whole of the swept area, it should be no larger than 40mm. If it is, get it fixed pre-test (often this is included by fully-comprehensive car insurance policies).
Windscreen wipers? Front wipers are in the check. They need to clear the windscreen in conjunction with the washers.
Is the exhaust leaking? To check, start the engine (in a well-ventilated place, at normal temperature) and from the rear of the car listen for any unusual noises or abnormal smoke. These indicate a leak, which you should fix pre-MOT.
Can you read the licence plate? Make sure the plates are clean and easily legible from 20 metres away.
Are all fluids topped up? Check the brake fluid, windscreen washer and oil reserves.
An all-over once-over. Make sure the fuel cap is secure, mirrors are in good condition, and seatbelts, etc, are all fully functional.
New checks were introduced in March 2013 under EU rules (they were already in place in NI). These include some extra checks on categories already part of the test, including some electronic warning lights, speedometers and electronic handbrake checks. You can find more info on the individual changes on the DfT website. For a full list of each check type, see Gov.uk.
Choose the right type of MOT test centre
For cars with faults, the MOT test fee is usually dwarfed by repair costs. While a cheap "MOTs for £20" promotion sounds good, it's irrelevant if you're shelling out £1,500 to get problems fixed. Thus, what type of MOT you should opt for is largely dictated by your car's condition. Click the relevant button below for more info:
Is your car in tip-top condition?
If your car is almost definitely in perfect condition and you'd be surprised if it failed anything, look for offers to get it as cheap as possible. Check your local garages to see if they will match the lowest possible MOT test fee. It's worth hunting around for one-off promotions and/or cashback deals (Read the Cashback Sites guide first).
Is your car in moderate to good condition?
If it's likely or possible only minor repairs may be needed, local council-run centres come into their own. They generally don't carry out repairs, so there's no vested interest in anything failing. So you can be 100% confident any required repairs are only for your own safety, and then you can go and get them fixed elsewhere.
Is your car in poor condition?
If you're pretty sure your car is going to need a substantial number of repairs, then there's a balance to be had. By going to a garage that does repairs you benefit from the convenience factor, and the fact there's generally no retest fee. But by using a council MOT there's a chance your car may fail on fewer points.
Perhaps the best solution is to call a range of reputable local garages and tell them the likely problems, then ask for quotes so you can see who'll be best value.
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Local council MOT test centres
Many local councils have their own MOT testing stations for their own vehicles, such as buses or ambulances.
By law these test centres (though not taxi or Crown stations) must be open to the general public. As they generally only carry out tests and don't do repairs (always check), there's no incentive for mechanics to find faults that don't exist.
Centres we've visited tell us this guide gave them a fourfold increase in members of the public visiting. Better still, they said they were grateful as it secured their jobs in times of council cuts. Good news, as it means you're seen as a welcome customer, not an annoying distraction.
Does it make a difference?
Thousands of savvy MoneySavers have used these test centres and the vast majority report their cars either consistently passing the test, or needing fewer repairs compared with MOTs done at other garages. Here are a few examples:
After reading Martin's article on council MOTs I had a pre-MOT at my local garage. They said it would fail and cost £400 to put right. My nearest council MOT centre tested my car and passed it, saving me £400! Thanks.
A huge thanks for bringing the council MOT test centres to my attention. Today I rang the Croydon test centre, my car passed with only the £50 test fee to pay (the tester also replaced a bulb for me). I'm so pleased considering last year I felt I had been ripped off by £400 repairs for my 12-year-old Micra.
I took my 10-year-old Renault to my local council depot for a test last year, it passed first time. This has NEVER happened in my life. RESULT.
Took my Mini for a service at a dealership. They told me it needed £1,700 of repairs, many of which would be likely MOT failure issues. Having read this thread, I took the car to the Camden Council test centre. This has just saved me £1,700 - more than a month's pay. I can't tell you how happy I am!
Took my 4x4 to the local garage only to find out it had failed with a £1,200 bill. My council's MOT centre passed it... Massive thank you.
So while you may miss out on the special 'cheap MOT testing' deal, the money saved in repairs should make up for it. Of course there are no guarantees. You may go to a local council test centre and be told repairs are needed, which is good, as it's for your safety and you should always want to know if your car has a problem.
Is it a safety compromise?
This isn't about getting a shoddy quick MOT that passes your car. Council-run MOT centres are often some of the best out there, and they run the safety tests stringently.
One MoneySaver tells how, after being quoted £700 for MOT repairs from his local dealer, he took it to his council test centre where it passed without any need for repairs.
He then reported the dealer to his local Trading Standards department, which had it re-tested; it passed with no need for repairs. So he wrote to the dealer requesting his test fee be returned for "non-compliance with the Road Traffic Act", and got a refund.
If you're not satisfied with the way a test has been carried out, get an appeal form, either from the garage in question, from Gov.uk or VOSA's MOT enquiries phone line, and VOSA will re-test your car.
Local council MOT test centre finder
This regularly-updated finder lists all the council-run centres we know of that don't do repairs. Just click your region to see those nearest on a Google map. As it's compiled by public feedback, always check the details and the centre's MOT status before using it. Also it's worth making sure you book early.
No centre in your area?
Check the discussion links below, call your local county or borough council, or take a look at its website. It should be able to tell you your nearest one.
Or... View test centres region-by-region
|Aberdeenshire||38 Powis Terrace, Kittybrewster, Aberdeen, AB25 3RF||01224 489300|
|Aberdeenshire||Harlaw Way, Harlaw Road, Inverurie, AB51 4TE||01467 627538|
|Aberdeenshire||Stonehaven Repair Depot, Aberdeenshire Council, Kirkton Rd, Stonehaven, AB39 2NQ||01569 763274|
|Cupar||Fife Council, Fleet Operations, Cupar Trading Estate, Cupar, Fife, KY15 4SX||08451 555 555
|Dundee||Dundee City Council, Environment Department, Marchbanks Workshop, 34 Harefield Road, Dundee, DD2 3JW||01382 434773|
|Dunfermline||Fife Council, Fleet Operations, Carnock Road, Dunfermline, Fife KY12 9AX||08451 555555
|Dunfermline||Fife Council, Fleet Operations, Elgin Street, Dunfermline, Fife, KY12 7SH||08451 555555
|Edinburgh||CEC Fleet Services, Russel Rd, Gorgie, EH11 2LP||0131 337 2307|
|Glasgow||MOT Inspection Centre, 425 Polmadie Road, G42 OPG (must book 3mths in advance)||0141 287 3326/3328|
|Kirkcaldy||Fife Council Fleet, Operations, Denburn Yard, Denburn Road, Kirkcaldy, Fife KY1 2HD||
08451 555 555
|Lanarkshire||Old Edinburgh Rd, Bellshill, ML4 3JF||01698 506284|
|Midlothian||Midlothian Council, 80 High Street, Bonnyrigg, EH19 2AE||0131 660 3486|
|West Lothian||Deans Industrial Estate, Livingstone, EH54 8AY||01506 777831|
Add your suggestions/read others: Scotland
In Northern Ireland, all MOTs are Government-run and carried out at Driver & Vehicle Agency test centres. None of these carry out repairs, and there's a fixed fee, as well as some other requirements (eg, first MOT needed after four years). See the NI Direct website for info and to find your nearest. Also see the dedicated discussion: Northern Ireland MOTs.
|Cardiff||Clare Road, Cardiff, CF11 6QP||02920 343581|
|Carmarthenshire||Trostre Depot, Trostre Road, LLanelli, SA14 9RA||01554 784138|
|Ceredigion||Glanyrafon Ind Est, Llanbadarn, Aberystwyth, Ceredigion, SY23 3JQ||01970 633844|
|Denbighshire||Fleet Management & Vehicle Maintenance, Expressway Business Park, Abergele Road, Bodelwyddan, LL18 5SQ||01745 839230|
|Glamorgan||The Vale Of Glamorgan Council, Vehicle Workshop, Alps Depot, Wenvoe, CF5 6AA||029 2067 3243|
|Pembrokeshire||Milford Haven, Pembrokeshire, SA73 2RR||01437 775938 ext 5938|
|Powys||Ffrwdgrech DSO Depot, Ffrwdgrech Industrial Estate, Brecon, Powys, LD3 8DR||01597 826000 (ask for Vehicle Maintenance workshops in Brecon)|
|Wrexham||Wrexham MOT Centre, Abbey Road South, Wrexham Industrial Estate, Wrexham, LL13 9PW||01978 729600|
Add your suggestions/read others: Wales
Yorkshire & Lincolnshire
|Barnsley||Barnsley MBC Fleet Services, Smithies Lane Depot, Smithies Lane, Smithies, Barnsley, S71 1NL||01226 774194|
|Beverley||East Riding of Yorkshire Council Beverley Depot, Annie Reed Road, Beverley, HU17 0LF||01482 395781|
|Dewsbury||Kirklees Council MOT Testing, George Street Depot, Dewsbury, WF13 2LX||01924 325001|
|Doncaster||Doncaster MBC, North Bridge, Doncaster, DN5 9AN||01302 736851|
|Harrogate||Claro Rd, Harrogate, HG1 4AT||01423 556877|
|Huddersfield||Kirklees Council MOT Testing, Vine Street Depot, Huddersfield, HD1 6NT||01484 223230|
|Leeds||225a York Road, Leeds, LS9 7QQ||0113 378 1464|
|Scunthorpe||Fleet Provision, Grange Lane North, Scunthorpe, DN16 1BT||01724 297867|
|Sheffield||Sheffield Council MOT Testing, Staniforth Road, Sheffield, S9 3GZ||0114 203 7421|
Add your suggestions/read others: Yorkshire
North east England
|Gateshead||Local Environmental Services, Central Depot, Park Road, Gateshead, NE8 3HN||0191 433 7433|
|Middlesbrough||Cargo Fleet Lane, Middlesborough, Cleveland, TS3 8AL||01642 728066 or 01642 728061|
|Newcastle||Newington Road, Shieldfield, Newcastle Upon Tyne, NE6 5BD||0191 278 3867|
|Redcar||Limerick Rd, Dormanstown, Redcar, Cleveland TS10 5JU||01642 444979|
|South Shields||Heddon Way, Tyne Dock, South Shields, NE33 0NT||0191 427 2024|
|Stockton-on-Tees||Cowpen Lane Depot, Billingham, Stockton-on-Tees, Cleveland TS23 4DD||01642 527167|
Add your suggestions/read others: North east England
North west England
|Bamber Bridge||Dewhurst Row, Holme Road, Bamber Bridge, PR5 6BB||01772 532618|
|Blackpool||Layton Depot, Plymouth Road, Blackpool, FY3 7HW||01253 476291|
|Bolton||Transport Services & Vehicle Workshop, Bradley Fold Depot, Bradley Fold Road, Bolton, BL2 6RS||0161 253 6699|
|Burnley||Lancashire County Council, Units A & B Brindley Close, Network 65 Business Park, Burnley, BB11 5TD||01282 448873|
|Carlisle||Boustead's Grassing, Rome Street, Carlisle, CA2 5LG||01228 817518|
|Knowsley||Stretton Way Depot, Huyton Industrial Estate, Knowsley, L36 6JF||0151 443 2816|
|Lytham St Annes||Fylde Borough Council, Snowdon Rd, Lytham St Annes, FY8 3DP||01253 658635|
|Oldham||Operational Services Depot, Moorhey Street, Oldham, OL4 1JF||0161 770 4445|
|Salford||Turnpike House, 631 Eccles New Road, Salford, M50 1SW||0161 925 1042|
|Warrington||Wilderspool Causeway, Warrington WA4 6PT||01925 634296|
|Wigan||Wigan Council, Makerfield Depot, Makerfield Way, Ince, Wigan, WN2 2PR||01942 705125|
Add your suggestions/read others: North west England
|Ambergate||County Transport Ripley Rd, Ambergate DE56 2ER||01629 532100|
|Ashfield||Ashfield District Council Northern Depot, Station Road, Sutton-in-Ashfield, Notts, NG17 5HB||01623 457885|
|Bilsthorpe||Bilsthorpe Depot, Bilsthorpe Business Park, Bilsthorpe, Nottinghamshire, NG22 8ST||01623 873950|
|Buxton||County Transport, Halstead Garage, Buxton||01298 813141|
|Chesterfield||County Transport, Brimington Road Nth, Chesterfield, S41 9BE||01246 450705|
|Derbyshire||NEDDC MOT Testing Centre, Rotherside Road, Eckington, S21 4HL||01246 217273|
|Leicester||LCC Vehicle Testing Station, 17 Lower Willow Street, Leicester, LE1 2HP||0116 229 2565|
|Newark||Newark and Sherwood District Council, Brunel Drive, Newark, NG24 2EG||01636 655566|
|West Bridgford||Central Works Depot, Abbey Road, West Bridgford, Nottingham, NG2 5NE||0115 914 8384|
Add your suggestions/read others: East Midlands
|Birmingham||Montague Street, Bordesley, Birmingham, B9 4BA||0121 303 3311|
|Coventry||259 London Rd, Coventry, CV3 4AR||024 7683 2147|
|Newcastle-under-Lyme||Newcastle Borough Council MOT Testing Centre, Knutton Lane, Newcastle-under-Lyme, ST5 2SL||01782 620953|
|Nuneaton||St. Marys Road Depot, St. Marys Road, Nuneaton, CV11 5AR||024 7637 6031|
|Stafford||Building QA, Beacon Business Park, Weston Road, Stafford, ST18 0YY||01785 854832 / 854833|
|Stoke on Trent||Stoke on Trent City Council, Weighbridge Site, Cromer Road, Northwood, Stoke on Trent, ST1 6QN||01782 232297|
|Walsall||Walsall Council MOT Test Centre, Environmental Depot, 200 Pelsall Road, Brownhills, Walsall WS8 7EN||01922 653753|
Add your suggestions/read others: West Midlands
|Banbury||Thorpe Lane Depot, Banbury, OX16 4UT||01295 221916|
|Bath||Bath and North East Somerset Council, Locksbrook Trading Estate, Bath, BA1 3EL||01225 477314|
|Bristol||Sandy Park Rd, Brislington, Bristol, BS4 3NZ||0117 903 6319|
|Bristol||Broad Lane, Engine Common, Yate, Bristol BS37 7PN||01454 863920|
|Cheltenham||Swindon Rd Depot, Cheltenham, GL51 9JZ||01242 264184|
|Devizes||Wiltshire Council Works Depot, Horton Road, Devizes, Wiltshire, SN10 2JJ||01380 725854|
|Oxford||Transport Services Division, Cowley Marsh Depot, Marsh Road, Oxford, OX4 2HH||01865 252944|
Add your suggestions/read others: Western England
|Chelmsford||Chelmsford City Council MOT Testing, Drovers Way, Chelmsford, CM2 5PH||01245 615800|
|Lowestoft||Waveney District Council MOT Testing Centre, Rotterdam Road, Lowestoft, Suffolk, NR32 2EF||01502 565626|
|Luton||Fleet Transport, Central Depot, Kingsway, Luton, LU4 8AU||01582 546839|
|Norwich||Norfolk County Services MOT Testing, 280 Fifers Lane, Norwich, Norfolk, NR6 6EQ||01603 894346|
Add your suggestions/read others: Eastern England
|Bodmin||Central Group Centre, Castle Canyke Road, Bodmin, PL31 1DZ||01872 327 827|
|Redruth||Cornwall Transport Organisation Engineering, (CTO) Western Group Centre, Radnor Road, Scorrier, Redruth, TR16 5EH||01872 327252|
Add your suggestions/read others: South west England
Southern & South East England
|Andover||Test Valley Borough Council, Portway Depot, Macadam Way, Andover, SP10 3XW||01264 368000|
|Hedge End||Eastleigh Borough Council, Hedge End Depot, Botley Road, Hedge End, SO30 2RA||023 8068 8389|
|Redhill||Reigate and Banstead Borough Council MOT Centre, Horley Road, Redhill RH1 6PN||01737 276650/13|
|Southampton||City Depot, First Avenue, Millbrook, Southampton, SO15 0LJ||023 8083 4363|
|Surrey||Woking Road Depot, Woking Road, Guildford, Surrey, GU1 1QE||01483 445091|
|Croydon||Factory Lane, Croydon, CR0 3RL||020 8255 2758|
|East Ham||Newham Council MOT Centre, Central Depot, Jenkins Lane, IG11 0AD||020 8472 0343|
|Epping Forest||Langston Road, Debden, IG10 3UE||020 8532 0357|
|Hounslow||Bridge Rd Depot, Pears Rd, Hounslow, TW3 1SQ||020 8583 5430|
|King's Cross||York Way Depot, Freight Lane, York Way, London, N1C 4BE||020 7974 3447|
|Poplar||Blackwall Transport Complex, 1 Silvocea Way, London, E14 0JJ||020 7364 1069|
|Thamesmead||Greenwich Council Fleet Management, Birchmere Depot, Eastern Way, London, SE28 8BF||020 8921 4561|
|Wandsworth|| 1 Dormay Street, Frogmore Complex, London,
|020 8871 6761|
Add your suggestions/read others: London
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It's not just council-run MOT test centres
Quite a few private garages also only do MOTs and not repairs, so the same logic should apply. Of course, there are many garages that do MOTs and repairs completely honestly and fairly. If you use one, that's great.
If your car fails: MOT retest fees
If your vehicle does fail its MOT, then once the repairs have been completed it needs to be retested. These can be free or discounted, depending on where you had your vehicle tested in the first place. Retest info's printed on the refusal certificate - what you'll need to do depends on what the defects are, but generally:
- Retests are free when repaired at test centre and retested within 10 days...
Handily, retests are free when the repairs are done at the test centre and it's retested within 10 days. If repairs are done elsewhere, it's free if returned to the test centre by the end of the next working day. But to qualify for this, all the failure points must be on this list.
Bonnet, boot lid, brake pedal anti-slip, direction indicators, doors, dropsides, fuel filler cap, hazard warning, horn, lamps (excluding headlamp aim), loading door, mirrors, rear reflectors, registration plates, seatbelts (but not anchorages), seats, sharp edges or projections, steering wheel, tailboard, tailgate, vehicle identification number (VIN), windscreen and glass, windscreen wipers/washers, wheels and tyres (wheels, tyres, windscreen, glass and wipers not applicable to motorbikes and sidecars).
Test done at a local council centre? Retests are up to half price when...
...the repairs are done elsewhere, provided the vehicle's brought back to the original test centre for a partial retest within 10 working days (applies to any test centre, but primarily relevant for council test centres). One partial re-test's allowed per full test.
- All other cases - it's a full fee test.
In all other circumstances, the retest fee is at the same maximum rate as the full test.
Add your suggestions/read others
General Cheap MOT Discussion