Paloma | Edited by Martin
Updated January 2018
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 UK council test centres.
In this guide
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MOTs: the key 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.
From May 2018, the Driving and Vehicle Standards Agency will be making changes to the MOT test, introducing new defect categories and stricter rules for diesel cars.
Ensure you know the rules to give your car the best chance of passing – and to give you the best chance of 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.
There are slightly different rules and processes for MOTs in Northern Ireland. For more info, see NI Direct.
Rule 3: Always book tests in advance if your certificate's run out
If your certificate's run out, 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. If your vehicle has failed you'll be given a 'refusal of an MOT certificate' and it will be logged on the MOT database – you cannot drive it other than to a pre-arranged test or repairs (even if the original MOT hasn't run out).
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.
First do a DIY MOT of most common 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.
Almost 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.
Beat the most common fails by following our nine-point checklist
|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 test yourself, and it'll need a proper mechanic to fix it. But if your brakes feel loose and unresponsive, or the handbrake slides up without resistance and can't be ratcheted 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 before the MOT.|
|Is your steering working properly? Again this isn't really easy to check for yourself, so if you think the steering is less responsive, or have noticed any other issues it's likely you need to get this looked at. Also check for a warning light.|
|N/A(2)||Are all fluids topped up? Check the brake fluid, windscreen washer and oil reserves.|
|N/A(2)||An all-over once-over. Make sure the fuel cap is secure, mirrors are in good condition, and seatbelts, etc, are all fully functional.|
|(1) Percentage of first-time MOT fails. Figures released by the DVSA in January 2016 (2) There are no official figures, but we know these are common fails|
Checks introduced in March 2013 under EU rules (they were already in place in NI) include some extra checks, looking at areas such as electronic warning lights, speedometers and electronic handbrakes. You can find more info on the individual changes on the DfT website. For a full list of each check type, see Gov.uk.
The DVSA has released a series of videos to help you check your car before an MOT.
Next choose the right MOT test centre
For cars with faults, the MOT test fee is usually dwarfed by repair costs. While a cheap "MOT 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.
Is your car in tip-top condition?
If your car is in perfect condition and you'd be surprised if it failed, 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.
Some colleges also offer cut-price MOT tests as well as repairs and servicing to the public, such as Northumberland College which charges £25 for an MOT. If you've used a college MOT centre let us know in our General Cheap MOT Discussion.
Is your car in moderate to poor condition?
If it's likely or possible only minor repairs will 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. See council-run MOT centres below.
On the other hand, if you're pretty sure your car will need substantial repairs, there's a balance to be had. A garage that does repairs is convenient, and there's generally no retest fee, but with a council MOT there's a chance your car may fail on fewer points.
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 which option is the best value.
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Try hidden council MOT test centres
Many local councils have their own MOT testing stations for their own vehicles, such as buses or vans.
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. They said they were grateful as it secured their jobs at a time when councils are cutting back. 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 pass the test, or need fewer repairs compared with MOTs done at other garages. Here are a few examples:
I had a pre-MOT at my local garage. It failed and it was going to cost £400 to put right. I booked my car into my nearest council MOT centre and it passed. Yes!
- Glen7, 2013
I took my car to a dealer for an MOT. Failed. It was going to cost £798 to fix it. Next day I took it to my local council test centre and paid £30 (which I found out on MSE). Car passed MOT! This is one of my greatest achievements to date and it’s thanks to MSE for inspiring me. Cheers!
- Ermantrude, 2006
Thanks to your advice our MOT was £37 this year on our camper van from a Council MOT garage, last year it was nearly £400.
- Fed up hippe, 2013
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.
- Katiepatie, 2011
We always use a council MOT centre and in five years I've never had a car fail an MOT! Everything is very efficient and cheap
- @CatLamin, 2016
@MartinSLewis How useful! I didn't even know they existed. I'm sick of worrying myself sick about the MOT costing £500/600 plus. Thank you!
- @CeCe_3000, 2016
MOT Testing: Let us know your experiences of council MOT test centres in our discussion area.
While you may miss out on a special 'cheap MOT testing' deal, the money you save in repairs should make up for it. Of course, there are no guarantees, as the council test centre may say you need repairs. But that's 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 DVSA's MOT enquiries phone line 0300 123 9000, and DVSA will re-test your car (but you'll have to pay the full test fee again).
Local council MOT test centre finder
This list shows all the council-run centres we know of that don't do repairs – click your region below to see those nearest. As it's compiled by public feedback, always check the details and the centre's MOT status before using it. Also it's worth booking early.
If you can't find a local centre, 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.
Test centres region-by-region
|Barnet||Mill Hill Depot, Bittacy Hill, Barnet, London NW7 1BL||020 8349 7750|
|Barking & Dagenham||Fleet Workshop, Frizlands Depot, Rainham Rd North, Dagenham RM10 7HX||020 8227 5866|
|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||Oakwood Hill, Loughton, IG10 3FQ||01992 564100|
|Harrow||Harrow MOT Testing Station, Unit 1, Central Depot, Forward Drive, Harrow HA3 8NT||020 8424 7555|
|Hounslow||Bridge Rd Depot, Pears Rd, Hounslow TW3 1SQ||020 8583 5430|
|King's Cross||York Way Depot, 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 SW18 1EY
|020 8871 6761|
Southern & South East England
|Andover||Test Valley Borough Council, Portway Depot, Macadam Way, Andover SP10 3XW||01264 368000|
|Dorset||Fleet Operations, Borough of Poole, Hatchpond Depot, Hatchpond Rd, Poole BH17 7LQ||01202 261748|
|Fleet Services, Charminster Depot, 1 Wanchard Lane, Charminster, Dorchester, Dorset DT2 9RP||01305 228104|
|Guildford||Woking Rd Depot, Woking Rd,
Guildford GU1 1QE
Eastleigh Borough Council, Hedge End Depot, Botley Rd, Hedge End SO30 2RA
|023 8068 8389|
|Totton Workshop, Jacobs Gutter Lane, Totton, Southampton, SO40 9TH||023 8066 9120|
|Redhill||Reigate and Banstead Borough Council MOT Centre, Horley Rd, Redhill RH1 6PN||01737 276650|
|Sevenoaks||Sevenoaks Direct Services, Dunbrik Depot, 2 Main Rd, Sundridge, Kent TN14 6EP||01732 227400|
|Southampton||City Depot, First Avenue, Millbrook, Southampton SO15 0LJ||023 8083 4363|
|West Sussex||Commerce Way, Lancing, West Sussex, BN15 8TA||01273 263148|
|Winchester||Bishops Waltham Workshop, Botley Rd, Bishops Waltham, SO32 1DR||01489 895305|
South West England
|Bodmin||Central Group Centre, Castle Canyke Rd,
Bodmin PL31 1DZ
|Redruth|| Western Group Centre, Radnor Rd, Scorrier
Redruth TR16 5EH
|Bedford||Bedford Borough Council Vehicle Depot, 30 Brunel Rd, Bedford MK41 9TG||01234 718048|
|Bury St Edmunds||Olding Rd, Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk IP33 3TA||01284 757458|
|Cambridge||Cambridge City Council, Vehicle Engineering Services, Dickerson Ind Est, Ely Rd, Waterbeach, Cambridge CB25 9PG||01223 458266|
|Essex||Freighter House, Drovers Way, Chelmsford CM2 5PH||01245 615800|
|Lowestoft||Waveney District Council MOT Testing Centre, Rotterdam Rd, Lowestoft 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 NR6 6EQ||01603 894306|
|Peterborough||Peterborough City Council Depot, Nursery Lane, Fengate, Peterborough PE1 5BG||01733 425419|
|Location||Address||Contact details||Bath||MOT Garage and Fleet Services, Locksbrook Rd, Bath BA1 3EL||01225 477314|
|Bristol||Sandy Park Rd, Brislington, Bristol BS4 3NZ||0117 903 6319|
|MOT Test Centre, Broad Lane Offices, Engine Common Lane, Yate, Bristol BS37 7PN||01454 863920|
|Cheltenham||Central Depot, Swindon Rd, Cheltenham GL51 9JZ||01242 387780|
|Oxfordshire||Thorpe Lane Depot, Banbury OX16 4UT||01295 221916|
|Wiltshire||Wiltshire Council Works Depot, Horton Rd, Devizes, Wiltshire SN10 2JJ||01380 725854|
|Bromsgrove||Bromsgrove District Council, Aston Rd, Bromsgrove, Worcestershire B60 3EX||01527 881188|
|Coventry||259 London Rd, Coventry CV3 4AR||024 7683 2147|
|Newcastle-under-Lyme||Central Depot, Knutton Lane, Newcastle-under-Lyme ST5 2SL||01782 620953|
|Nuneaton||Operational Services, Transport Services, St Mary's Rd, Nuneaton CV11 5AR||024 7637 6031|
|Stafford||Beacon Business Park, Weston Rd, Stafford ST18 0WL||01785 854832 / 854833|
|Stoke on Trent||Stoke on Trent City Council, Transport Workshops, Cromer Rd, Northwood, Stoke on Trent ST1 6QN||01782 232297|
|Walsall||Walsall Council MOT Test Centre, Environmental Depot, 200 Pelsall Rd, Brownhills, Walsall WS8 7EN||01922 653753|
|Wyre Forest||Wyre Forest District Council, Green Street Depot, Kidderminster DY10 1HA||01562 732528|
|Ashfield||Ashfield District Council Transport Department, Northern Depot, Station Rd, Sutton-in-Ashfield NG17 5HB||01623 457885|
|Buxton||County Transport, Hallsteads Garage, Buxton, SK17 8BJ||01298 813141|
|Chesterfield||County Transport, Brimington Rd Nth,
Chesterfield S41 9BE
|Derbyshire||County Transport, Ripley Rd, Ambergate DE56 2ER||01629 532100|
|North East Derbyshire District Council, Rotherside Rd, Eckington S21 4HL||01246 217273|
|Leicester||Leicester City Council MOT Centre, 17 Lower Willow Street, Leicester LE1 2HP||0116 229 2565|
|Nottingham||Woolsthorpe Depot, Woolsthorpe Close, Bilborough, Nottingham, NG8 3JP||0115 876 4500|
|Eastcroft Depot, London Rd, Nottingham, NG2 3AH||0115 915 2008|
|Nottinghamshire||Bilsthorpe Business Park, Eakring Rd, Bilsthorpe, Nottinghamshire NG22 8ST||0115 804 2099|
North West England
|Bamber Bridge||Dewhurst Row, Holme Rd, Bamber Bridge, Preston PR5 6BB||01772 620933|
|Blackpool||Layton Depot, Plymouth Rd, Blackpool FY3 7HW||01253 476291|
|Bolton||Transport Services & Vehicle Workshop, Bradley Fold Depot, Bradley Fold Rd, 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|
|Crewe||Cheshire East Council, Pyms Lane, Crewe, Cheshire CW1 3PJ||01270 686 853|
|Lytham St Annes||Fylde Council MOT Test Centre, Snowdon Rd, Lytham St Annes FY8 3DP||01253 658635|
|Merseyside||Knowsley Council Depot, Stretton Way, Huyton L36 6JF||0151 443 2300|
|Oldham||Oldham Metropolitan Borough Council, Moorhey Street, Oldham OL4 1JE||0161 770 4445|
|Salford||Turnpike House, 631 Eccles New Rd, 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|
North East England
|Durham||Central Repair Depot, Durham County Council, St John's Rd, Meadowfield, Durham, DH7 8XL||03000 269 342|
|Gateshead||Gateshead Council, Local Environmental Services, Park Rd, Gateshead NE8 3HN||0191 433 7433|
|Middlesbrough||Resolution House, Cargo Fleet Lane, Middlesborough TS3 8AL||01642 728 068|
|Newcastle||Newington Rd, Shieldfield, Newcastle-upon-Tyne NE6 5BD||01912 783 867|
|Northumberland||Lionheart Workshop, Hawthorn Close, Lionheart Ind Est, Alnwick NE66 2ER||01670 624 392|
|Stakeford Workshops, East View, Stakeford, Ashington NE62 5TR||01670 622 937|
|Tyne Mills Workshops, Tyne Mills Ind Est, Hexham NE46 1XL||01670 623 746|
|Stockton-on-Tees||Cowpen Lane Depot, Billingham, Stockton-on-Tees TS23 4DD||01642 527 167|
|Tyne and Wear||South Tyneside Council, Fleet Management, Hudson Street, South Shields, Tyne and Wear NE34 0NT||0191 427 2060|
|Tees Valley||Limerick Rd, Dormanstown, Redcar TS10 5JU||01642 444 979|
Yorkshire & Lincolnshire
|Dewsbury||Kirklees Council MOT Testing, George Street Depot, Dewsbury WF13 2LX||01924 325 001|
|Doncaster||Doncaster Council, North Bridge, Doncaster DN5 9AN||01302 736 851|
|East Riding of Yorkshire||Beverley Depot, Annie Reed Rd, Beverley HU17 0LF||01482 395 781|
|Halifax||Calderdale Council, Battinson Rd, Halifax, West Yorkshire HX1 4PL||01422 264 374|
|Harrogate||Motor Transport Workshops, Claro Rd, Harrogate HG1 4AT||01423 556 877|
|Huddersfield||Kirklees Council MOT Testing, Vine Street Depot, Huddersfield HD1 6NT||01484 221 000|
|Leeds||Leeds City Council MOT Testing, 225A York Rd, Leeds LS9 7QQ||0113 378 1464|
|Sheffield||Sheffield City Council Transport Services, Staniforth Rd, Sheffield S9 3HD||0114 203 7570|
|Cardiff||Cardiff MOT Testing Facility, Coleridge Rd, Cardiff CF11 8BT||02922 330 068|
|Carmarthenshire||Trostre Depot, Trostre Rd, LLanelli SA14 9RA||01554 784 148|
|Ceredigion||Highways, Property & Works Dept, TM Unit, Glanyrafon Ind Est, Llanbadarn, Aberystwyth, Ceredigion SY23 3JQ||01970 633 825|
|Denbighshire||Denbighsire County Council, Maintenance Facility Expressway Business Park, Abergele Rd, Bodelwyddan LL18 5SQ||01745 839 230|
|Glamorgan||The Vale Of Glamorgan Council, Alps Depot, Quarry Rd, Wenvoe, Cardiff CF5 6AA||029 2067 3243|
|Pembrokeshire||Thornton Industrial Trading Estate, Milford Haven, Pembrokeshire SA73 2RR||01437 764 551|
|Wrexham||Wrexham County Borough Council Environment Department, Transport Depot, Abbey Rd South, Wrexham Ind Est, Wrexham, LL13 9PW||01978 729 600|
|Aberdeenshire||Kittybrewster Depot, 38 Powis Terrace, Kittybrewster, Aberdeen AB25 3RF||01224 489 413|
|Harlaw Repair Depot, Harlaw Rd, Inverurie, Aberdeen AB51 4TE||01467 627 538|
|Stonehaven Repair Depot, Spurryhillock Ind Estate, Stonehaven AB39 2NH||01569 763 274|
|Dundee||Dundee City Council, 34 Harefield Rd, Dundee DD2 3JX||01382 434 773|
|Edinburgh||38 Russell Rd, Edinburgh EH11 2LP||0131 337 2307|
|Fife||Fife Council, Fleet Operations, Bankhead Central, Bankhead Park, Glenrothes KY7 6GH||03451 555 555/ 441737|
|Glasgow||Glasgow City Council Land Services, 425 Polmadie Rd, Glasgow G42 OPG||0141 287 3326|
|Lanarkshire||North Lanarkshire Council Regeneration and Environmental Services, Old Edinburgh Rd, Bellshill ML4 3JF||01698 506 241|
|Midlothian||Midlothian Council, 80 High Street, Bonnyrigg EH19 2AE||0131 660 3486|
|West Dunbartonshire||West Dunbartonshire Council, Richmond Street, Clydebank, G81 1RF||01389 738 721|
|West Lothian||Nairns Rd, Deans Ind Est, Deans, Livingston EH54 8AY||01506 777 824|
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, your first MOT's needed after four years). See the NI Direct website for info and to find your nearest. Also see the dedicated discussion: Northern Ireland MOTs.
Let us know your experiences of council MOT test centres or share any you'd like us to add to the list in our MOT testing discussion.
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It's not only council-run centres that don't do repairs
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.
But if you're new to MOTs or not happy with what you get now, then this is an alternative route. You can also check your local council's website to see if it has a list of vetted garages.
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. Retests 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 a 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 the list below.
See the full list of failure points which qualify for a free retest
Access panels, battery, bonnet, boot lid, brake pedal anti-slip, direction indicators, doors, dropsides, electrical wiring, fuel filler cap, horn, lamps (excluding headlamp aim), loading door, main beam 'tell-tale', mirrors, rear reflectors, registration plates, seatbelts (but not anchorages), seats, sharp edges or projections, steering wheel, tailboard, tailgate, tyre pressure monitoring system, 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? Get up to half off retests 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 retest's allowed per full test.