Cheap MOTs

Tricks to cut costs including DIY checks and hidden council test centres

It's not the MOT test fee but repairing 'fails' that can cost a fortune. But did you know you can get cheap MOTs done by hidden council test centres? We run through what the test is, how best to book a test cheaply and what to do if you need repairs done.

This guide largely applies to England, Scotland and Wales, as the rules are different in Northern Ireland – for more info, see the section on MOT rules for Northern Ireland.

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.

You could be fined up to £1,000 for driving without an MOT, and if your vehicle isn't roadworthy, the penalties are even steeper.

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.

It's the owner's responsibility to ensure the vehicle has a valid MOT

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.

Don't book in too early for your MOT test

You need a test when the car's three years old (four years in Northern Ireland), 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. Be aware that there are slightly different rules and processes for MOTs in Northern Ireland.

Check when your MOT is due (and get a free reminder)

If you're not sure when your MOT is due, there's a simple MOT checker tool you can use. All you need to enter is the vehicle's registration number.

You can also get a free MOT reminder one month before your test's due via the website. You'll need to give an email address or phone number and the registration of a vehicle registered in England, Wales or Scotland. In Northern Ireland, you get a postal reminder seven weeks before it's due.

Always book tests in advance if your certificate's run out

If your MOT's run out, you can still drive your car to a test centre provided the test's been booked in advance. And previously, if it failed the test you were still usually able to drive from the test station to a repair centre to get the problems that caused it to fail fixed, provided it still met the full requirements for road vehicles.

Yet under the rule changes that came into force in 2018, you can't drive away if a 'dangerous' fault is found when your car's being tested, regardless of whether your existing MOT is still valid. A dangerous fault means your car has failed the MOT and is deemed to be a risk to road safety or the environment, and mustn't be driven until it's repaired. If you do, you could be fined up to £2,500, get three penalty points and be banned from driving.

If a 'major' fault is found, you car will have failed the MOT, but you can drive away provided it's to get the fault repaired immediately.

If your car fails its MOT, you'll be given a 'refusal of an MOT' certificate and the vehicle will be logged on the MOT database. If you don't think it should have failed, you can appeal the result via the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA).

MOT test costs are capped – for cars it's £54.85 – but you can usually get 'em much cheaper

Companies can only charge up to the official maximum for an MOT, but as we show below, you can get them much cheaper. This 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, motor caravans or quads and £29.65 for standard motorbikes. For a full list, see the website.

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First do a DIY MOT of most common fails

According to DVSA data for the year up to March 2023, almost a third of cars, vans and small passenger vehicles failed their MOTs first time, and often due to simple, avoidable reasons. Don't worry, checking for these requires common sense, not mechanical sense, though while some of the fails you can sort yourself, others will need professional assistance. Either way, sorting them before the test is usually cheaper than after.

Over a quarter of MOT failures are due to lights, reflectors and indicators. So walk around to check your car's, front and back.

The table below lists the most common reasons for failing an MOT based on data from the DVSA, and what to do about them. Of course, we're MoneySavingExperts, not motoring experts, so the info below on how to carry out checks has come from the DVSA and RAC.

The most common MOT failures – and how to beat them

Reason for failure (and % failed on it) (1)
Checks to do beforehand
Lights, reflectors, electrics (11%) 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 and number plates. 

You need to check front fog lights too – plus if your car was first used on or after 1 Sept 2009, check the reverse lights, and if first used on or after 1 Mar 2018, the daytime lights.

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.
Suspension (9%) 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.
Brakes (7%) 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.

You should check the brake wear warning light too if you have one – it's a light on the dashboard of some cars which comes on when the brake pads have been worn down. If your car's got one and it's lit, it could fail an MOT, so get it looked into first.
Tyres (6%) Check tyre pressure. To check tyre pressure, look up what they should be, and fill 'em up if needed.

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 TyreSafe 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.
Windscreen, wipers, washers (5%) 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 with fully-comprehensive car insurance policies).

Windscreen wipers? Front wipers are in the check. They need to clear the windscreen in conjunction with the washers. If your car was first used on or after 1 Sept 2009 and it has headlight washers, check they're working too.
Exhaust, noise and leaks (3%) 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. 

If you've a diesel car with a diesel particulate filter (DPF), and there's smoke of any colour coming from the exhaust, it'll fail, so check it out before you take it to be tested.

Are all fluids topped up and staying put? Check the brake fluid, windscreen washer and oil reserves. You'll need to check for fluid leaks too.
Steering (2%) Is your steering working properly? Again this isn't really easy to check for yourself, so if you think the steering is less responsive than it could be, or have noticed any other issues, it's likely you need to get it looked at. Also check for a warning light.
The rest (N/A) (2) An all-over once-over. Make sure the fuel cap is secure and mirrors are in good condition, and doors, horn, seatbelts, speedo, etc, are all fully functional. Also check no other warning lights are on, and that bumpers and floors are in good condition.

(1) Percentage of first-time MOT fails, according to DVSA figures for thje year up to March 2023. (2) There are no official figures, but we know these are common reasons for fails.

There's a short series of DVSA videos to help you check your car before an MOT. Bear in mind these were published in 2016, so won't cover the changes which came into force in 2018.

Next choose the right MOT test centre

For cars with faults, the MOT test fee is usually dwarfed by repair costs. While an 'MOT for £20' promotion sounds good, it's irrelevant if you're shelling out £1,500 to get problems fixed. Therefore what type of MOT you should opt for is largely dictated by your car's condition – and all the more so after new MOT rules came into force in 2018

Is your car in tip-top condition? Find the cheapest MOT centre

If your car's in perfect condition and you'd be surprised if it failed, look for offers to get it as cheap as possible. It's worth checking local garages to see if they'll match a decent deal for a test fee you spot.

Some colleges also offer cut-price MOT tests as well as repairs and servicing to the public. If you've used a college MOT centre, let us know in the MOT cost cutting discussion on the MSE Forum.

Here's what some of the biggest UK service and repair chains were charging for MOTs when we checked in April 2024:

Is your car in moderate condition and likely to need only minor repairs?

If it's likely or possible that only minor repairs will be needed, council-run centres come into their own – see the section below on council MOT test centres.

If it spots something minor, you'll still pass the MOT and be given your certificate, but it'll issue an advisory for recommended work – though it won't do the work for you. As the fault was minor, you have time to decide if it needs fixing. If you choose to get it fixed, you can then get quotes for the best price at a garage of your choice.

Is your car likely to need major repairs?

If you're pretty sure your car will need substantial repairs, the best solution is to do your research, find a garage you'd be happy to carry out the repairs and then get the MOT test done there. Ask family and friends for recommendations and call around – tell the garages the likely problems, then ask for quotes.

Remember, under MOT rules, a fail means you might not be able to drive away. Under the previous system, if your car needed major repairs there was a balance to be struck – while going direct to a garage that did repairs was convenient, getting a council MOT could sometimes mean your car would fail on fewer points and you could then drive it elsewhere to get it fixed.

However, under the changes that came into force in 2018, if a 'dangerous' fault – for example, insufficient tyre tread or contaminated brake fluid – is found, you won't be able to drive it away until it's been fixed. If you go to a council test centre which doesn't do repairs, your only option will be to have it towed.

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Try hidden council MOT test centres

Question mark with a green outline and a photo of a mechanic working under a car inside

Many 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. But they generally only carry out tests and don't do repairs (always check), so they're ideal if your car's in pretty good condition and likely only has minor repairs needed.

Yet if your car's likely to need major repairs, think twice about taking it to one of these centres. Under rules introduced in 2018, if your car receives a 'dangerous' fail you won't be able to drive it away until it's fixed, which means you might end up having to pay for it to be transported to get the necessary repairs done.

Does using a council test centre make a difference?

Lots 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:

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

I honestly didn't know this was a service the council provided ... I received a fair and honest MOT test and they only charged me £45.
- forumite NAL16, 2018

I have used the MOT testing station in Chelmsford, Essex a few times ... I would highly recommend doing it this way, if you think it's likely to pass of course ... My Renault passed each time.
- forumite Walker24, 2020

Council MOT testing. Let us know your experiences of council MOT test centres in the MOT cost cutting discussion on the MSE Forum.

Approved MOT test centre symbol, which is three white triangles on a light blue background.

Is it a safety compromise?

This isn't about getting a shoddy quick MOT that passes your car. Council-run MOT centres 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.

You can appeal against an MOT failure by getting a form from the test centre in question, from the website or from the DVSA by calling 0300 123 9000 and sending it to the DVSA within 14 working days of the test. If the DVSA decides to re-test your car, you'll have to pay the full test fee again, but if your appeal is successful this will be refunded.

How to find council MOT test centres near you

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 from suggestions by our users, always check a centre's details and MOT status before using it. Also, it's worth booking early.

If you can't find a local centre, check the cheap MOTs discussion on the MSE Forum, call your city, county or borough council, or take a look at its website. It should be able to tell you your nearest one.

And again, remember that under the MOT rules changes in 2018, if your car fails you might not be able to drive it away until it's fixed, which could mean paying to have it towed if you choose a test centre that doesn't do repairs.

Test centres region-by-region

  • Eastern England

    Bedford Brunel Road Depot, 30 Brunel Road, Bedford, MK41 9TG 01234 276777 or book online
    Cambridge Vehicle Engineering Services, Dickerson Industrial Estate, Ely Road, Waterbeach, Cambridge, CB25 9PG 01223 458266 or email
    Chelmsford Freighter House, Drovers Way, Chelmsford, CM2 5PH 01245 615800 or book online
    East Suffolk Rotterdam Road, Lowestoft, NR32 2EF 01502 565626
    Luton Fleet Transport, Central Depot, Kingsway, Luton, Bedfordshire, LU4 8EJ 01582 546839 or book online or email
    Norfolk Norse Group, 280 Fifers Lane, Norwich, Norfolk, NR6 6EQ 01603 894346 or 07541651664
    West Suffolk West Suffolk Operational Hub, Bury Road, Fornham St Martin, Bury St Edmunds, IP31 1FE 01284 757402 or email
  • East Midlands

    Ashfield Ashfield District Council Transport Department, Northern Depot, Station Road, Sutton in Ashfield, NG17 5HB 01623 457411
    Derbyshire County Transport, Ambergate Workshop, Ripley Road, Ambergate, Belper, Derbyshire, DE56 2ER 01629 532100 or 01629 532295 or email
    Derbyshire County Transport, Dove Holes Workshop, Hallsteads Garage, Dove Holes, Buxton, Derbyshire, SK17 8BJ 01298 813141 or 01298 814298 or email
    Derbyshire County Transport, Brimington Workshop, Brimington Road North, Whittington Moor, Chesterfield, Derbyshire S41 9BE 01629 537644 or 01629 537580 or email
    Leicester 17 Lower Willow Street, Leicester, LE1 2HP 0116 229 2565 or book online
    North east Derbyshire North East Derbyshire District Council Transport Department, Rotherside Road, Eckington, S21 4HL 01246 217273 or book online
    Nottinghamshire Via East Midlands, Bilsthorpe Depot, Bilsthorpe Business Park, Bilsthorpe, Nottinghamshire, NG22 8ST 0115 804 2121 or book online or email
    Nottinghamshire Via Fleet Services, Unit 7, Castle Park, Queen's Drive, Nottingham, NG2 1AH 0115 804 2121 or book online or email
  • London

    Barking & Dagenham Fleet Workshop, Frizlands Depot, Rainham Road North, Dagenham, RM10 7HX 020 8227 5866
    Barnet Oakleigh Depot, Oakleigh Road South, London, N11 1HJ 020 8359 5103
    Camden York Way Depot, 7 York Way, Freight Lane, London, N1C 4BE 020 7974 8490 or email
    Croydon Veolia Croydon Workshop, Stubbs Mead Depot, Factory Lane, Croydon, CR0 3RL 020 3567 6497 or email
    Epping Forest Epping Forest District Council MOT test centre, 180 Oakwood Hill, Loughton, IG10 3FQ 01992 564100 or book online or email
    Greenwich The Birchmere Centre, Eastern Way, Thamesmead, SE28 8BF 020 8921 4561 or contact online or email
    Harrow Harrow MOT Testing Station, Unit 1, Central Depot, Forward Drive, Harrow, HA3 8NT 020 8424 7555
    Hounslow Bridge Road Depot, Pears Road, Hounslow, TW3 1SQ 020 8583 5430
    Lewisham The Test Centre, 195-197 Edward Place, Deptford, London, SE8 5HD 020 8691 9827 or email 
    Newham Newham Central Depot, Jenkins Lane, London, IG11 0AD 020 8472 0343 or email
    Tower Hamlets Blackwall Transport Complex, 1 Silvocea Way, London, E14 0JJ 020 7364 1069
    Wandsworth Frogmore Complex, Dormay Street, Wandsworth, SW18 1EY 020 8871 6761 or book online
  • North-east England

    Durham Central Repair Depot, Durham County Council, St John's Road, Meadowfield, Durham, DH7 8XL 03000 269 342
    Gateshead Gateshead Council, Local Environmental Services, Park Road, Gateshead, NE8 3HN 0191 433 7433
    Middlesbrough Resolution House, Cargo Fleet Lane, Middlesbrough, TS3 8AL 01642 728 068
    Newcastle Newington Road, Shieldfield, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, NE6 5BD 01912 783 867
    Northumberland Lionheart Workshop, Hawthorn Close, Lionheart Industrial Estate, Alnwick, NE66 2ER 01670 624 392
    Stakeford Workshops, East View, Stakeford, Ashington, NE62 5TR
    01670 622 937
    Tyne Mills Workshops, Tyne Mills Industrial Estate, 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 Road, Dormanstown, Redcar, TS10 5JU 01642 444 979
  • North-west England

    Bamber Bridge Dewhurst Row, Holme Road, Bamber Bridge, Preston, PR5 6BB 01772 620933
    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
    Crewe Cheshire East Council, Pyms Lane, Crewe, Cheshire, CW1 3PJ 01270 686 853
    Lytham St Annes Fylde Council MOT Test Centre, Snowdon Road, 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 Road, Salford, M50 1SW 0161 925 1042
    St Helens Hardshaw Brook Depot, Parr Street, St Helens, WA9 1JR 01744 676753
    Warrington Wilderspool Causeway, Warrington, WA4 6PT 01925 634296
    Wigan Wigan Council, Makerfield Depot, Makerfield Way, Ince, Wigan, WN2 2PR 01942 705125
  • Scotland

    Aberdeenshire Kittybrewster Depot, 38 Powis Terrace, Kittybrewster, Aberdeen, AB25 3RF
    01224 489 413
    Harlaw Repair Depot, Harlaw Road, Inverurie, Aberdeen, AB51 4TE
    01467 627 538
    Stonehaven Repair Depot, Spurryhillock Industrial Estate, Stonehaven, AB39 2NH 01569 763 274
    Dundee Dundee City Council, 34 Harefield Road, Dundee, DD2 3JX 01382 434 773
    Edinburgh 38 Russell Road, 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 Road, Glasgow, G42 OPG 0141 287 3326
    Lanarkshire North Lanarkshire Council Regeneration and Environmental Services, Old Edinburgh Road, 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 Road, Deans Industrial Estate, Deans, Livingston, EH54 8AY 01506 777 824
  • 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 Road, Poole, BH17 7LQ 01202 261748
    Guildford Woking Road Depot, Woking Road, Guildford, GU1 1QE 01483 445091
    Hampshire Eastleigh Borough Council, Hedge End Depot, Botley Road, 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 Road, Redhill, RH1 6PN 01737 276650
    Sevenoaks Sevenoaks Direct Services, Dunbrik Depot, 2 Main Road, 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 Road, Bishops Waltham, SO32 1DR 01489 895305
  • South-west England

    Bodmin Central Group Centre, Castle Canyke Road, 
    Bodmin, PL31 1DZ
    01872 327827
    Redruth Western Group Centre, Radnor Road, Scorrier
    Redruth, TR16 5EH
    01872 327252
  • Wales

    Cardiff Cardiff MOT Testing Facility, Coleridge Road, Cardiff, CF11 8BT 02922 330 068
    Carmarthenshire Trostre Depot, Trostre Road, Llanelli, SA14 9RA 01554 784 148
    Ceredigion Highways, Property & Works Department, TM Unit, Glanyrafon Industrial Estate, Llanbadarn, Aberystwyth, Ceredigion, SY23 3JQ 01970 633 825
    Denbighshire Denbighshire County Council, Maintenance Facility Expressway Business Park, Abergele Road, Bodelwyddan, LL18 5SQ 01745 839 230
    Glamorgan The Vale of Glamorgan Council, Alps Depot, Quarry Road, 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 Road South, Wrexham Industrial Estate, Wrexham, LL13 9PW 01978 729 600
  • Western England

    Bath MOT Garage and Fleet Services, Locksbrook Road, Bath, BA1 3EL 01225 477314
    Bristol Sandy Park Road, 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 Road, Cheltenham, GL51 9JZ
    01242 387780
    Oxfordshire Oxford Direct Services (ODS), Marsh Road, Oxford, OX4 2HH 01865 335400,
    Oxfordshire Thorpe Lane Depot, Banbury, OX16 4UT 01295 221916
    Wiltshire Wiltshire Council Works Depot, Horton Road, Devizes, Wiltshire, SN10 2JJ
    01380 725854
  • West Midlands

    Bordesley Montague Street Depot, Bordesley, Birmingham, B9 4BA  01213 033 311
    Bromsgrove Bromsgrove District Council, Aston Road, Bromsgrove, Worcestershire, B60 3EX 01527 881188
    Coventry Whitley Depot, 259 London Road, 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 Road, Nuneaton, CV11 5AR 024 7637 6031
    Stafford Beacon Business Park, Weston Road, Stafford, ST18 0WL 01785 854832 / 854833
    Stoke on Trent Stoke on Trent City Council, Transport Workshops, Cromer Road, Northwood, Stoke on Trent, ST1 6QN 01782 232297
    Walsall MOT Depot, 200 Pelsall Road, Brownhills, Walsall, WS8 7EN 01922 654254
    Wyre Forest Wyre Forest District Council, Green Street Depot, Kidderminster, DY10 1HA 01562 732528
  • 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 Road, Beverley, HU17 0LF 01482 395 781
    Halifax Calderdale Council, Battinson Road, Halifax, West Yorkshire, HX1 4PL 01422 264 374
    Harrogate Motor Transport Workshops, Claro Road, 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 Road, Leeds, LS9 7QQ 0113 378 1464
    Sheffield Sheffield City Council Transport Services, Staniforth Road, Sheffield, S9 3HD 0114 203 7570

Let us know your experiences of council MOT test centres, and share any you'd like us to add to the list in the MOT cost cutting discussion on MSE Forum.

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 council's website to see if it has a list of vetted garages.

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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 – and you can get full details on retests from the website – 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...

Retests are free when the repairs are done at the test centre and the car'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, doors (including hinges, catches and pillars), drop-sides, electrical wiring, fuel filler cap, headlamp cleaning and levelling devices (that don't need a headlamp aim check), horn, lamps (excluding headlamp aim), loading door, main beam 'tell-tale', mirrors, rear reflectors, registration plates, seatbelts (but not anchorages), seatbelt load limiter, seatbealt pre-tensioner, seats, sharp edges or projections, steering wheel, tailboard, tailgate, towbars (excluding body around anchorage points), tyre pressure monitoring system, vehicle identification number (VIN), windscreen glass, wipers and washers, wheels and tyres (excluding motorbikes and sidecars).

Test done at a 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.

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.

How the MOT rules changed in 2018

Vector image in black and white of a car next to a clipboard with a checklist on it

As we've mentioned a few times above, in May 2018, the way the MOT test works in England, Scotland and Wales changed.

Crucially, the current rules could mean your car gets stuck at the garage if it's found to have a 'dangerous' fault, as you won't be allowed to drive it away – you'll have to get it repaired at the garage or towed elsewhere. This could happen under the previous rules if a car was deemed 'not roadworthy', but the current rules have brought in specific checks which can take your car off the road.

Here's a round-up of what changed:

New defect categories – if you get a 'dangerous' fault you won't be able to drive away. Problems are now categorised as 'minor', 'major' or 'dangerous' – previously, you simply passed or failed.

  • Your car will still pass if a minor fault's found, though repairs should be made as soon as possible.
  • A major fault means a fail, but you'll be able to drive your car to another garage to get it fixed if it can't be repaired where it's been tested.
  • If you get a dangerous fault, you won't be able to drive it away – you'll have to get it fixed on the spot or towed elsewhere.

It's worth noting you've always been forbidden from driving your car away from an MOT if it fails to meet a minimum standard of roadworthiness, so this isn't a complete change. But there are some possible 'dangerous' fails under the new rules which weren't tested for previously, such as if you have contaminated brake fluid or the floor is dangerously "deteriorated or insecure".

Unfortunately there's no easy-to-use list showing the new defect categories, but you can check how individual faults are categorised in the MOT inspection manual.

  • Stricter rules for diesel cars. Stricter emissions limits for diesel cars with diesel particulate filters (DPFs) now apply – check your car's handbook to find out if it has one. Your car will get a major fault if the MOT test finds there's smoke coming from the exhaust or any evidence that the DPF's been tampered with.

  • New checks as part of the test. These include whether the tyres are obviously underinflated, if the brake fluid is contaminated, if there are any fluid leaks that pose an environmental risk, brake-pad warning lights, if brake pads or discs are missing, engine malfunction indicator lamps, if cars have reverse lights and headlight washers, and if 'first used' from 1 September 2009 ('first used date' in most means when a vehicle's first driven out of the factory).

    A few elements that previously resulted in a fail have been reclassified as minor faults, such as the brake fluid level being below the minimum mark. See the full list of changes.

  • New-look MOT certificate. The MOT certificate now lists any defects found under the new categories, ie, as dangerous, major or minor faults. The Government service that allows you to check MOT history has been updated to include them.

  • Some cars over 40 years old won't need an MOT. If your car's over 40 years old (check online with the DVLA) it no longer needs an MOT, unless it's been modified substantially.

For full details of the changes, go to the website.

MOT rules for Northern Ireland

In Northern Ireland, all MOTs are Government-run and carried out at Driver & Vehicle Agency (DVA) test centres. None of these carry out repairs, and there's a fixed fee as well as some other requirements (for example, your first MOT's needed after four years), so MoneySaving opportunities are limited. See the NI Direct website for full info and to find your nearest test centre.

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