Cheap Council MOTs
Plus more tricks to cut MOT costs
It's not the test fee but repairing 'fails' that can cost a fortune. But did you know you can get MOTs done by 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.
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.
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.
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.
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 one month before your test's due, go to Gov.uk.
There are slightly different rules and processes for MOTs in Northern Ireland. For more info, see NI Direct.
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 a minimum standard of roadworthiness.
Yet under the rule changes that came into force in May 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 reapired 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).
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 Gov.uk.
How the MOT rules have changed
In May 2018, the way the MOT test works in England, Scotland and Wales changed as the result of an EU directive.
Crucially, the new 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 new rules have brought in specific checks which can take your car off the road.)
Here's a round-up of what's changed:
- New defect categories – if you get a 'dangerous' fault you won't be able to drive away. Problems are now be 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 though, 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's dangerously "deteriorated or insecure".
There's no easy-to-use list showing the new defect categories unfortunately, 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, and if cars have reverse lights and headlight washers, if 'first used' from 1 September 2009 (the 'first used date' relates in most cases to when a vehicle's first driven out of the factory).
A few elements of the previous test which resulted in a fail have been reclassified as minor faults, such as the brake fluid level being below the minimum mark. See a full list of changes here.
- 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 will also be updated to include them.
- Some cars over 40 years old won't need an MOT. If your car's over 40 years old (you can check this online with the DVLA) – it no longer needs an MOT as long as it hasn't been modified substantially.
For full details of the changes, go to Gov.uk.
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 professional assistance. 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.
The table below, which lists the most common reasons for failing an MOT and what to do about them, has been updated to include new checks now included in the test.
The most common MOT failures – and how to beat them
|Lights||17%||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||12%||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||9%||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||7%||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 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||6%||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||4%||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.
|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.|
|Fluids||N/A(2)||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.|
|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. Figures released by the DVSA in March 2019 (2) There are no official figures, but we know these are common fails|
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 the new MOT rules came into force in May 2018.
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 on our MOT Cost Cutting forum thread.
Is your car in moderate condition and likely to need only minor repairs?
If it's likely or possible only minor repairs will be needed, 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 MOT test centres below.
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 the new 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 May 2018, if a 'dangerous' fault – eg, 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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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 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 forum thread below, call your 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 new MOT rules you might not be able to drive your car away if it fails until it's fixed.
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 Veolia Croydon Workshop, Stubbs Mead Depot, Factory Lane, Croydon CR0 3RL 020 3567 6495 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, Freight Lane,
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
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 Guildford Woking Rd Depot, Woking Rd,
Guildford GU1 1QE
01483 445091 Hampshire 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
Bodmin Central Group Centre, Castle Canyke Rd,
Bodmin PL31 1DZ
01872 327827 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 894346 Peterborough Peterborough City Council Depot, Nursery Lane, Fengate, Peterborough PE1 5BG 01733 425419
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
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
01246 450705 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
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
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
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 Cheap MOTs: Northern Ireland forum thread.
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 Cost Cutting forum thread.
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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 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.
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 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.
Access panels, battery, bonnet, boot lid, brake pedal anti-slip, doors, 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), seats, sharp edges or projections, steering wheel, tailboard, tailgate, towbars, 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.
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