Vehicle owners are to be given a six-month exemption from MOT testing, as the government aims to keep essential workers on the road and limit the potential for the spread of the coronavirus by private car owners.
Drivers of cars, vans and motorcycles whose MOT expires on or after 30 March 2020 will automatically get a six-month extension, meaning the earliest you’d need to get your car inspected would be 30 September.
This includes brand-new vehicles, which will get a six-month extension from the date their first MOT is due. As it stands, the legislation will be in effect for 12 months, until 30 March 2021.
Motorists benefiting from the extension will still be expected to keep their car in a safe and roadworthy condition, including making sure all lights are working, and that tyres have sufficient tread depth and no defects.
No paper exemption certificate will be issued, but drivers will be able to see the current MOT status of their vehicle using the government’s MOT history checker. Once the extension has been applied, drivers will be able to renew their vehicle tax as normal.
A separate three-month extension applies to lorries, buses and trailers, which are exempt from needing an MOT from 21 March. For these vehicles, however, drivers may need to apply for an exemption, depending on their vehicle.
- Discover more on how to ensure your car is safe and legal to use, in our guide on how to pass an MOT test.
- You can keep up to date on our latest coverage over on our coronavirus advice hub.
What does the MOT extension mean for car tax?
If you are affected, your MOT expiry date will be updated about seven days before it is due, according to the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA).
Once the extension has been applied, which should happen about seven days before the expiry date, drivers will be able to (and should) renew their car tax as normal.
If your car tax is due at the same time as your MOT, you will need to wait for your MOT expiry date to be updated before you are able to renew your car tax.
If your MOT expiry date is three days away and has not been updated automatically (you can check you car’s MOT online), you need to email email@example.com.
Vehicles requiring MOT before 30 March
Unfortunately, for those whose MOT due date is up to and including 29 March, an extension won’t be granted, meaning owners will need to get their car tested to normal deadlines to remain road legal, provided they’re not self-isolating.
Those who fall into this category – such as those who are showing symptoms of coronavirus, or living with others who do – should delay booking an MOT test until after their period of self-isolation is over.
Drivers who are classed as extremely vulnerable (as defined by the government here) must not take their vehicle in for MOT testing.
Many drivers whose MOT is due before 30 March will be concerned that this could leave them open to prosecution for not having a valid MOT.
When we asked the Department for Transport (DfT), a spokesperson said it was working with the police so that they don’t enforce expired MOTs on cars parked on the street if their owner hadn’t been able to get to an MOT centre.
The DfT confirmed that drivers will still need a valid MOT to use their cars on the road, with no exemptions detailed for those driving for the essential purposes outlined by the government, including for work where it’s absolutely necessary and for medical reasons.
Furthermore, the implications for vehicle insurance (the terms and conditions of which require a valid MOT) are unclear, particularly in the event of an accident.
The DfT has stated that it’s working with insurers and the police to ensure motorists aren’t unfairly penalised for a lack of MOT.
However, this does not offer complete clarity for drivers and we’ve requested urgent clarification from the DfT. We will update this story as soon as more information is available.
Currently, there are only two exceptions to driving your car without a valid MOT: driving to or from a garage for repairs, or to a pre-booked MOT test.
If your vehicle tax runs out while you’re self-isolating and you’re unable to renew due to a lack of valid MOT, government advice is to give statutory off road notification (SORN) and declare your car off-road. However, the DfT confirmed that tax regulations will be enforced as normal, so it wouldn’t provide a solution to those without off-road parking.
Advice remains to stay at home
Despite the relaxation on MOT rules, as well as the lifting of congestion and ultra-low-emission zone charges in central London, government advice remains that people must remain in their homes and limit travel to essential shopping trips, daily exercise or for medical necessity.
As well as ensuring that essential workers can keep using their cars legally, the MOT extension will reduce the number of customers visiting garages at any one time, bolstering social-distancing practices.
Garages and MOT centres are on the list of essential business permitted to stay open during the current lockdown.
Which? has approached two of the largest national providers of MOT testing, Halfords and Kwik-fit, to find out what measures they’re taking to keep both staff and customers safe while working on vehicles, and what measures they’re working on to help people that might need an MOT urgently.
We’ll update this story as we receive more information.