Driving without an MOT: What you need to know

Driving without an MOT: What you need to know

There’s a lot to remember when it comes to your car, from sorting out your insurance to keeping it serviced and properly maintained. With that in mind, it’s all too easy to forget about your car’s MOT but what are the penalties for not having a valid certificate and is it ever okay to drive without one — here’s what you need to know. 

What is an MOT?

An MOT test checks that your car is fit to be on the road. If it passes, you’ll be given an MOT certificate valid for 12 months confirming that it’s roadworthy.

Bear in mind that an MOT isn’t the same as a service and it doesn’t check the mechanical workings of your car. Instead, an MOT focuses on safety and ensures that your car meets the legal standards set out by the government.

You can find a full list of what’s checked at GOV.UK, car parts checked at an MOT, but areas of focus, include: 

  • Brakes
  • Seatbelts
  • Tyres
  • Exhaust emissions
  • Mirrors
  • Steering and suspension
  • Windscreen

Driving without an MOT: What you need to know

How much is an MOT test?

The government sets the price of an MOT and test centres cannot charge you any more than this. Currently, MOTs cost a maximum of £54.85 for cars and £29.65 for standard motorbikes. 

Do all cars need an MOT certificate?

All cars need an MOT when they’re three years old. After that, they’ll need to be tested annually before the previous certificate expires. 

If you’re not sure when your car last had an MOT, you can check its MOT history at GOV.UK. You’ll need the car’s number plate but it should tell you in seconds whether or not your car’s got a valid certificate.  

Can you drive without an MOT?

Generally speaking, no. If your car needs an MOT, you must have a valid certificate in order to drive it. 

The only way you can drive your car without an MOT is if:

  • Your car is less than three years old.
  • You’re driving to a pre-booked MOT test.
  • Your car is exempt — this includes historic or classic cars, you can find a full list at GOV.UK, vehicles exempt from an MOT.

Can I drive without an MOT to the test centre?

You can drive to an MOT test centre without a valid certificate but your appointment must be pre-booked. 

If you’re stopped on the way to your pre-arranged MOT, you may be expected to prove it so it’s a good idea to take any confirmation emails or correspondence. In some instances, you might also be asked for the name of the test centre so it can be checked.

The test centre must be a ‘reasonable’ distance from where your journey started. You’ll also need to go straight there (so no visits to the shops on the way).

Contrary to popular myth, there is no grace period for driving without a valid MOT. So, if your certificate expired on the Monday but your MOT wasn’t until Wednesday, you cannot drive your car on the Tuesday before the test.

What is the penalty for driving without an MOT?

If your MOT certificate isn’t valid (for example, if it’s expired) you can be fined up to £1,000.

If your car has failed its MOT test but you continue to drive it, the penalties are even harsher. In this instance, you can be fined up to £2,500, get three penalty points and in the worst case, you could be banned from driving. 

It doesn’t matter whether you’re accidentally driving without an MOT or not, the penalties are the same. 

Driving without an MOT: What you need to know


Can I drive my car if it fails the MOT?

This depends on what your car failed on. If there were no dangerous problems, you’ll be able to drive your car but only if your previous MOT certificate is still valid.


If your car fails the MOT and the test centre has found dangerous or major problems, you must have them fixed before you can drive your car.  If you’ve used a test centre that can’t make repairs (for instance, a local authority test centre) you’ll need to have it towed to a garage. 

MOT test centres can’t stop you from driving your car away but if it does have major problems and has failed the MOT, you’ll be penalised accordingly. 

Is my car insurance valid without an MOT?

Driving without a valid MOT is likely to invalidate your car insurance which means your insurer can refuse to pay for any repairs. 

Remember that if your insurer refuses to cover the cost of an accident and it’s considered your fault, it’ll be down to you to pay damages to other injured parties. Needless to say, this can leave you with huge costs.

Driving without valid insurance is also an offence and could result in a £300 fine and up to six penalty points. In some cases, you could also be disqualified from driving. 

Can I drive to my MOT test without insurance or car tax?

You can drive to a pre-arranged MOT test without road tax, however the vehicle must always have the appropriate insurance cover in place.

How can I make sure I don’t forget my MOT?

If you’re worried about forgetting your MOT, then you can set yourself a reminder at GOV.UK, get MOT reminders. All you need is your number plate and a mobile number or email address (you can cancel the reminders at a later date).

If you sign up to this service, you’ll get a message one month before your current MOT is due to run out and another reminder if it’s not been booked two weeks before. Reminders for larger vehicles like lorries and buses will be sent two months before existing MOTs expire.

Of course, it’s equally important to make sure you’ve got car cover too, so when your existing car insurance policy is due to come to an end, make sure you compare quotes online to find the best deal for you – so why not start a quote online now.