The Department for Transport has launched a consultation into changing the rules around the roadworthiness test, including extending the time before a car, van or motorbike has to be presented for its first MOT.
It says the change from three to four years could save British drivers up to £100 million per year without risking road users’ safety but motoring experts have cautioned against changes to the regular vehicle checks.
The DfT is also seeking views on reducing the frequency of subsequent MOTs, which must be carried out once a year, an idea previously branded “dangerous and unwanted” by mechanics.
MOTs can cost a maximum of £54.85 and the DfT says the average cost is around £40. The fine for driving without an MOT is £1,000.
The department said it wanted to “ensure roadworthiness checks continue to balance costs on motorists while ensuring road safety, keeping up with advances in vehicle technology, and tackling vehicle emissions”.
It said the number of casualties in crashes caused by vehicle defects is “low” and Government analysis shows delaying the first MOT “should not impact road safety”. DfT figures show 26 people were killed in crashes on Britain’s roads in 2021 when vehicle defects were a contributory factor. Currently 10% of cars fail their first MOT.
It noted that: “Since the MOT was introduced in 1960 – and especially in recent years – there have been major developments in vehicle technology such as lane-assisted driving which have increased road safety.”
Such systems, however, are not checked in a MOT and have no bearing on its roadworthiness. The current MOT checks key components such as tyres, brakes, lights and seat belts to ensure they meet legal standards.
AA president Edmund King said: “The MOT plays a vital role in ensuring that vehicles on our roads are safe and well maintained, and while not a formal recommendation, we totally oppose any change from an annual MOT.
“Last year, 83% of drivers said that the annual MOT was ‘very important’ for keeping our cars and roads as safe as possible, which highlights why an annual MOT must remain in place.
“With one in 10 cars failing their first MOT, we strongly discourage the Government from extending a car’s first MOT to the fourth anniversary due to road safety concerns.”
The RAC’s head of roads policy Nicholas Lyes said the group was not opposed to delaying a vehicle’s first MOT by a year but suggested that vehicles with particularly high mileages should be tested sooner.
He commented: “If the Government is looking to improve the MOT, now is the ideal time to take into account how much a vehicle is driven, alongside the number of years it’s been on the road.
“We’re also disappointed the Government is still entertaining the idea of increasing the time between MOTs. Our research clearly shows drivers don’t agree with this and believe it’s dangerous. It would also likely increase the number of unroadworthy vehicles on our roads – putting lives at risk – and not save drivers any money as they would likely end up with bigger repair bills as a result.”
Lyes also suggested that the MOT may need to adapt in future to reflect new technology, including more advanced driver aids and electric drivetrains.
Eric Smith, MOT scheme manager at Kwik Fit, the UK’s largest MOT tester, said an extended gap between MOTs was a risk that wasn’t worth taking. He said: “We welcome the fact that the government is consulting on how the scope of the MOT test should be improved in line with new car technology and the changing car parc. However, we don’t believe that delaying a car’s first test beyond three years is a risk worth taking. The government’s own forecasts show that this will lead to an increase in road casualties and also cars running with illegal emission levels.
“The reality is that the annual MOT fee is a very small proportion of a driver’s annual expenditure and the test supports drivers with a timely and regular check on important safety components. An annual check remains vital in not only improving the safety of our roads but extending vehicle life and reducing drivers’ overall maintenance costs.”