Clean engine awaiting MOT test

What to do if Your Car Fails its MOT

Has your car failed its MOT? Are you wondering what to do about it? We’ve put together all the information you need to make the right decision when your vehicle hasn’t passed an MOT.

All vehicles require an MOT (Ministry of Transport) test when they are more than three years old. This is because the law requires that all drivers ensure that their car has a valid MOT every year.

First introduced in the 1960s under the direction of Ernest Marples, the MOT test examines all aspects of a vehicle including its engine parts, lights and breaks to ensure that it is safe to drive.

Why do I need a valid MOT?

An MOT test is designed to thoroughly examine the overall road safety of a vehicle so that it is not only safe for the driver, but that it is also safe for other road users too.

Many drivers dread the annual MOT test due to the financial burden that often comes hand in hand with a vehicle that has failed its MOT. After all, if a vehicle is deemed to be unsafe and fails its MOT, it is against the law for drivers to get behind the wheel of that vehicle.

Mechanic under car during an MOT inspection

Who needs an MOT test?

Whether you drive a car, van or motorbike, you will be expected to ensure that your vehicle has a valid MOT once it reaches three years of age.

With the demands of everyday life often pulling us in all manner of directions, it’s often the case that drivers forget when to renew their MOT, resulting in a fine of up to £1000 if caught

MOT Failure List

There are plenty of reasons that means your car can fail an MOT, and while we’ve gone into detail on this subject before, it’s worth jolting your memory for some of the more common reasons and what you should keep an eye out for before heading to your local test centre.

Lights and Signals

Over a quarter of all MOT failures come from the four corners of your car. Lights are one of the most important elements of your car, no matter how simple and peripheral they may well seem, and they could well be the difference between a safe drive home and a trip to A&E or worse. Think of it this way – if your brake lights fail to ignite, the car behind will not know that you’re slowing down so could end up in your boot. Alternatively, if you’re driving along a road at night with only one headlight, an oncoming car could mistake you for a motorcycle and not expect you to be as close to their side of the road as you are.


This one seems fairly self-explanatory – if your brakes don’t work your car isn’t going to be that safe. At all. Brake problems are the third most common MOT failure in the book, and you’re going to want to make sure these are well looked after as they’re not the cheapest part to replace, either. Listen out for any odd noises, rattles or shakes from your wheels and if something seems amiss, take it to the garage as soon as possible, rather than waiting for your MOT to fail first.


That little chip in your windscreen that’s been there for a few weeks, the one that was annoying at first but now you’re used to it, could rear its ugly head once more when you come to your annual MOT checkup. Windscreen defects account for just under a tenth of all MOT failures, and for the cost of a new windscreen, it really isn’t worth the hassle of an MOT retest. Any defects that are greater than 10mm within the area the wipers sweep (or 40mm outside of this range) will be an instant MOT fail.

Dashboard Warning Lights

Generally, if a warning light has appeared on your dashboard, it’s warning you about something that probably shouldn’t be ignored. Thankfully there’s a colour code to warning lights that could spell the difference between an MOT fail and an MOT pass. If the warning is yellow, you might get away with just an advisory on your test certificate. If the warning light shines red, however, then it’s an instant fail and you’ll need to get the car repaired before you can drive it away again.


Bodywork damage may well be the most obvious of defects with a car as they’re pretty noticeable, but did you know you could suffer an MOT fail on bodywork? If the state of your car’s body is in such a state that it has sharp edges, either through corrosion or accident damage, then this is deemed a failure on the grounds that you could injure a pedestrian. Likewise, any corrosion on major components, or rust found within 30mm of them will also result in a fail.

Can you drive with a failed MOT?

If your car fails its MOT, you will not be able to drive it as the law states that it is illegal to drive any vehicle that does not have a valid MOT certificate. And remember, if your car does not have a valid MOT certificate, your insurance will also not be valid. 

Can I park my MOT failure on the road?

An MOT failure means your car has been deemed unroadworthy so it’s best to keep your car well off the road if it has no valid MOT. 

Even if you don’t intend on driving it, simply being parked on the public highway is grounds to be fined, so keep it on a driveway, in a garage or on private land to be safe from unwanted penalties.

Taking an MOT retest

If your vehicle fails its MOT, it is possible to get a retest providing you address the repairs that need to be carried out.

You can either address the repairs to your vehicle there and then, or take your car away for the repairs to be fixed. If you do decide to take your car away to be repaired, you will have to ensure that all repairs have been addressed within 2 -10 working days and you must bring your car back to the original testing centre for a partial retest.

If the repairs to your vehicle take longer than 10 days to fix, you will be charged for a full MOT.

Selling an MOT failure

Many drivers decide to sell their vehicle if it has failed its MOT as the repairs often cost more to fix than the vehicle is worth.

If your car has recently failed its MOT, or does not have a MOT certificate at all, selling your car can be extremely difficult, but not impossible.

This is because there are a number of scrap car dealerships that will purchase a vehicle without an MOT . All you need to do is provide an accurate description of your vehicle and the dealership will provide the best price.

Declare SORN following an MOT failure

If you decide that scrapping your car following an MOT failure is the best option for you, it is important that you register your vehicle as SORN.

SORN (Statutory Off Road Notification) is the designation that is given to all vehicles that are now exempt from road tax and SORN must be in place before vehicle owners can scrap their car.

My car’s MOT expired, what do I do now?

If your MOT has expired then you cannot drive your car, unless you are driving to a pre-booked appointment at an approved Test Centre. 

Contrary to popular belief there is no grace period of 14 days, and if you do try to drive it, be prepared that it could cost you up to £1,000 in fines if you are caught, as driving without a valid MOT certificate is a crime, and the chances of being caught these days is incredibly high with the advancement of Automated Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) technology.

Find out more

To find out more about scrapping your vehicle and what is involved, contact Scrap Car Comparison today, our team of experts are on hand to answer any questions you have about scrapping your car.

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