Driving without a valid MOT: what you need to know

We recently looked at what’s involved when your car goes in for its MOT, but one thing we didn’t explore is what happens if you forget to book your car in for this mandatory test. Here’s what you need to know if you end up without a valid MOT…

How do I know when my MOT is due?

If you’re not sure when your MOT is due, you can look it up quickly by entering your registration number on the Government’s MOT checker. This not only tells you whether your car has a valid MOT or not, but it also tells you the date when your MOT is due, as well as when your road tax is due.

You mustn’t drive your car if it hasn’t got a valid MOT certificate, with one notable exception: you are allowed to drive it to a pre-booked MOT test. Note, however, that you’d need to drive directly to the nearest test centre, which must be a “reasonable” and “acceptable” distance from your home – so no running errands in various locations before heading to the test centre. If you’re stopped by the police, you’ll need to be able to prove where you’re driving to, so your garage may need to verify your appointment.

What happens if I forget my MOT or road tax?

Don’t think that you’ll be able to get away with driving your car after its MOT or road tax has expired. Automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) cameras are everywhere, both in police cars and on the roadside, and they’ll cross-check your registration with the national database so that they can immediately tell when your vehicle doesn’t have a valid MOT certificate or road tax.

There’s a maximum fine of £1,000 if you’ve been driving a car with no MOT, but in most cases this will be dealt with via a fixed penalty notice and a £100 fine. For road tax, it’s usually an £80 fine (halved if you pay within 28 days), but again there’s a possible penalty of up to £1,000. Neither offence results in points on your licence.

Remembering your MOT and road tax

You’re not automatically sent a reminder when your MOT is due. However, you can sign up for free MOT reminders sent to you by email or text a month before your MOT is due (two months before for lorries, buses and large trailers).

To be doubly sure you won’t forget, put your MOT due date into your smartphone calendar and have it alert you a month and a fortnight before it’s due, so that you have plenty of time to get your car booked in.

With road tax, you’ll be sent a reminder in the post to the address at which your vehicle is registered. If you’re still worried you’ll forget to pay, you can set up a direct debit that will ensure payment is made automatically. You’ll pay a 5% surcharge if you choose to pay monthly or every six months, but there’s no extra charge for paying it annually by direct debit.

MOT and car insurance

In most cases, driving without a valid MOT won’t invalidate your car insurance, but it’s worth checking your policy wording to check whether there’s any mention of this. However, most policies will expect your car to be in a “roadworthy condition” – something that isn’t necessarily guaranteed simply by passing an MOT test. While you’re at it, don’t forget to make sure you’ve got your car insurance sorted.