Free MOT Check

You can easily check a car’s MOT history by entering its registration into the free MOT checker.

When buying a used car, it’s essential to check its details to ensure that everything is in order and that you can buy it more confidently. One of the main things you need to check about a car is its current MOT status. 

An MOT reviews a car’s performance to ensure it’s in good enough condition to drive on the road. It’s essential that when getting a car, you check its MOT status so that you have a better idea of what it’s like. 

You can easily check a car’s MOT status for free by entering its registration into the MOT history checker.

In this guide

What is an MOT?


An MOT is a test your car needs to have annually to ensure it’s safe to operate and drive. An MOT checks a car’s roadworthiness and exhaust emissions to ensure it’s under the UK limit.

Cars that are over three years old are required to be tested every year, meaning that if you’re buying a used car, it’s likely that you’ll have to start factoring in this requirement and ensure that any vehicle you buy is up-to-date with its tests. 

MOTs can only be carried out at authorised test centres, meaning that not all mechanics and garages can complete these tests. You’ll know which ones you can use as they display an official blue sign with three white triangles. 

A car will be subject to dozens of checks, with tests checking various components such as the brakes, fuel system, lights, mirrors, seatbelts, windscreen wipers, and exhaust. 

Crucially, an MOT doesn’t review the condition of the engine, clutch, or gearbox.

What does an MOT check include?

Depending on where you get an MOT check done, you will get varying information about a car, with some checkers being far more detailed than others. With that said, most will give you the required details on a car to allow you to decide if it’s still one you want to purchase and own. 

By simply entering a registration plate of a car on the free MOT checker, you can find out information like: 

  • It’s MOT due date, meaning that you can work out how long you have until you’ll have to pay for an MOT
  • It’s current MOT status so that you can see if it’s passed its last MOT or not
  • Yearly mileage recordings of the car so that you can see how much it’s been driven, which can indicate how likely it is for parts and components to need repairs
  • Yearly refusal and advisory notes 
  • Road tax status, although do be aware that not all MOT checkers will show you this, and you’ll have to look it up separately

Why should I check the MOT status of a car?

Doing an MOT check before buying a used car is a sensible thing, as it gives you a lot more knowledge of the vehicle that the seller may not make obvious.

You’ll be able to get information about any faults and issues the car has had in the past and what issues are likely to happen once the car is under your ownership.

If a car has had consistent issues, it could give you bargaining power to knock more money off the asking price or convince you to walk away from the deal for a better option. 

Checking the MOT history can also help you determine if a car is safe and in a roadworthy condition. A vehicle will only pass an MOT if it meets UK standards, so seeing that a car has passed a recent test can give you better peace of mind. 

Finally, a free MOT check can also help you identify cars that are due to have their test or that have had their current status expire.

This can be important to know, as driving a car that doesn’t have a valid MOT certificate is against the law. If found, you can get a fine of around £2,500, three points off your licence, and even a ban from driving. 

All these reasons combined are why it’s essential to check a car’s MOT history before buying it. 

Why do cars fail an MOT check?

Watch this video from RAC about key things to check before an MOT test.

Failing an MOT is more common than you may think, as around 2 out of 5 cars fail the first time. This makes checking the MOT status of any car you’re looking to buy much more critical, as there can still be many vehicles for sale that are overdue for their test because they failed one. 

Thankfully, the reason why most cars fail is because of minor faults. This means that if you see that a car has failed its MOT in the past, you shouldn’t instantly disregard it, as it was something that was likely easily fixed. 

Some of the main reasons why a car fails its MOT are: 

The screen wash was not topped up

Screen wash is essential as it ensures that your windscreens aren’t dirty and thus can easily be seen through. Not having enough screen wash can be seen as dangerous, so keeping it topped up is essential. Topping up screen wash is easy and shouldn’t take more than a few minutes to do yourself. 

The car was dirty or full of clutter

A dirty or messy car can make you fail your MOT check. This is because clutter can get caught under specific controls and pose a threat as it can attract vermin and cause bacteria and viruses to grow and spread in your car. Make sure to clear areas such as the boot and cabin and wipe your windows and seats. 

Problems with the registration plate

A car’s registration plate is essential in identifying it on its road, so it needs to be faultless. Many cars fail an MOT because there’s a slight issue with the registration. This is typically an issue with the typeface that’s been used or the spacing between the numbers and letters on it. A car can fail if numbers are fading or obstructed by dirt. If you ever get a personalised number plate, make sure it follows DVLA regulations to avoid MOT problems in the future. 

Stickers blocking a driver’s view

Many drivers like to customise their cars with stickers. Doing this can show their personality and is a fun thing that is allowed. That said, you mustn’t put any stickers on your car that will obstruct the driver’s view. A car can fail if stickers are on the front or back windshield. Stickers must be placed outside the wiper’s sweep area to avoid issues. This includes things like permits and badges. 

Warning lights displayed

If a car displays a warning light on its dashboard, it will fail its MOT. This rule has been part of the MOT process since 2012 and is something many drivers are caught out with. A warning light is there to show that there’s a potential issue with your car. An MOT tester will see this as an indication that your vehicle may not be safe. Be sure you know what each warning signal means to get the appropriate assistance to help you. 

What happens if a car fails an MOT check?

If a car has failed its MOT, it’s not allowed to be returned to the owner. This means that if you find a car being sold that has a failed MOT status, it’s been removed from the garage illegitimately, which could cause problems for you if you buy the vehicle. 

Cars that have failed their MOT can only leave the garage if they still have a valid MOT certificate from its previous MOT. This means that it can only be driven until it’s due for its next MOT. You are also permitted to take the car as long as you’re travelling to have the faults fixed elsewhere. This is an excuse that many people use to get a failed car back in their possession. 

You should be wary of any cars you’re looking to buy that have a failed MOT status, as more often than not, they shouldn’t have been allowed to leave the garage. 

If you’re the owner of a car that has failed its MOT, then you should expect to be without the vehicle for at least an entire day as work is done to make improvements. You’ll find that most MOT test centres will require you to drop the car off in the morning and will only let you collect it when it’s ready at the end of the day.

What happens if a car doesn't have an up-to-date MOT?

If a car doesn’t have an up-to-date MOT, it’s not allowed to be driven as it’s not been deemed safe to operate and could put others and yourself at risk. You’re only allowed to drive a car without a valid MOT if you’re going to get the vehicle repaired or if you’re going to the pre-arranged MOT test. 

This means that if you’re buying a car that doesn’t have an MOT, you are technically not allowed to drive it home and instead need to take it directly to a garage to get it tested. It is legal to sell and buy cars without an up-to-date MOT, but it becomes illegal the second that car is on the road.

MOT Check FAQs

Once a car is over three years old in the UK, it needs to get an MOT every year. Once a car passes its first test, it needs to get another within 12 months. You can find out when your MOT is due on your current MOT certificate. 

Checking to see if a car has its MOT online is almost instant, as you'll have the information about a car as soon as you enter the registration. This means that it's easy to check the MOT status of the car that you're thinking about buying at the dealership, helping to give you peace of mind and the power to negotiate and ensure that you're purchasing a quality vehicle.

If you buy a used car and need to give it an MOT before you're able to drive it, then an MOT should take around 45-60 minutes for the test to take place. If there are no issues, you'll be able to collect your car within an hour. However, if your vehicle fails its test, it'll need to be repaired, which can take longer. 

If you've found a car that needs an MOT and still want to buy it, you may need to factor in the price of getting it tested.

Currently, the Vehicle and Operator Services Agency has set the maximum that test centres can charge at £54.85 for cars. If you come across a test centre charging more than this, you should avoid them at all costs. If you're testing a motorbike, it should cost no more than £29.65. 

Most MOT test centres will charge less than this maximum to make their business look the best value for money. In fact, you can get tests that are up to 50% less than this maximum price.

In addition to cars under three years old, a few other vehicles are not required to get an MOT every year. If you're looking to buy any of these second-hand vehicles, it can be worth knowing about this rule. 

The primary type of vehicle you could find from a second-hand dealership that doesn't need MOTs are cars over 40 years old. This means that you're free to buy them if they've failed one, but it's essential that you still test them to see that it's in good condition for the roads. 

You also don't need an MOT if you're buying an electric-powered goods vehicle to transport cargo, providing it's been registered before the 1st of March 2015. You also don't need an MOT on tractors. Apart from that, all other vehicles need an MOT every year. 

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