How long does an MOT take?

You’ve booked your car in for its MOT, but you don’t know how much time you’ll need to wait around before it’s finished. Do I need to book time off work? Should I cancel any other plans I have that day?

The answers to these questions, and many more, can be uncovered once we answer the key question; how long does an MOT take?

Keep reading on to find out more about the ins and outs of car MOTs.

How long does a car MOT take?

Assuming everything runs smoothly, the average car MOT takes between 45 and 60 minutes. Remember though, this is an average MOT length, as there are factors which could cause the test to last longer.

You might want to expect that the test takes longer based on how busy the test centre is. It could also take longer depending on the condition of your car.

Ultimately, you can always simply just ask your garage / test centre how long the car MOT will take when you come to book your test, so you have a better idea of how much time you’ll have to wait before your car is ready again.

How long does an MOT and service take?

As we already know an MOT usually takes between 45 minutes and 1 hour. A service, however, can take between 3 hours and 5 hours, so you could expect both a car MOT and a service to take at least around 4 hours altogether. If the garage is busy or your car needs a lot of work, both the MOT and service could take over 6 hours. The time a service takes can depend also on the type of service you book – whether it’s an interim of full service.

What is checked on an MOT?

A full service checks the car’s suspension, brakes, steering, exhausts, tyres, bodywork, lights, engine oil, oil filter, the battery and fluid and coolant levels, whereas an interim service just covers the car’s fluids and components that could wear out quickly e.g., the battery, the engine, tyres, and lights.

In an hour-long MOT, however, the following aspects of the vehicle are inspected:

Seat belts and seatsTyres (checking their tread and condition)SuspensionBrakes (their efficiency and pedal condition)MirrorsWipersWindscreensSteeringElectrical equipment (e.g., headlights, indicators)Exhaust and emissionsThe Vehicle Identification Number (VPN)

Usually when cars are booked in for both an MOT and a service, a garage will typically ask that your car is left with them for the day, so they have the time to fully assess and treat your car. Therefore, it may be worth booking your car in for an MOT and a service on a day when you won’t need it.

Why is my MOT taking so long?

You might be in a situation where you have a good idea of how long an MOT takes but are then surprised to have not heard back from the testing centre for a while longer than expected. An MOT may be taking longer because your garage may be very busy, or the car is taking a little longer to be inspected properly.

Some garages may even carry out minor repairs to ensure your vehicle passes its test, such as bulbs, causing the test to take longer than expected.

You should always make sure you have a phone number for the garage so you can call and check for any updates on your vehicle. Just bear in mind that like any workplace, unexpected delays can happen at any time.

What happens if your car fails its MOT?

MOT Service Inspection

If your car fails its MOT, your garage will let you know and inform you of the car’s dangerous defects, major defects, and advisories.

Dangerous defects

If the vehicle is deemed to have at least one dangerous defect, it will fail its MOT. These defects are considered “direct and immediate risks to road safety and the environment”.

Major defects

If the vehicle is deemed to have at least one major defect, it will fail its MOT. These defects are believed to “compromise the safety of the vehicle, put other road users at risk, or harm the environment.

Advisories

Also known sometimes as ‘minors’, advisories will not fail a car on its MOT. These are given as guidance, as potential issues that need to be monitored and can be fixed another time. They should be taken seriously though, as over time the issue may get more serious and require immediate repair, which means it could also cost more the longer you wait.

Once you have been informed of the car’s MOT failure and various defects, the test centre will then also refuse the vehicle a valid MOT test certificate. Depending on the seriousness of the defects and the availability of the team working at the garage where the test took place, it may be possible that you are offered to have your defects sorted and fixed that same day for whatever price the fix is deemed to cost.

Otherwise, you may need to leave your vehicle at the garage for however long until the defects have been fixed, which could be delayed further if parts are ordered. Only then can the car successfully pass its MOT. It is worth noting that it is illegal to drive without a valid MOT.

What to take on an MOT?

Your MOT status is notarised on a DVLA database, so you don’t need to bring anything along with you to the garage for an MOT except the car itself. The only exception to this is if it’s your car’s first MOT, or your car has a new registration number. In either case, you’ll only have to take the VC5 document, also known as the car’s vehicle logbook.

Your garage may still ask you to bring your last MOT certificate or your V5C anyway just in case any admin issues arise. They may even ask you to bring confirmation of the MOT booking too if you have one.

How long is my MOT valid?

Once your car passes its MOT test, the MOT certificate is usually valid for exactly one year. For example, if your car passes it’s MOT on January 14th 2023, it will then have a valid MOT certificate up until January 14th 2024 before needing to be re-tested again.

You can also decide to book to have your car MOT tested earlier than the certificate’s expiry date. However, this can only be carried out up to one month prior to the expiry date of the existing MOT certificate.

Can I drive my car if it fails its MOT?

If your car has no or an expired MOT certificate you can only, legally, drive your car directly to the garage to have its MOT test. If you fail to renew your MOT, you could receive penalty points plus a £1,000 fine so it really isn’t worth the risk.

When is my car MOT due?

MOT test certificate

To find out when a cars MOT is due, you’ll need to check its MOT status. You can do this by visiting the ‘Check MOT status’ page on the UK government’s website (www.gov.uk).

After simply providing the vehicle’s registration plate it is here that you can check whether the vehicle has a valid MOT certificate. If the vehicle doesn’t have a certificate, or it is out date, you’ll need to get it booked in for an MOT as soon as possible to ensure it is eligible to drive on the road.

On Gov.uk, you can also access a vehicle’s MOT history. This can be quite useful information to have when buying a new car, as you can see how many MOTs the vehicle has passed previously, as well as what caused the vehicle to fail an MOT in the past. However, if the car is new, it will only need to be MOT tested once it becomes over 3 years old.

If you are worried you may forget to renew your MOT in good time, you can sign up for the Government’s free MOT Reminder service.

Summary

So, how long does a car MOT take? A car MOT typically lasts between 45 minutes and 1 hour. This is not always the guaranteed MOT time limit, however. This timeframe is only accurate assuming that your:

car is not also having a service as well as an MOTcar successfully passes its MOTgarage / testing centre is not too busy

A car service on top of an MOT, an MOT failure and a busy garage can all cause an MOT to last well over 1 hour. The best advice we can give to manage your car MOT expectations is to establish and maintain a strong dialogue with the person responsible for your appointment at the testing centre. Be sure to ask any questions you have and don’t be afraid to get in touch in advance or whilst your car is in the garage to get a better understanding of what to expect from your car’s MOT appointment. After all, the more information you have, the easier it’ll be to figure out how long an MOT will take in the future.

Need some help insuring your car? Make car insurance easy by getting in touch with your local branch, or visit our website and find out more about how we can help.

Also read:
What MOT class is my vehicle?
How early can you do an MOT?
Driving without a valid MOT: what you need to know