What to do if your car fails its MOT

Official DVSA figures show that more than a third of vehicles fail their MOT test the first time. If your car failed its MOT test, you will be told what caused the issue, and what you need to do to fix it.

Here’s a breakdown of your options if your car fails its MOT test, how to arrange a retest and how you can appeal an MOT decision if you think the test hasn’t been performed correctly.

What happens if I fail my MOT?

If your car fails its MOT, you’ll be issued a VT30 Refusal of an MOT Test Certificate. The certificate will explain the reason (or reasons) why your car failed its test. A VT30 means your car isn’t safe to drive on the roads and you’ll need to get it fixed before you drive it again.

Keep hold of your VT30 form, as you’ll need it when you book a retest, or if you choose to appeal the decision.

Can I still drive my car if I fail my MOT?

It's illegal to drive without a valid MOT.  If your car has failed, and the date on your certificate has passed, you can only drive your car to be repaired or to a pre-arranged MOT appointment, and only if it is roadworthy.

Driving in a car that has a failed MOT is dangerous and you could face fines or other legal action. You may also find that you’re not covered by your insurance provider. 

Almost half of MOT failures can be avoided with some straightforward routine maintenance, and with the rising cost of living, it's well worth taking the time. Start by understanding what's checked in an MOT and learn how you can combat common causes of test failure.

Taking an MOT retest

Depending on the cause of your MOT failure, you have a few options for a retest. The good news is that for some of them, you won’t need to pay any additional costs.

  • Leave it to be fixed: If the test centre you've used also does repairs, you can ask them to fix the issues that caused the failure. If repairs are completed within 10 working days, they can do a partial retest where they will only test the issues listed on the VT30 certificate. If everything is in order, you’ll get a shiny new MOT certificate.

  • Bring it back within one working day: In some cases, you're entitled to take the car away for repairs and bring it back to the original testing centre for a free partial retest. The catch is you have just one day to do this. This option isn’t always available (particularly if the MOT test identifies faults that are dangerous). Your MOT tester will explain this, but you can find a full list of acceptable reasons why you can drive away and return for your retest on the DVSA website.

  • Bring it back within 10 working days: If your car is repaired elsewhere, you can return it to the original MOT test centre within 10 days for a partial retest. A partial retest is often cheaper (in most cases, around half the original MOT fee).

  • After 10 working days: If you bring your car back after 10 working days following your failed test, the tester will do a full MOT test and you’ll be charged the full fee.

Appealing against a failed MOT test

If you feel that your car has unfairly failed its MOT and you want to appeal the decision, the first step is to chat with your MOT test centre. The MOT rules and regulations are pretty clear, so a breakdown in communication is the most likely cause.

However, if you still feel that the decision was wrong, then you can appeal the MOT test result. If you choose to file an appeal, you’ll need to keep the car in the same condition it was when it was tested. Don’t modify it or repair it, or your appeal will be cancelled.

Obtain a complaint form: Fill out a Complain about an MOT form and send it to the DVSA within 14 working days of the original test date. You’ll be offered an alternative appointment to retest your car within five days.

The process isn’t free, and you’ll need to pay for another MOT test. If your appeal is successful, you’ll receive a full or partial refund of your MOT fee.

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It’s free to join and you’ll receive money off your MOT, a free car health check and a welcome voucher that can be spent on any Halfords product or service.

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