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Blog: Can you drive your car if it’s failed an MOT?

Mechanic fixing a car MOT testing might seem cut and dried but there is a grey area - if you take your car for an early MOT and it fails, is your old certificate still valid? We find out.

Recently, we wrote about cutting the cost of your MOT. One tip suggested drivers should book early to allow time to shop around for repairs.

However, after several of you emailed in with further questions about the law, we decided to explain this further and we’ve discovered a grey area when it comes to MOT testing.

Falling foul of these laws could not only land you in hot water with the DVLA and the police, it could invalidate your insurance.

We started with a simple question: You can arrange a test up to one month before your current certificate ends. But can you still drive the car if it fails the new MOT? 

Well, it depends on two things.

If your current MOT has expired

The law is quite clear: you MUST have an MOT. Without it your insurance is void and you’re breaking the law.

So say, for example, your MOT runs out on 30 November and you’ve got a test booked for that same day.

If your vehicle fails and you need to wait a day or two to get repairs then you shouldn’t be driving the car.

Although the law states that in this instance you can take the vehicle to a test station for an MOT test booked in advance or bring it away from a test station after it has failed the MOT test, to a place of repair.

But otherwise, driving around between test and repair is an offence.

If your current MOT is still in date

Here’s where it gets complicated.

To encourage drivers to keep on top of vehicle maintenance, the Vehicle and Operator Services Agency (VOSA) allows you to arrange a new MOT test up to one month before your current certificate ends.

In theory, this means that if it fails you’ve still got time to get quotes and get it fixed before the previous MOT actually expires. The earliest date that you can do this is printed on your existing certificate.

However, if the vehicle does fail the new MOT, you shouldn’t be driving it. Here’s why.

Although you’re not breaking the law by not having an MOT (because your old certificate is still valid, remember) you could be prosecuted for driving a defective vehicle, if stopped by the police.

Whether it’s a broken lightbulb or brake failure, you’d be guilty of driving a car that has known faults.

So, your best bet is to get it fixed ASAP and not to drive it in the meantime.

A VOSA spokesperson confirms: “Should you present your vehicle early and the vehicle fails the test, your original certificate still remains valid until its expiry date.

"But this does not mean that you are entitled to continue to use a defective vehicle.

“However, once the defects are repaired you can continue to use the vehicle until either it is retested or the original test certificate expires.

"Remember a current test certificate does not allow continued use of a defective vehicle on a public road.”

What is roadworthy in the eyes of the law?

The MOT is a test of roadworthiness, so if it fails on any point it’s safe to assume that the vehicle is unroadworthy in the eyes of the law.

Motoring lawyer Jeanette Miller says failing an MOT test does not automatically render a vehicle defective or unroadworthy.

However, should police pull you over and investigate further or you’re involved in an accident, there is a risk of prosecution under dangerous driving laws.

Jeanette says: “The fact that the vehicle has failed an MOT is probably a good sign that there is a material defect with the vehicle.

“The most serious offence for which you can be charged for using a vehicle that is not roadworthy is dangerous driving, for which the most serious punishment is two years in prison.”

She also warns that there is a string of offences for having a car with defective parts, even if they are not necessarily dangerous. 

For example, driving with a defective exhaust or lights is punishable by a fine up to £1,000, while driving with defective brakes/steering/tyres is punishable with up to a £2500 fine and three penalty points.

And more importantly, a driver risks being convicted for using a vehicle with a known fault.

Insurance implications

Although the chances of being pulled over by the police (and them inspecting anything other than the condition of tyres and working order of lights) are slim, your insurer might come down harder should you have an accident.

You’d have a hard time convincing an insurer to validate any claims if you had an accident while using a vehicle that has failed a new MOT, even if the old certificate is still valid.

So, the onus here is on you to be sure the vehicle is not defective and is safe to be on the road.

What are your thoughts on the matter? Do you think the law needs tightening up? Have you ever found yourself in a situation where your old MOT is still valid but the new one isn't and if so, what did you do? Leave a message on the comments board below.


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Lois Avery

Lois Avery

Lois joined in 2010 after working for Dyson and as a local newspaper reporter in Wiltshire. After a year writing financial journalism at, Lois won the 2011 'most promising newcomer' at the BIBA journalist of the year awards.

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