The government is currently reviewing the results of its consultation on extending a new car’s need to have its first MOT from three years to four. For drivers’ wallets, it’s potentially good news, but many in the auto sector remain deeply concerned about the plan.

Representing the biggest change to the MOT for 50 years, the move would benefit 2.2 million drivers annually. They would no longer need to pay for the test in the third year of their vehicle ownership, thus saving themselves £109 million collectively per annum. The Department for Transport and Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) have stated that the change would see the UK’s MOT regulation being brought into line with other countries in Europe, such as France and Denmark.

Road safety at risk?

However, industry experts say that the change could wreak havoc on road safety. Research shows that around 17% of cars fail an MOT on their initial attempt, with technicians in 2016 identifying over 400,000 potentially fatal vehicle defects. These included 85,720 tyre-related failures, 47,138 brake failures and 24,628 suspension failures. By extending the period from three to four years, Euro Car Parts claims that 410,000 extra unsafe cars will be unleashed on our roads, including 28,573 extra unsafe tyres.

Critically, industry chiefs say that it’s thanks to the MOT deadline that drivers remain focused on their vehicle’s maintenance and upkeep, such as monitoring and replacing worn tyres. Indeed, research by TRL in 2011 revealed that motorists would fail to properly maintain their vehicles without the pressure of a looming MOT deadline.

Jobs under the hammer

Then there’s the impact the extension could have on the MOT sector itself. Some predict that Britain’s 22,000 garages, which carry out 29 million MOTs annually, would be hit hardest, driving down incomes and threatening jobs in the sector. Shaban Ali, founder of MOT and servicing app, told the Bristol Post,

“Whilst arguing that the move will save motorists £109m collectively, it can also be said that the industry is set to lose £1bn annually if the proposal goes forward. It’s no secret that the industry gets a large part of its revenue from repairs and not the MOT fees. The repairs industry has weathered many storms recently but this change could be the straw that breaks the camel’s back.”

Drivers beware

An industry that is set to lose so much might be expected to challenge the MOT move. However, drivers aren’t as keen on the move as might be anticipated either. According to an AA survey of 19,000 members, only 44% of motorists were in favour of the change, while 26% were set against it. The rest remained undecided.

The MOT itself came into existence in 1960, with the three-year check introduced in 1967. Some argue that this length of time means an overhaul of the test is long overdue, because cars are now more reliable and have better safety features. Perhaps the real question, though, is whether driver attitudes towards maintenance have changed for the better or worse over the years. Maybe it’s this area that the government’s review of the consultation should focus on next, before taking a final decision on the MOT change in 2018.


What do you think of the proposed change to the MOT? Is it a much needed reconfiguring of a dated, 50-year-old rule or a move that will put motorists’ lives in danger? Let us know your views below.

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