/ Motoring

MOTs every two years would be a safety disaster

Mechanic working on car

Latest attempts to revive a proposal to change the MOT rules to every two years might sound great in theory but how will it work in practise? Personally, I’m disappointed that the plan has reared its ugly head again.

The proposal would mean new cars won’t be tested until they are four years old, with subsequent tests every two years (instead of after three years, then once a year).

I’d hoped this proposal, resurrected by Transport Secretary Philip Hammond, had been buried forever.

In fact, I’m beginning to suspect this idea is simply re-launched every now and again when the powers that be want to distract us from something else they’re doing (though at the moment, I haven’t spotted what that might be).

MOTs are a must

Besides a small apparent financial saving for each motorist, I can’t see how the proposal will benefit anyone.

It’s certain to lead to a reduction in the safety of UK cars, many of which are only subjected to safety checks because the owner is legally required to get the MOT.

Changing the rules would mean that a safety fault could easily go undetected for twice as long before it is found. And the potential for an in-service failure must be higher too – which could be catastrophic for safety systems like the brakes, steering or tyres.

Reject this proposal

We know from Which? research that many owners neglect their cars as it is. Fewer than half those questioned in our last tyre survey knew the legal minimum tread depth, and more than a quarter relied on the garage checking tyre condition at the annual MOT and service to tell them when their tyres were illegal. And this doesn’t even consider other less visible parts of the car which might go unchecked.

So, here’s my call out to all responsible citizens… reject this proposal as an irresponsible and retrograde step and help keep all UK road-users safe.


A time interval is nonsense. Cars can do 60,000 miles in a year and suffer a lot of wear and tare. The test should be based on mileage and to make it simple I suggest every 10,000 miles which is probably the average mileage these days. It would mean those cars which are driven a lot have more frequent tests. If you drive 2000/3000 miles in a year the car is tested less frequently.

Retired says:
15 April 2011

As a retired vehicle designer and fleet operator, with no longer any financial interest in the motor trade, I must confess that I would be very pleased to see in particular the first MOT at 4 years rather than 3. Modern cars are generaly well made, and very reliable to say the least, its over 25 years since I had a breakdown with a car. When the MOT was in its first flush of life I recall engines lasting about 25k before overhall, vehicle brakes not up to the job, tyres of poor quailty, car bodies showing significant rust within 2 years of manufacture. The list of poor quality items in motor vehicles was endless. This has changed for the better.The MOT was set up to combat the poor quality of in particular rusty British cars.There is no reason today whatsoever to MOT a Car at 3 years, even if its high milage, as a fleet motors will have been well serviced. The only advantage of the present system is to allow the motor trade to make a profit from fitting (or in some cases to pretend to fit) items needed to pass an MOT. Many of these items are not MOT requirements and the number of legal tyres I have seen changed to pass an MOT is beyond comprehension. I can see no reason why cars need an MOT at 3 years. The Police and other agencys involved with vehicle safety need however need to know with ease that a vehcle has an up to date MOT and this is quite easy with the latest certificate, simply make it a requirement to display the MOT patch which comes with the latest certificate. After 4 years when a vehicle is likely to have passed into private hands, simply make the MOT yearly.

Jack says:
15 April 2011

Test a car every 2 years??? Unbelievable!!!! The yearly mot test is truly the last bastian forcing scratty people who would not otherwise spend anything on vehicle maintainence to get their vehicle checked and made roadworthy.
As for the idiots who think it is another tax or an excuse to for garages to make money…..if you are so sure your vehicle’s mechanical condition is beyond reproach then take it to a test centre that does purely that and does not offer a repair facility!
Finally, as for those who think that the Spanish or French idea works in respect of road safety, just walk along a road in almost any foreign hoiliday resort and glance down at the tyres of the parked cars. Bits of tyre cord and even metal banding sticking out everywhere!!!
A truly great advert for road saftey!!

Bill says:
15 April 2011

I agree with tests at two year intervals, to be carried out by specialst centres that do nothingelse. The first MoT should be at 60,000 miles (cambelt time!) or four years whichever comes sooner

John says:
15 April 2011

I’ve been a motorist & car owner for 46 years & in the early days of the MOT suffered my share of “fails” despite doing my best to look after my cars. The problem was the appalling design & build of British & European cars ( I had a Vauxhall that suffered numerous mechanical failures & “died” of rust after just 5 years). In those days the annual MOT was neccessary.
Then came the Japanese who ,after an uncertain start, made a quantum leap in design & build quality. I compare my ,much missed, Mazda (14 years, 230000 miles with never a breakdown or MOT fail & no rust ) with my early cars & it makes me weep.
Thanks to the Japanese, modern cars are so good the a first test after 4 years followed by tests every 2 years is sensible. Annual testing for older cars ( 8 or 10 years? ) thereafter.
Both of our Japanese cars are serviced annually & properly by a reliable & honest garage .They never go wrong & I know they will sail through the test.

Frank says:
15 April 2011

Personally, although I really don’t enjoy paying for an MoT every year, I wouldn’t suggest extending it to two. Lot’s of people are quoting France and Spain as examples of two yearly examinations – does anybody know how much these tests cost and whether the pass/fail criteria are different?

I suspect many “advisories” on the current MoT would have to be fails if the test period were extended to two years.

Also, I wouldn’t agree with a mileage related test – there are many perishable rubber parts (not just tyres, but suspension bushes and driveshaft boots etc.) that will fail with age, regardless of mileage.

There is an argument that a car that is used more will, by necessity, be better maintained than those that are used less frequently.

I worked as an automotive engineer for most of my working life and can endorse all of the above negative comments relating to extended MOT timescales.

The condition of some of the vehicles I have tested in the past has been deplorable – Phillip Hammond should spend a week or so with a registered tester, though I doubt he’d change his political mind. Why doesn’t he listen to those at the sharp end – I know of no one in the trade who advocates extended testing!

Every 2 years is fine with me. I do check tyre pressures fortnightly and am aware of legal tread depth. My cars are always serviced on time and when any abnormal action occurs I get it checked. These are all in my opinion points all motorists should follow and if done a 2 year MOT seems fine to me. However I know many motorists rarely check tyre pressures and are just content to drive until the car stops. I do not think irresponsible car owners should necessitate annual MOTs as if you care about your car I do believe modern cars are fine every 2 years.

Would there would be a point (or possibility) in a limited, very quick, cheap annual test that only did key areas like tyres, braking and rear lights, but was extended every other year or so to check emissions, seat belts, structural integrity and all the other parameters in the current test? What I’m thinking is – check everything that is most commonly dangerous to other road users each year, but leave fuel efficiency and safety issues that most affect the occupants of the car only to a two or three year cycle. Would it be an ineffective administrative nightmare or sensible cost and time saver?

John Gilbert says:
15 April 2011

I disagree that there should be any change to the current MOT system. New cars are covered by 3year warranty, after which they must undergo an MOT. It is well known that quite a number of road users do not maintain their vehicles,and only think about it when they have to have an MOT. Just look at some vehicles tyres you can see quite a number are illegal. All pressure should be put on the transport minister to drop this proposal, if this suggested change was to be adopted I think we would see an increase in road accidents, and then a large percentage rise in insuance premiums.

Danny Lansdowne says:
15 April 2011

If an MOT is carried out thoroughly and faults rectified properly by a skilled trained mechanic . Two years should be more than adequate to ensure vehicle safety. if a car does unusually high milage then a yearly check would be appropriate. Garages in this country want yearly MOT,s for obvious reasons. How about MOT based on mileage. We aint talking fighter jets here!

Stewart says:
15 April 2011

Mileage does not safeguard anything a fault could happen at anytime, and one could argue high mileage cars are more likely to have had brakes, tyres etc replaced more regularly where as a car doing a few thousand miles a year could not see an MOT station in many years if it were regulated by mileage then faults could occur through age ie cracked or perished tyres.
Last thing that should happen is to make the frequency between MOTs less……. if its not broke dont fix it!!

MartinP says:
15 April 2011

Surveys of garages’ performance in carrying out MOTs have shown that they miss faults and claim to have found faults that don’t exist. MOTs allow garages to prey on those who are ignorant or diffident, charging them for work that doesn’t need doing. A two-year frequency should be adequate for detecting serious faults. Faults such as failed light bulbs and worn tyres should be obvious to owners. Serious faults are, hopefully, more likely on older cars than on newer cars, and older cars tend to do lower mileages. I am disappointed that Which? should be seeking to add to the costs of motoring.

peter g says:
15 April 2011

i think it is a good idea anything to bring down the cost of motoring i think it wuold be a better idea to do it on mileage intervals similiar to servicing i only do between 3000 and 4000 miles pa

I notice that Davey (15th at 5.53) doesn’t use his car a lot, so he thinks that the standing time does no damage! Not so – ask any caravan owner about tyres that have ‘only done a few hundred miles’ and are perished – after 10 years’ limited use.

It’s good that the Minister has said, ‘Car technology has come a long way since the 1960s when the MOT regime was introduced. That’s why we think it’s right to check whether we still have the right balance of MoT testing for modern vehicles.’ He’s right; it is good to periodically check that the test is still appropriate and ponder whether suggested changes can improve road and personal safety. But one has to suspect of any politician that he has an unstated agenda in this comment – and he has made the agenda clear.

Any new measure has to be appropriate and acceptable to the public; so after 50+ years, more stringency is likely to be acceptable rather than less, where safety’s a factor. So we should ask: ‘is 12 months often enough? I suggest that for Davey (and also my 10 miles a week father-in-law) the answer is ‘yes’. But well-used vehicles and those which carry vulnerable passengers should be checked more often. My own county has its school minibuses checked every 3 months, half of these being the 6-monthly MoT for Cless 5 vehicles. Quite right.

I suggest that the MoT for cars should be at 12 months or 50,000 miles, whichever comes sooner. This is the same kind of system used in servicing, and the same reasons apply – plenty of comments above show that this is sensible.


Wiliam Huggins says:
15 April 2011

Although I have a 12 year old VW Golf and only do 4,500 to 5000 miles annually the car is regularly and professionally serviced and always sails through the MOT. It has only got 65,000 on the clock and I feel it is a waste of money to have its roadworthiness confirmed every year.

However, a 12 year old VW Golf that does 20,000 miles annually and isn’t regularly and professionally serviced and wouldn’t sail through the MOT could conceivably crash into you and kill you.

Eddie Reynolds says:
15 April 2011

Most of the comments to make it 2 years between MOT’s that I have read here, are from people who seem to have no idea of the complexities of mechanical wear and tear, saying that car reliability has improved. Of course it has, but brake pads keep on wearing down to the knuckle, people keep crunching their front wheels off pavements which can damage steering alignment and tyre’s, not to mention jacking points which must be checked for corrosion. To sum up, if you are not from an engineering background, what qualifies you to judge whether it’s one year or two between MOT’s ?.
The MOT test ramp gives a printed computer read-out of the condition of brakes etc during the test, which the garage should present to the customer, so please all you ‘experts’ who don’t know a kingpin from a safety pin and I include the government minister seeking publicity on MOT’s – listen to motor engineers, who know what a spanner looks like

MalO says:
16 April 2011

The MOT should continue to be every year. There appear to be fewer police on the roads picking drivers up on vehicle defects – in this area, probably at least 1 in every 20 cars is running with one headlamp not working. That is fundamental, and must be obvious to the driver, but they still don’t fix it. What’s going on in those cars that the driver can’t see? If the driver and the police aren’t going to do anything about it, at least an annual MOT means it has to be right once a year. And those independent garages need the money – unless we all want to be limited to main agents / major chains only, and to pay for the privilege.

Paul Fisher says:
16 April 2011

I just do not understand the rational behind this proposition. This seems like another third world Britain decision.

1. This would mean more cars are unsafe.
2. Does this mean that people will only have to renew their tax once every two years? I’m sure there are people will try this.This has also an affect on people avoiding insurance to the detriment of other road users.
3. It will mean less maintenance on vehicles and therefore less revenue through the vehicle trade for repairs and that is counter productive.

I think the annual test sould be retained. It is a valuable safety check, and the cost can be contained by combining the MOT with an annual service (because many of the service items are to inspect and check items which are covered within the MOT test, and so don’t need doing twice).

Many cars can deteriotate badly in two years, particularly if neglected or high mileage. Look at the statistics of MOT failures after one year, and realise with 2-year tests that these cars would be on the road for a full year before being detected.

Forgive me for going off at a tangent, but several people have mentioned “MOT windscreen stickers”.

To use a car legally in the UK you have to:

Have a driving licence to show you can drive safely,
Have an MOT to show the vehicle is roadworthy
Have insurance so that, in the event of an accident, third parties will be compensated, and
Pay road tax.

You have to display evidence on the vehicle for only one of these four factors. Curiously, the one many would argue is the least important.