/ Motoring

Can we still rely on the MOT test?

The MOT test is designed to ensure cars on the road are safe and up to scratch. But two significant changes to the MOT test have me concerned, to the point where I feel its credibility is at risk.

It was announced this week that classic and historic cars, manufactured before 1960, will no longer have to pass an MOT test from 18 November 2012.

It’s all designed to save motorists money, according to the government.

When announcing the change, Roads Minister Mike Penning said:

‘Owners of classic cars and motorbikes tend to be enthusiasts who maintain their vehicles well – they don’t need to be told to look after them, they’re out there in all weathers checking the condition of the engine, tyres and bodywork.

‘Owners of classic vehicles will still be legally required to ensure that they are safe and in a proper condition to be on the road, but scrapping the MOT test for these vehicles will save motorists money.’

Can owners replicate MOT checks?

And while I agree that these vehicles do only make up a very small number of all licensed vehicles in Britain – 0.6% according to reports – I am still cautious about the lengths owners can realistically go to in an attempt to replicate the checks conducted in the MOT test.

For instance, how many classic car owners have access to garage-style ramps to allow for a proper inspection of the underside of the car? Not all of them, for sure.

And with MOTs costing £55 a go, is there really a huge financial benefit for the minority who own these cars?

Warning lights check delayed

And this isn’t the only enforced change to MOT rules for 2012, as we already debated back in January. The Malfunction Indication Lamp check (or MIL check), is a visual examination of whether your car dashboard’s warning lights are illuminated.

The check is conducted to see if the warning lights for electronic stability control, anti-lock braking systems, tyre pressure monitoring systems, brake fluid, electronic power steering, electronic steering lock and electronic power brake are permanently illuminated.

Initially introduced in January, for the first three months of 2012 any of these illuminated warning lights would have resulted in an advisory, and from 1 April an outright fail.

However, this deadline was not met, and if any of these warning lights are illuminated in your car, it will continue to pass as advisories.

When questioned why, VOSA (the Vehicle and Operator Services Agency that oversees the MOT test and regulations) told us it was because the legislation to introduce the new item was not yet in place. VOSA also said an exact date for when this will happen has not been confirmed, but it is expected to be by the end of June.

These changes, and the failure to implement the latter to schedule, have left me a little worried. I’d rather MOT changes were made to maintain the highest level of car and road safety, rather than to save (a minority) of drivers money. Let alone the fact that the new warning lights check could prove expensive to investigate problems that might not even exist…

Should pre-1960 cars be exempt from the MOT test?

No (71%, 402 Votes)

Yes (29%, 167 Votes)

Total Voters: 571

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Thanks for the update, Rob.

Clearly there are quite a few cars in use where an illuminated warning light does not indicate a fault. Unfortunately, the drivers will not know if a genuine fault occurs. I really think it is high time that manufacturers sorted out these problems.

We tend to assume that safety features such as anti-lock brakes, airbags, ETC, ESP, etc, etc will work properly. If so many manufacturers have problems in designing reliable warning light systems, how can be be sure that the safety features will work when needed?

David Hornsby says:
25 May 2012

The warning lights are notoriously unreliable. So often they are repaired at great cost to the motorist only to find the various components they are supposed to warn about are found to be working satisfactorily. Manufacturers need to rectify these problems as part of a recall procedure, perhaps then they would take greater care in the design of these warning lights systems!!


I agree, David.

I would like to see at least a ten year warranty on car electronics, which should be incredibly reliable. They are not subject to wear or abuse, like many components of cars, so I do not think my request is unreasonable. Sensors are inherently less reliable but it is generally easy to diagnose problems and replace faulty sensors.


I agree, personally I think the older the car, the more likely it is to be not roadworthy, especially if it is a “classic” car made by British Leyland 🙂

I saw a nice MGB on the road yesterday whilst out to get lunch, they were travelling really slowly, then on the way back, I saw that they had broken down. So regardless of how well people maintain their cars, many classics were really poorly made and generally, anyone who owns a classic car, can afford an MOT every year like the rest of us.

In the same way, why are most classic cars Road fund licence and congestion charge exempt? Surely their emissions are way more than any modern car


Some classic cars are extremely well maintained and a credit to their owners, but nowadays these cars are often bought by people who know very little about cars. Sadly, it is not easy to determine which will apply for any car and I believe that they should be tested annually, even if there is a discount because there is a lot less to be tested than with a modern car.


I really don’t see an issue with older pre 1960’s cars being exempt from the MOT test.
There can’t seriously be many of them on the road now, and those that are, are highly likely to be well maintained and rarely driven. Certainly no one is going to rely on one of these cars for a daily commute, it will in all likelihood be a hobby car. I think this rule should be extended to pre 1970’s cars to be honest.

David Hornsby says:
25 May 2012

Modern cars are made to a much higher standard than ‘Classics’, both in terms of safety with crumple zones, brakes, road holding and of course tyres. When an emergency of any sort occurs ‘Classics’ are not only more prone to causing passenger injury but more dangerous to other road users.It is appalling to suggest that these vehicles road worthiness should be entrusted to amateurs, they need to be checked to the very highest standards of the day by experts. An MOT is essential.



I agree that classic cars should be tested but I’m far more worried about the dangers of people driving modern, fast cars that may have had a dangerous fault for months. As Which? surveys have shown, sometimes the professionals don’t manage to identify simple but dangerous faults.

I would like to put this in perspective. I think it is appalling that most people give little thought for the condition of their car until the next MOT is due. Look at the failure rates.

JonoIn says:
27 May 2012

I love older cars, I think my next car will be a pre 1960s, fed up of having to MOT my car all the time!