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Are The UK's MOT Rules Getting Too Relaxed?

Changes mean some classic cars will no longer need MOTs.

The Department for Transport has announced changes to MOT rules that will come into effect in May 2018, and amongst the new rules, are exemptions for some classic cars.

Changes To Classic Car MOTs

In September, the DfT announced that vehicles over 40-years-old will no longer have to undergo an MOT. Once the new exemption comes into effect, a further 293,000 ‘lighter vehicles’, including the 1970s editions of the Ford Escort, Ford Capri, Austin Allegro and the Morris Marina will join 197,000 vehicles already exempt.

The move comes in despite a government consultation that received 2,217 responses which included businesses, vehicle owners, car clubs, and public bodies. 1,130 respondents opposed the new plans in comparison to 899 respondents who supported exemption for vehicles over 40-years-old. However, not all of the ‘lighter vehicles’ will be exempt, and if vehicles have ‘substantially changed’ then they will still be required to undergo an annual test. 

Transport Minister, Jesse Norman said: “After considering the responses, we have decided to exempt most vehicles over forty years old from the requirement for annual road-worthiness testing. This means lighter vehicles and those larger vehicles such as buses which are not used commercially.

“Heavy goods vehicles and public service vehicles falling under operator licencing regulations will remain within the scope of road-worthiness testing. Vehicles that have been substantially changed, regardless of their age, will not be exempt from annual roadworthiness testing.”

MoT test changes

MOT Requirement Length Could Also Change

Another consultation has been sent out by the government, this time concerning the length of time before a new vehicle requires an MOT. The current period is three years, however the DfT are proposing to extend that to four years. If this change were to come in, it would see Britain come in line with Northern Ireland and many other European countries.

Transport Minister, Andrew Jones, said: "We have some of the safest roads in the world and MOT tests play an important role in ensuring the standard of vehicles on our roads.

"New vehicles are much safer than they were 50 years ago and so it is only right we bring the MOT test up to date to help save motorists money where we can."

MoT Changes 2018

Further Changes To The MOT Test That Could Affect Motor Traders

New ways of categorising defects will be introduced: ‘dangerous’ and ‘major’ will both result in the vehicle failing its MOT, whilst the ‘minor’ classification will be similar to what is now known as an ‘advisory’. 

Commenting on the Matters of Testing blog, the DVSA’s Simon Smith said: “We’re still working on how we’ll make this look for drivers, but we want to make sure that the dangerous defects stand out on the documentation. This is to make it clear to them that they shouldn’t drive the vehicle away in that condition.”


Whether a car requires an MOT or not, it’s a legal requirement to ensure that vehicle is roadworthy. The exemption for ‘classic cars’ relies on the owner of the vehicle to keep it in a good condition, and you can usually expect someone who owns a vehicle of considerable age to do just that, which is why you can (to an extent) understand the lack of an MOT for cars over 40 years old.

Surely the sensible option and the middle ground would require the vehicle to have an MOT for every x amount of miles, or three years, to ensure that the vehicle is in safe condition to drive. However, most Classic Car insurance policies do require regular checks of the car. Although drivers of old cars that undertake a substantial amount of miles per year (over 3,000) may find it hard to get a regular Classic Car insurance policy and would need to go through a regular Car insurance provider, who may or may not have similar terms.

Allowing motorists to go without an MOT, whether that’s because the car is of considerable age or is brand new, relies heavily on the driver treating the car well, which is why extending the MOT to four years for new cars could also be unwise. There are plenty of drivers on the roads who would be happy to ignore any problems with their car until they are professionally checked.

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