The Risks of MOT-Exempt Vehicles

The MOT was introduced in 1960 and is a compulsory annual test of vehicle safety, road-worthiness, and exhaust emissions. There are a few exceptions when it comes to the MOT. Vehicles registered more than 40 years ago are one of those exceptions. If you own a vehicle that is over 40 years old and has not been significantly modified in the last 30 years, then it will likely be exempt from MOT and vehicle excise duty (road tax).

This is great news if you are the owner of a classic car. However, many people have questioned whether making older cars MOT exempt is a clever idea. This is because they could still pose a risk to other road users and pedestrians. They could potentially be driving around in an unsafe condition.

The Department for Transport argue against this. They say that cars that are more than 40 years old are generally kept in good condition by their owners. As a result they are often not used regularly enough throughout the year to warrant an MOT. On top of this, they added that the MOT is simply not relevant to many of these older cars.

Voluntary MOTs

If you own a car that is exempt from the MOT because it is over 40 years old, then you can still submit it for a voluntary MOT. This is a sensible thing to do if you feel that a check is needed on your vehicle. It is therefore recommended that you submit your car for an MOT every other year, although this is not compulsory.

One thing worth noting is that regardless of the law about the MOT, all insurance policies require that the car is in roadworthy condition as part of the policy terms. Therefore, all cars regardless of their ages should be kept in a good state of repair.

You can still also be convicted of driving a car with excessively worn tyres, defective brakes and lights whether or not an MOT is required. Therefore, if you opt not to MOT your classic car, these are things that you should keep a close eye on.

History of the MoT test & key dates

New items and different standards have been introduced from time to time, including:

  • 1968 – A tyre check;
  • 1969 – A check for the presence of legally required seat belts;
  • 1977 – Checks of windscreen wipers and washers, direction indicators, stoplights, horns, exhaust system and condition of the body structure and chassis together with a more detailed check on seat belts;
  • 1991 – Checks of the exhaust emissions for petrol engine vehicles, together with checks on the anti-lock braking system, rear wheel bearings, rear wheel steering (where appropriate) and rear seat belts;
  • 1992 – A stricter tyre tread depth requirement for most vehicles;
  • 1993 – checks of the rear fog, hazard-warning and number-plate lamps; and of the driver’s view of the road, body condition, body security, load security, doors, registration plates, fuel system and mirrors;
  • 1994 – A check of emissions for diesel engine vehicles, after minor procedural changes were put into place;
  • 1996 – New and stricter emissions checks for spark ignition engine vehicles;
  • 1998 – Seat belt installation check introduced for minibuses and buses;
  • 2005 – Introduction of a computerised administration system for issuing non-secure test certificates;
  • 2012 – Checks of secondary restraint systems, battery and wiring, ESC, speedometers and steering locks.

How old does a car have to be to be tax exempt?

As of May 2018, the Department for Transport (DfT) announced that cars 40 years and older will no longer have to undergo their annual roadworthiness check, known to most as an MOT.

Prior to this, only vehicles built or first registered before 1960 were MOT exempt, which accounted for almost 200,000 cars on the road at the time. This number has increased dramatically – as many as 300,000 extra cars becoming MOT exempt – as a direct result of the changes.

What checks should I do for my MOT exempt vehicle?

Even if your vehicle is over 40 years old and falls under the MOT exemption rules, it is recommended that you carry out regular vehicle history checks to ensure that it remains roadworthy. Some basic checks to complete are:

  • Brake performance
  • Engine oil and brake fluid levels
  • Tyre and tyre treads
  • Lights and bulbs
  • Windscreens and wipers

Regardless of whether your car is exempt from the MOT and road tax, you will need insurance on your car in order to legally drive on the UK roads.


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