Roughly seven in 10 UK motorists are unsure of the rules surrounding MOT extensions during the coronavirus lockdown, new research suggests. The study also revealed that more than a quarter have failed to carry out “basic” vehicle checks since the lockdown was introduced back in March.

MOT extensions were brought in by the government after the UK was locked down to reduce the spread of coronavirus. Any vehicle with an MOT due after March 30, 2020, automatically qualified for a six-month extension, but those with tests due between March 23, when the lockdown was imposed, and March 30 still need a valid certificate to drive on the public road.

Although the survey quizzed a very small number of people - just 200 UK motorists - the research revealed that 69 percent were “unclear” on when the MOT extensions came into force. Assuming the sample size is representative of the nation as a whole, that could mean more than 23 million drivers aren’t sure which vehicles have been granted an extension to their roadworthiness certificate.

Halfords MOT and Service Centre logo sign in Northampton town centre

Despite this lack of clarity among drivers, though, the research suggested 28 percent have failed to carry out any basic checks on their vehicle since lockdown was introduced. And Venson says a similar number have “deferred” vehicle repairs until after the lockdown is over.

Those figures could be concerning, because despite the new rules, vehicle owners must still ensure their car is in good working order. Drivers found using a vehicle that is not safe could still be prosecuted, regardless of whether they have an MOT extension.

Sign for an MOT vehicle test centre in UK

“Even with the current six-month MOT exemption in place, drivers are still responsible for keeping their vehicle in a roadworthy condition [and they] can still be prosecuted if at the wheel of an unsafe vehicle,” explained Alison Bell, the marketing director at Venson Automotive Solutions. “Businesses also have a duty of care to ensure their employees who drive on company business are safe and should therefore be encouraging regular safety checks.

“By carrying out basic maintenance checks, drivers will not only help to reduce the time their vehicle is off the road but importantly, eliminate unnecessary cost for themselves and/or their employer. Additionally, a vehicle kept in a safe condition limits their personal inconvenience if it has to be repaired and lessens the burden on roadside assistance providers.

Mechanic inspecting car in service garage

“When lockdown is eased, businesses will be keen to begin to make up for lost time, so the last thing they need are drivers to be out of action due to a flat tyre, flat battery, or worse. It’s great to see that half of the respondents have checked their tyre pressure and run the engine to keep the battery charged. This is a simple bit of maintenance which is often neglected but could save hundreds of pounds if the vehicle has to be off the road for repairs.

“What’s more, regardless of the government’s extension, we recommend vehicles are booked in for MOTs well in advance of their new due date in order to help avoid bottlenecks building after lockdown. Those responsible for fleet vehicles should also ensure that service routines are maintained to avoid invalidating warranties and generating unnecessary maintenance costs for their business.”