Industry players fear it could allow unsafe cars on the road.

More than five million fewer drivers took their car for an MoT in April and May as they made use of the government’s six-month certificate extensions. That’s the finding of research published this week by car selling comparison site Motorway.co.uk after a Freedom of Information request made to the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA).

The data shows just over 2.15 million tests were carried out between March 30, when the government granted six-month MoT extensions as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, and the end of May. During the same period in 2019, more than 7.16 million tests were carried out, meaning tests were down 70 percent compared with the same two months a year earlier.

According to the figures, tests were dramatically more common in May than in April, with more than 1.4 million heading to the test centre during the fifth month of the year. In April, meanwhile, fewer than 750,000 took their car to be checked over. However, even May’s figures were down by 61 percent compared with May 2019, when more than 3.6 million MoTs were carried out.

Although Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said the extensions were originally intended to “help” frontline workers and people in need of food and medicine, concerns have been raised that allowing owners to delay MoTs could leave unfit cars on the road. Drivers must still ensure their car is roadworthy, but research from garage chain Kwik Fit suggested around a million unroadworthy vehicles could have hit the UK’s roads as lockdown was eased.

Halfords MOT and Service Centre logo sign in Northampton town centre

Now, Motorway.co.uk’s boss, Alex Buttle, says he fears unsafe vehicles may be on the road as a result. In particular, he said drivers of older cars “might be wise” to get their cars checked according to the usual MoT schedule.

“More than two million motorists have now chosen not to postpone their MoT tests since the government announced the extension at the end of March, and twice as many took their cars in last month compared to April,” he said. "However, MoTs were still significantly down on last year, and that could mean there are a lot of potentially unsafe vehicles on UK roads.

Halfords Autocentre MOT Service and Tyres centre in Basingstoke UK

“The cost of an MoT is small compared to the human cost if you’re driving a car that has a serious fault or defect, and many of us have our vehicles serviced at the same time as the MoT, which could flag up mechanical and safety issues that need to be addressed urgently.

“For those motorists with older vehicles, which tend to be more susceptible to problems due to wear and tear, they might be wise to stick to their original MOT date to give it a full check and service. It will give them the peace of mind that it’s in good condition and mechanically sound at the present time. And if owners are looking to protect the value of their car for selling in the future, then a heavily-delayed MOT may be an issue for some buyers.”