Almost two million cars could be on the road illegally after owners failed to renew MoT certificates following coronavirus extensions. That’s the conclusion of research from garage chain Kwik Fit, which drew upon data from the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA).

When the coronavirus lockdown was first introduced in March 2020, the government quickly issued six-month MoT extensions for vehicles with certificates that expired between March 30 and August 1. That meant vehicles due a retest between those dates would get new dates between September 30, 2020 and February 1, 2021.

But now figures from the DVSA show one in five vehicles that received an extension (19.5 percent) have yet to be retested. Kwik Fit estimates that 1.86 million vehicles still haven’t had an MoT, despite the deadline passing at the beginning of February. The chain’s analysis suggests the affected cars have not had a valid MoT for an average of 3.4 months.

MOT test

What’s more, Kwik Fit says the MOT failure rate of cars that have been brought in for MoTs has fallen of late. The company claims to have seen a significantly lower failure rate than in normal years, with failures down by up to 10 percent at some points.

As a result, the firm has concluded that the cars which have not yet been tested are more likely to fail their MoTs. According to Kwik Fit’s calculations, that could mean “at least 600,000” of the 1.86 million untested vehicles are not currently roadworthy.

Halfords Mot and Service Centre in Northampton

That might not have been such a worry when traffic volumes were low as a result of the lockdown, but with an easing of restrictions, figures showed a noticeable increase in vehicles on the road. According to data from the government, traffic was at 77 percent of pre-pandemic levels during the first full week of April, but with restrictions easing on April 12, that swelled to 88 percent.

Assuming all the estimates are accurate, the data suggests thousands of cars could now be returning to the roads without the proper roadworthiness certificate. Eric Smith, MoT scheme manager at Kwik Fit, said he thought drivers might be forgetting MoTs due to the change of routine or the length of lockdown. However, he warned of the dangers that could arise from leaving a car unchecked.

“It may be that shifting the expiry dates with the extension has caused the MOT to slip from drivers’ minds, or perhaps they have been using their car so little that they have forgotten about having it tested,” he said. “Some owners may think that because they’ve not been using their car it will be just as they left it, however parts will rust or wear with little use, bulbs may fail or windscreen wipers start to perish. We would urge drivers to make sure they are both safe and legal before heading out on to the road as restrictions ease.”

MOT service sign on British road