One in seven cars over three years old passed its last MoT when it should have failed, according to new research. The study by WhatCar? uncovered government data showing an estimated 2.6 million cars that passed their annual safety check should in fact have failed.

The magazine’s analysis of the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) MoT Compliance Survey (2019 – 2020) found 13.58 percent of vehicles that passed their MoT should have failed. Assuming the DVSA’s 1,600-strong sample of cars is representative of the vehicles on UK roads, that means more than 2.9 million vehicles on UK roads should have failed their last MoT.

The MoT Compliance Survey sees a team of DVSA expert vehicle examiners retested a randomly selected sample of vehicles that had undergone an MoT test at test stations across the UK. The study is intended to help the DVSA understand whether correct testing standards are being applied by the industry. However, the DVSA disagreed with the test outcomes in 16.82 percent of cases, with 3.23 percent of cars that failed deemed worthy of a pass.

MOT testing station sign in the UK

In 70.1 percent of all cases, the DVSA found the test station had missed or incorrectly recorded at least one defect, while the agency’s experts disagreed with three or more defects in more than half (56.5 percent) of vehicles. Worryingly, the problems missed by garages often included safety-critical issues with brakes (17.74 percent), suspension (14.56 percent) and tyres (13.22 percent).

In light of its investigation, the DVSA issued 24 disciplinary action recordings and 179 advisory warning letters to the vehicle test sites it visited. Between them, those sites accounted for 12.1 percent of all the vehicles re-tested by the Government agency.

MOT test

“Our investigation has shown the significant differences between the DVSA’s own testing standards and those upheld by some in the industry,” said Steve Huntingford, the editor of What Car?. “This poses a serious concern, with potentially hazardous vehicles being allowed to remain on the road, putting their drivers and other road users at risk. It also complicates matters for used buyers who often rely on a vehicle’s MoT history as an indicator for a car’s safety and reliability.”

Meanwhile Chris Price, the DVSA’s head of MoT policy, said the MoT Compliance Survey was helping to keep standards high, but customers could help by reporting concerns to the agency.

“We carry out the MoT Compliance Survey to maintain MoT standards,” he said. “The survey targets a random selection of vehicles and is designed to identify problems with MoT testing in order that we can put them right. The public can play their part in maintaining high MoT standards by reporting any concerns to us on”