The government has launched a consultation on plans to change the UK MOT test for cars, suggesting modifications to the annual roadworthiness test could save drivers money. The proposed changes include extending the time between MOT tests and improving the monitoring of vehicle emissions.

According to the Department for Transport (DfT), “safety will be at the heart of the consultation”, but road safety campaigners have expressed concern at some of the proposals. The RAC, for example, said it was “disappointed” the government was still considering increasing the time between MOTs when “drivers don’t agree”.

Perhaps the headline proposal, though, is a new move to change the date at which the first MOT is due. Currently, light vehicles such as cars and vans have their first roadworthiness test at three years old, but the government has suggested moving that back to four years old to save drivers money. The DfT says the average MOT costs £40, so the move could save British motorists around £100 million a year.

MOT testing station sign in the UK

The DfT also points to figures showing most new vehicles pass the first MOT test at three years old, while claiming the number of casualties in car collisions caused by vehicle defects is “low”. As a result, the government says its analysis shows moving the first MOT back a year “should not impact road safety”.

Other proposals include measures to monitor vehicle emissions more closely, with testing of pollutants to ensure cars are always meeting their requirements. At the same time, the government has suggested looking more closely at electric vehicle batteries to improve the safety of electric cars.

Mechanic taking notes under a car

“Since the MOT was introduced in 1960 – and especially in recent years – there have been major developments in vehicle technology such as lane-assisted driving which have increased road safety, while the spread of electric and hybrid cars is rapidly changing the nature of vehicles on our roads,” read a statement from the DfT. “Any changes to the MOT will be supported by an information campaign led by the Department for Transport and the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) to inform drivers of the updates to MOTs and remind them of their responsibility to keep vehicles roadworthy.”

But the RAC’s head of roads policy, Nicholas Lyes, said the government should take care when making changes to the MOT test, which helps to ensure vehicle safety.

“While we’re not opposed to delaying a new vehicle’s first MOT, we believe there should be a requirement for particularly high mileage vehicles to be tested sooner,” he said. “If the government is looking to improve the MOT, now is the ideal time to take into account how much a vehicle is driven, alongside the number of years it’s been on the road.

“Given the technological advances of driving aids in cars and the increasing adoption of electric vehicles, there is an argument that suggests the MOT will need to adapt accordingly in the future. Certainly, moves to check for faulty or removed diesel particulate filters will improve air quality by targeting dirty vehicles.

“We’re disappointed the government is still entertaining the idea of increasing the time between MOTs. Our research clearly shows drivers don’t agree with this and believe it’s dangerous. It would also likely increase the number of unroadworthy vehicles on our roads – putting lives at risk – and not save drivers any money as they would likely end up with bigger repair bills as a result.”

Sign for an MOT vehicle test centre in UK