Drivers in the UK would rather put their vehicles through an annual safety check than save money by extending the gap between MOT tests, according to new research. The survey by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), found almost three-quarters thought the test was a price worth paying for peace of mind.

The study, which quizzed more than 1,700 UK adults, revealed 74 percent of respondents would rather know their car was safe than save £45 on the cost of a test. And nine in 10 respondents (87 percent) said they thought there were better ways of saving money than adjusting the MOT test.

The survey was prompted by government deliberations over the timing of the MOT test, which is currently performed every year on cars that are more than three years old. The test checks vital components and safety features to ensure cars are safe to drive on the roads of the UK.

MOT testing station sign in the UK

However, the government has suggested extending the amount of time vehicles can be on the road before being subjected to their first MOT. At present, the first MOT should be carried out three years after the date of first registration, but the government is contemplating extending that to four or even five years.

According to the government’s calculations, this would save drivers a cumulative total of between £91 million and £117 million – a saving of £35-45 for the average new car buyer over the first three years of ownership. But the SMMT’s research shows motorists would rather know their car is safe than save that money, which equates to between 23 and 29p per week.

MOT service sign on British road

Two-thirds of respondents (67 percent) said they were concerned extending the MOT would put lives at risk, and the SMMT’s figures show more than 300,000 vehicles fail their first MOT. In fact, the organisation says drivers rely “heavily” on the aftermarket, service and repair sectors to ensure cars are roadworthy.

According to the study, almost a quarter (23 percent) of drivers don’t regularly check their brakes, while almost a fifth (19 percent) fail to check their tyres on a regular basis. Those areas, along with lights and indicators, accounted for almost 250,000 MOT failures in 2022, and 66 percent of respondents said they would not buy a three-year-old car that did not have an MOT.

What’s more, because of the cost-of-living crisis, the SMMT’s research found more than a third of respondents say they will now reduce spending on car maintenance. And when the Covid-19 MOT extensions were in place, the SMMT says failure rates increased, which suggests drivers were not maintaining their vehicles properly during lockdown.

“Safety is the number one priority for the automotive industry and the MOT is a crucial component in keeping the UK’s vehicles and roads safe,” said the SMMT’s chief executive, Mike Hawes. “Our survey shows that drivers support the existing MOT frequency and that there is little appetite to change it, despite the increased cost of living. If changes to the MOT are to be made, these should enable testing of advanced electrified powertrains, driver assistance technologies and connected and automated features, as drivers value the peace of mind the MOT offers.”

Sign for an MOT vehicle test centre in UK