Six ways to beat MOT stress

Carlton Boyce / 02 March 2016

Save money and minimise stress with these simple steps to ensure your car passes its MOT test the first time.

If, like me, you drive a car that is more than three years old then you will know the anguish and stress that is the annual MOT test. 

No matter how well prepared I think I am, I still find myself watching the phone waiting for it to ring and tell me that the family jalopy has failed.

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Because it’s so stressful, I’ve found a way of navigating the MOT test that minimizes the stress by maximizing the chances of passing first time. 

Here’s my six-point plan:

1. Check your car’s MOT history

You can check your car’s MOT history online, which is always worth doing when you first buy a car. 

Why? Well, if the MOT tester found a problem during the last MOT test, he or she will have made a note of it under the ‘Advisories’ section of the MOT certificate.

Knowing what was a developing problem 12 months ago enables you to get it fixed at your leisure, rather than having to deal with it as an emergency when your car fails its MOT.

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2. Common MOT failures

Nearly one-in-five cars fail the MOT because one or more lights aren’t working, which is very easy to check and rectify at home. 

Bald and under- or over-inflated tyres account for another 7%, with cracked or damaged windscreens accounting for a further 7%. 

This means that a third of MOT-failures could be avoided, even if you have almost no technical skill! 

Use our MOT checklist to avoid common reasons for failing the test.

Saga MOT Checklist

3. Pre-MOT check

It’s always worth considering asking your local garage to carry out a pre-MOT check. This could pick up the remaining two thirds of problems that cause a failure ahead of time, saving time, money and stress.

Some people book their car’s annual service to coincide with the need for an MOT, an idea that has a lot to commend it.

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4. Book ahead of time

Your car’s MOT certificate is valid for 12 months, but you can book an MOT test up to one month before it runs out. 

This means that if it passes you’ve got an MOT that now lasts for 13-months, and if it fails you’ve got a month’s grace to rectify the faults that have been identified.

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5. Avoid cut-price offers

If a garage offers a discounted MOT, it is only doing so to lure you in, and while some may be honest and just looking to attract new customers, some will be looking to make up the discount in unnecessary or inflated repairs. 

I’d rather let them make a living by paying the full MOT fee, currently £54.85 for a car and £29.65 for a motorcycle.

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6. Council test stations

Almost all local councils have a fully equipped MOT testing centre so that their own staff can service, repair and MOT test the huge fleets that they run.

As part of their certification they must offer MOT tests to the general public too, which is great for us because they have no incentive to fail your car in a bid to gain profitable repair work. 

I’m not saying that all garages will do this – my own village garage, for example, is utterly trustworthy – but if you can remove that niggling doubt about their motivation then it’s worth doing.

For more tips and useful information, browse our motoring articles.

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The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.