How Long Does an MOT Test Take?

mot test_blog_how long does an mot test take

In this article, we explore how long an MOT test takes, what factors affect its duration, and how much time to set aside.

With few exceptions, vehicles older than three years in the UK have to pass an annual test to certify their roadworthiness. This test — known as the MOT (Ministry of Transport) — is a legal requirement, and failure to pass it means you cannot drive the vehicle on public roads. In this article, we explore how long an MOT test takes, what factors affect its duration, and how much time to set aside.

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Unless your car is newer than three or older than 40 years old, you'll need to have a valid MOT certificate. Otherwise, you won't be able to pay road tax on it, insure it, or drive it (legally) on public roads.

During the MOT test, a trained and certified mechanic will inspect your car's roadworthiness. They'll test different components, including the lights, brakes, exhaust emissions, and 15+ other areas.

A standard MOT test takes 45 to 60 minutes. However, this is not a guaranteed timeframe. Depending on factors like the condition of your vehicle, the workload at the MOT test centre, and potential repairs and retests (if you fail the MOT), the test could take longer.

The challenge, of course, is fitting the test into your busy schedule. Whether you're juggling morning commutes, school runs, or weekend errands, it's important to know how long you can expect to spend at the mechanic.

How much time should I set aside for an MOT test?

While the MOT test itself will only take 45 minutes to an hour, it's best to plan for at least two hours for the entire process. This gives enough buffer time for unforeseen delays and ensures you won't be rushing to make it back to your other commitments.

In addition to the test itself, you'll want to include time for:

      Transportation to and from the garage

      Early arrival

      A pre-check before the actual test

      Potential holdups at the garage (e.g., an appointment before yours runs long)

If your car has issues that cause it to fail, you may also need to wait for repairs and a retest. This could add several hours or even a full day to the process, depending on the availability of parts and the mechanic's schedule.

As of 20 May 2018, the DVLA differentiates between 'major' and 'dangerous' defects in regard to failed MOTs. Assuming your previous MOT certificate is still valid, you can drive a car with a major defect elsewhere to have it repaired (that is, you won't have to spend more time at the garage that day). If the defect is dangerous, it's illegal to drive the car until the issue is fixed.

How early should I arrive for my MOT test?

On the day of your test, we strongly recommend showing up 10 to 15 minutes early. If you show up late, there's a chance the garage will cancel your appointment. In that case, you'll have to reschedule and pay another testing fee. 

Planning for an early arrival also gives you a bit of an allowance for traffic, lane closures, and other unforeseen circumstances.

Can I drive my car after the MOT has expired?

If your MOT expires, you cannot drive it or park it on public roads. There are only two exceptions to this:

      Driving to a pre-booked MOT test

      Driving to a garage to repair defects discovered in your previous failed MOT

In all other cases, driving with an expired MOT is illegal. And since driving without an MOT invalidates your insurance policy, you'll be breaking the law twice — once for driving without a valid MOT certificate, and once for driving without insurance cover.

If you're caught, the fixed penalty notice for not having an MOT is £100. However, you can be fined up to £1,000 depending on the circumstances.

How can I check my car's MOT status?

The easiest way to check your car's MOT status is to use our free MOT history check tool. Simply enter its registration number, and the tool will automatically pull information from the DVLA database to tell you when your current MOT expires, its pass/fail history, and any recorded defects.

If you have minor defects that didn't result in a fail on last year's MOT, it's in your best interest to address them prior to your next test. This will save you time and hassle at the garage, as they may cause your car to fail this year.

How often do I need to take an MOT test?

Except for a few MOT-exempt categories, vehicles in the UK need to pass an MOT test every year once they reach three years old. The earliest date you can schedule an MOT test while keeping the same expiry date is one month (minus a day) before the expiry date of your current certificate.

For example, if your MOT expires on 25 July, you can schedule your new test from 26 June while keeping the original expiry date. Booking it for, say, 20 June would result in a new MOT certificate with an expiry date of 20 June the following year.

Booking your MOT appointment

There's no guarantee your chosen garage will have availability on the day and time that works best for you. That's why it's important to book your MOT appointment well in advance.

If you wait until the last minute, you run the risk of not finding a convenient appointment, having to book at a garage further away, or even missing the deadline completely. If you can't find an appointment opening before the expiry date, you'll be unable to use your car or park it on the street until you can schedule one.

Completing the booking process is simple:

  1. Find a garage displaying the MOT certification logo (blue sign with 3 white triangles).
  2. Evaluate the garage's location, ratings, reviews, and pricing (for potential repairs).
  3. Check availability and pick a date and time that works best for you.
  4. Book the appointment and get a confirmation.
  5. Add that date to your calendar or planner as a reminder.

There are maximum fees for MOT testing in the UK: £54.85 for a car and £29.65 for a motorcycle. In England, Scotland, and Wales, you will book with one of 23,500+ authorised garages. In Northern Ireland, you will use the Driver and Vehicle Agency (DVA) online service.

Items to check before your MOT test

During the MOT, the examiner will be looking at multiple components of your car, including lights, tires, brakes, wipers, seatbelts, mirrors, and more. That's why it's a good idea to do a quick check over the key areas before you head to the garage.

Although there are some elements that only a qualified mechanic can check, here are some items you can easily inspect yourself:

      Headlights (for proper alignment and working high/low beams)


      Brake lights and reverse lights

      Registration plate (for cleanliness and legibility)

      Windscreen cracks and obstructions

      Windscreen wipers and washers

      Seats (forward/backward adjustment)

      Seat belts (check they fasten and release in each seat)


      Tires (for minimum 1.6mm tread depth, pressure, and wear)

      Miirors (external and rearview)

      Warning light functionality

You should also clean your car inside and out. While a dirty car won't cause you to fail your MOT on paper, it will make it harder for the examiner to check your car's components. And it will potentially cast doubt in the examiner's mind about your car's overall maintenance and performance.

For an in-depth look at how to prep your car for an MOT, check out our MOT checklist.

Cancelling or rescheduling your MOT appointment

If you need to cancel or change your MOT appointment, you can usually do so up to 1 working day (24 hours) before the appointment time. If there's a different cancellation window, it will be displayed on the garage's website and stated during the booking process.

Rescheduling and cancellations are usually free, provided you give sufficient notice. If you've paid upfront for your MOT test, the garage will either issue a partial or full refund or put the money towards your new booking.

If you cancel your appointment too late or without sufficient notice, the garage might charge you a fee, and/or you will lose your fee if you had prepaid.

However, policies vary by test centre. It's a good idea to check with the specific garage where you booked the appointment.

Most DVLA-affiliated MOT centres allow you to manage your appointments through their online portals. This makes it convenient to change or cancel appointments as needed.

The bottom line

While the MOT test takes just 45 to 60 minutes, you should plan for the entire process to take up to two hours. And, if you fail, expect it to take anywhere from an afternoon to a few days for your car to be repaired, retested, and ready for use again.

To minimise your risk of failure and ensure a fast MOT process:

      Book your appointment well in advance.

      Show up early.

      Keep your car clean and tidy.

      Review your car's MOT history to address last year's minor (non-fail) issues.

      Check your car beforehand using our MOT checklist and fix minor issues.

To get started, use our free MOT checker to understand your current status. From there, find authorised MOT test centres near you with available bookings.