The UK MOT has been in the press a lot in 2018, with a series of changes introduced on 20 May bringing the mandatory motoring test back into the public eye. And it has bought up some discussion about what exactly the MOT should test, and whether we need to have it every year or at all.

The MOT test was first introduced in 1960 as a way to test a vehicle’s safety, roadworthiness and emissions. Since then, every car in the UK has had to pass the Ministry of Transport’s annual exam.

The thing is, cars have changed a lot since the 1960s, particularly from a safety and reliability perspective. And this raises questions about whether or not an annual test is really still needed, especially when you consider that other countries like Germany, France, Norway and the US have already made the switch to less frequent car safety tests.

Here, we look at what the future could hold for the MOT, weighing up the pros and cons of the historic test and asking if it really has a place in the UK’s motoring future.

The State of the UK MOT Test in 2018

It’s safe to say that 2018 has been a big year for the MOT test. There’s been a lot of changes to how it works, with a different pass/fail criteria and new tests introduced to account for modern car features like daytime running lights and run-flat tyres.

And yet, despite the MOT test changes being launched over three months ago, a recent study found that half of drivers are unaware of the changes, and that a quarter of those who knew about them didn’t know what they were – raising questions about what more can be done to educate motorists in what’s involved in the modern MOT. (If you’re unsure of what has changed, you can get an overview of the changes in our blog)

UK/Welsh MOT certificate

While few drivers know exactly what goes on during the MOT test, a complete lack of knowledge and understanding about the new exam is a big problem, and one that’s costing drivers a lot in unnecessary repairs.

In a recent Green Flag study, 31% of drivers said they felt they didn’t have the right knowledge to negotiate with garages following their car failing its MOT, and were therefore left with unnecessary repair bills because they hadn’t taken the time to familiarise themselves with the new test changes.

According to Green Flag, motorists collectively spend around £3.4 billion a year on repair costs due to MOT test failures, with a large proportion of this being spent fixing problems which could have been avoided. That’s around £90 for every car in the UK.

With repair costs reaching such record-breaking heights, it’s more important than ever that motorists are kept in the loop on the requirements of the MOT test – and yet unfortunately at the moment this doesn’t seem to be happening.

The Case For the MOT

While there’s growing calls for the Ministry of Transport to change its stance on mandatory annual testing, it’s still an important process in ensuring that our cars are safe to drive, and nothing should be taken away from the brilliant work of UK mechanics to keep our cars safe and roadworthy.

Safety is, of course, the most important factor when it comes to driving and car ownership. Following strict regulations has been central to the UK having the world’s safest roads – so should not be ignored.

Air pollution from vehicle exhaust pipe on road

And there’s another factor which needs to be considered before changing the rules on mandatory inspections, and that’s emissions testing. A large part of the MOT test is now given over to checking the exhaust toxicity emitted from engines, and this is something that can only be performed by an experienced mechanic.

With the UK government setting ambitious emissions targets for the next 10 years, it’s unlikely that mandatory annual vehicle emissions testing would be thrown out in favour of a new system. There could, however, be more of a focus placed on emissions and a shift away from safety-based MOT tests – something which could save the average motorist money in annual repair costs.

The Case Against The MOT

When MOT testing was originally introduced, most drivers drove affordable second-hand cars, and kept them for much longer than we do today. That means that there was more of a need for regular mechanical checks to test their safety and roadworthiness, to reduce the number of fatalities on the increasingly busy roads of 1960’s Britain.

Now, however, the cars we drive have changed. They’re more reliable, have better and more advanced safety features, are less prone to faults, and feature early warning systems that let the driver know when something’s wrong – meaning fewer nasty surprises when it’s MOT time.

car maintenance

Indeed, according to the Telegraph, accidents on the road have almost halved thanks to the safety features found onboard modern cars, and only 2% of incidents are caused by vehicle faults. This is the same elsewhere too, and is among the reasons why several countries have made the decision to scrap annual vehicle safety testing in favour of more lenient, less frequent tests.

With around 30.9 million cars on UK roads and the average MOT test costing £33.60, we collectively spend over £1.3 billion a year on mandatory car safety tests – not including the huge sums spent on repair costs following an MOT failure. Is it worth it? It’s hard to say. But with other countries making the move towards less frequent safety testing, it might not be long before the UK follows suit.

Whatever the future holds for MOT testing, we’d love to hear your thoughts on the issue. Get in touch on the Redex Club Facebook group and have your say.

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