What is the Difference between an MOT and a Service?

When purchasing a car, it isn’t just monthly payments that you must account for. As well as insurance, tax, and petrol/diesel/electricity, you must also put money aside for regular maintenance which includes servicing and MOT.

As well as safety, MOTs and services can help your car to continue operating at its best for as long as possible. Having money put aside for services, MOTs and repairs will mean that your car isn’t out of action for any longer than it needs to be.

What is the difference between an MOT and a Service?

An MOT and service are regular maintenance tasks that are carried out at least yearly, but what exactly are the differences between the two?

Primarily, the difference is that an MOT focuses on the roadworthiness of a vehicle, ensuring that things such as tyres, brakes, and suspension are all in working order.

A service, on the other hand, takes a deeper dive into the vehicle, assessing things such as filters, oil and fluid quantity and quality, as well as aspects that are included in an MOT such as tyres, brakes and seatbelts.

What is an MOT?

An MOT Test, or Ministry of Transport Test, is a test designed to assess the roadworthiness of a vehicle. In other words, is the vehicle safe to be on the road? Are the brakes in good condition, are the seatbelts safe to use? An MOT, in some ways, is quite surface-level and won’t go into as much detail as a service might. Once your car is over 3 years old, it is a legal requirement to have your vehicle MOT tested once a year.


Female mechanic in blue shirt reaching into a car engine testing the car

What is a service?

A service focuses more on keeping the car in the best possible health by assessing things that are not covered by an MOT. A service isn’t a legal requirement, but it is recommended to keep your car in the best working order and there is certainly a cross-over between a regularly serviced vehicle and a vehicle that is likely to pass an MOT.

There are three main types of service:

Interim: The most basic service that should be carried out every 6 months or 6,000 miles.

Full: A more in-depth service that focuses on more things such as filters.

Major: This service is the most in-depth and incorporates fixes and repairs as part of the service.

MOTs & Services: Your Questions Answered

Now that we’ve explained the differences between an MOT and a service, let’s dive into some of the most-asked questions regarding MOTs and services.

Can you get an MOT check without a service?

Yes, you absolutely can get an MOT without a service.  As we mentioned, an MOT is a legal requirement for vehicles over three years old, and a service isn’t. Sometimes, by booking the MOT and service together garages offer discounts.

Can you get a service without an MOT?

Yes, a service doesn’t have to be carried out with an MOT, they can be done at separate times of the year.

Do I need an MOT certificate to get a service?

In order to drive your car to a garage to get serviced, it needs to be under 3 years old or have a valid MOT certificate.

Should you service your car before an MOT?

This is entirely dependent, but generally we’d recommend getting a service carried out before an MOT in the hopes that the service will pick up on and correct something that may have caused your vehicle to fail the MOT.

Can you get an MOT & service done together?

It’s often easier to get an MOT and service booked in together. As mentioned previously, a service can correct issues that would have otherwise caused your vehicle to fail the MOT test.


Male mechanic in blue polo shirt using a tablet

Are car services a legal requirement?

Car services, unlike the MOT test, aren’t a legal requirement, but they can help your car meet the standards of the MOT by detecting potential issues that would cause an MOT failure.

Despite seeming to be similar, and even having overlapping aims and characteristics, there are some pretty major differences between MOTs and services. An MOT, despite not being as in-depth as a service, is a legal requirement that must be carried out annually.

It’s still worth putting money aside for a full service once a year, alongside your MOT to reduce your chances of failing the test.