MOT retests – What to do if your car fails its MOT

Many of us have faced the situation: you drop your car off at the garage, get an expensive taxi to work, then you get the dreaded phone call to tell you that your car has failed its MOT and you’ll need an MOT retest.
It’s unfortunate, but it can happen to anyone, especially given how complex modern cars are. To help you navigate the problem, this guide will spell out what happens if your car fails its MOT, including whether you can drive without an MOT, how to appeal the decision, MOT retests, whether you can get them for free, how to book them, the procedure, and more.

What happens if your car fails its MOT

If your car fails its MOT, you will be given a VT30 “Refusal of an MOT Test Certificate” form from the garage performing the test. This will show you all the reasons why you have failed your test, and which MOT defect categories (dangerous, major, minor, and advisories) they fall into – read our guide on common MOT failures to learn more.
What happens next depends on the defects that caused the MOT to fail and their categories.

  • If the car has any dangerous defects, you cannot drive the vehicle at all – even to another garage. If you want it repaired or given an MOT retest elsewhere, you will have to pay to get it towed.

  • If you have a major defect, you can drive the car until the certificate expires. Once the certificate expires, you can only drive the car to a service or MOT fail retest appointment That’s why it’s best to organise your MOT as early as possible in the month in which it expires so you have time to rebook and take your car to a workshop.

  • If there are only minor defects or advisories, your car has passed its MOT, however it’s a good idea to get these issues fixed at your next service.

What to do if your car fails its MOT – the MOT retest procedure

There are special MOT retest rules and procedures on what you can and should do if you fail your MOT and need to book an MOT retest and repairs.
First, if your car has failed its MOT, the test centre will give you a VT30 form. It lists the number of the MOT test, your car’s details, and tells you why the car failed the MOT. Hang on to the VT30 because you’ll need it for your MOT retest as it will evidence to the garage what repairs are needed.
From here, there are four options open to you. Here’s what they are and how they impact the MOT retest procedure and whether you pay for your MOT retest.

  • Repair and MOT retest at the original garage: If you leave your car at the garage that performed the test, they repair the issues, and then perform a partial MOT retest (looking only at the issues on the VT30), all within 10 working days of the original test, then you won’t pay any MOT fee for the partial retest.

  • Repairs elsewhere with an MOT retest at the original garage within one working day: If you take the car away and get the car repaired and returned to the original garage by the end of the next working day, you will get a free partial MOT retest.

  • Repairs elsewhere with an MOT retest at original garage within 10 working days: If another garage repairs your car and you return to the original MOT centre within 10 working days then the partial MOT retest won’t be free, but you’ll pay less than full price.

  • Repairs elsewhere with an MOT retest elsewhere: If a different garage performs both the repairs and MOT, then you will pay full price for a full MOT retest. This is because time has passed so the tester will need to go through all the sections of the test to ensure your car is roadworthy.

Can I still drive the car if it fails its MOT?

Typically, you will not be able to drive the car if it fails its MOT, however, there are two exceptions that we touched on earlier in this guide:

  • You can drive your vehicle to an MOT retest station for a test if it’s been booked in advance.

  • You can take your vehicle for repairs after it’s failed its test.

If you haven’t got any time left on your previous certificate, you’re only allowed to drive the car to a garage to be repaired or to an MOT retest station. Again, it must be roadworthy with no dangerous faults, which means it must have failed on something that doesn’t affect roadworthiness, such as an incorrectly sized number plate, for it to be safe to drive.
Driving a car with a failed MOT and ‘dangerous’ faults can earn you a £2,500 fine, a driving ban and three points on your licence, so don’t be tempted to drive the car home yourself.
If you drive outside of these two situations – to a repair or an MOT retest – you won’t be covered by your insurance, and even then, some insurers may not even allow you to drive in either situation. Always check your policy before deciding to drive a car that’s failed its MOT.

Can I appeal my failed MOT?

You can appeal a failed MOT test, but there are some steps you will need to take, and while the appeal is being decided, you cannot drive the car or have it repaired.
To appeal, follow these steps:

  1. Print off and fill in an 'Appeal an MOT test result' form and send it to the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) within 14 days of the test. You also need to hang on to the VT30 form provided by your MOT tester.

  2. Get the car retested and pay the full MOT retest fee within five days of sending off the appeal form.

  3. If your appeal is successful, you will get the fee back.

While appeals can work, they can also be a gamble – you may end up paying twice or three times for your MOT test. Often, it’s far simpler to start the MOT retest process with a reputable centre, such as Protyre, who won’t charge you for a retest.

Do you get a free MOT retest?

MOT retests are only free if they are performed by the original tester within ten working days of the initial test (if the repairs are conducted at the same workshop) or one working day (if the repairs are done elsewhere).
If the repairs are done elsewhere but the MOT retest is performed at the original tester, you will pay a partial fee.
If you choose to get both the repairs and test performed at a different garage, you will pay full price for a fresh MOT test.

Book your MOT retest with Protyre

Whether our expert testers performed your initial test or you want to try Protyre instead of your original garage, click below to book your MOT retest today. There are over 160 MOT centres in our network, so you’re sure to find a garage near you. We pride ourselves on a quality test, as evidenced by our "Excellent” Trustpilot rating. Get in touch online or over the phone if you have any questions.