Your car failed its MOT - what next?

Many of us have faced this 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 the car’s failed its MOT. So what happens now?

Can I still drive the car after it fails?

It’s not legal to drive with an invalid MOT certificate. However, if you have some unexpired time left on last year’s MOT certificate, you can drive the car until the certificate expires. But only if it’s roadworthy. It's best to organise your MOT as early as possible in the month in which it expires.
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 station for testing. Again, it has to be roadworthy, which begs the question somewhat, because if was completely roadworthy, it wouldn’t have failed the MOT. However, if it has failed on something that doesn’t affect roadworthiness, such as an incorrectly sized number plate, you should be OK.
If you drive outside of these two situations, repair or repeat MOT, you aren’t insured. And again, check your insurance in any case as some insurers may not even allow you to drive in the two situations outlined and may want the car transported.

Can I appeal?

You can but it’s a little bureaucratic, and while the appeal is going on, you’re not allowed to do anything to the car. Needless to say, there is a form to be filled in, so you need to get the “Complain about an MOT” 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 (see the next section).
Once you’ve sent in the complaint form in, you have to get the car retested and pay the MOT fee again, within five days.
If your appeal is successful, you will get the fee back. But it’s a bit of a gamble, and it’s far simpler to start the MOT process with a reputable centre such as Protyre who won’t charge you for a re-test.

How does the retest work?

If your car has failed its MOT the test centre will give you a form called a VT30 “Refusal of an MOT Test Certificate”. 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 retest, and it tells the garage what work needs doing.
If you leave your car at the testing station that did the original test, and they repair it, they’re allowed to do a partial retest. Logically enough, this means simply retesting the things that needed fixing and were listed on the V30.
You can save yourself a great deal of hassle by checking items such as tyres before the MOT. A significant percentage of MOT failures have nothing to do with the car's mechanics; they’re just maintenance failures such as worn tyres or windscreen wipers.