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Does An Old Car Or Classic Car Need An MOT Check? New Laws

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If you own a classic or old car, you may have been told that it's automatically exempt from an MOT test. Here's what the fine print of UK regulations say.

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If you're the owner of a classic car, you may believe that you are completely exempt from MOT inspections. The truth of this, however, is up for debate.

Some classic cars do not require an MOT inspection if you have the right paperwork. Likewise, old standard cars may be above an MOT test, but only if they reach a certain age.

Let's dig through the fine print of UK law and see where your old car falls. Is it legally required for you to get an MOT test anyways, or can you skip this otherwise mandatory regulation?

When Does A Classic Car Become MOT Exempt?

Previously, the Ministry of Transport's regulations stated that any car manufactured earlier than 1960 did not need an MOT check. In May 2018, however, the rules were changed. Now, any vehicle that is older than 40 years no longer MOT testing.

This 40-year rule is a rolling date. For example, if a car was built in 1981, it will not require an MOT check from 2021 onwards.

However, there are exceptions to this rule:

  • A classic car that's older than 40 years is _ not _ MOT-exempt until you have declared it as a Vehicle of Historic Interest (VHI).
    • This can be done at your nearest Post Office by filling out a V112 form.
  • You must have a vehicle's logbook (V5C) and a valid MOT certificate from its previous test.
    • This will also make your vehicle exempt from Vehicle Excise Duty (road tax), meaning you no longer need to pay this otherwise mandatory fee.
  • Even though no tax payment is required, the vehicle still needs to be registered for tax in order to drive it on public roads.
  • When you apply to the DVLA for your Vehicle Excise Duty, you must declare that your vehicle is MOT exempt.
    • They may require proof that your car is a VHI.

Why Are Classic Cars Exempt From MOT Testing?

Many classic cars are exempt from MOT testing because their owners tend to be hobbyists, who enjoy taking care of their vehicles mechanically. As such, there's a (perceived) lesser risk of the old car being poorly maintained.

MOT test or not, however, an old car still needs to be road-worthy. You can't simply neglect a car and drive legally on public roads due to its age. If you do, law enforcement will pull you over and issue fines or penalty points on your driver's licence.

Driving, for example, with unsafe tyres, broken lights, or anything else that would usually fail an MOT is still illegal. The idea is that owners of classic cars tend to be attentive to maintenance issues, without them needing to be flagged on a formal test.

As such, there's no need for an MOT tester to "fail" or "pass" you based on the condition of your old car. But that doesn't mean your car is above the need for functional safety features.

When Does A Classic Car Need An MOT?

There are circumstances in which your vehicle will still require an MOT check, even if it's over 40 years old. For example:

  • If you haven't declared it as a VHI, it will need an MOT test until it has been declared.
  • An MOT test is required if your vehicle has been substantially altered in the last 30 years.

Substantial changes include chassis or sub-frame replacements, as well as adjustments to the type or method of suspension and steering. Likewise, if your vehicle doesn't contain its original engine, then an MOT check is required.

If you're unsure whether your vehicle has experienced such alterations (for example, if the changes were made by a previous owner), you need to have the vehicle MOT tested until you can prove that it hasn't been altered.

There are, however, non-substantial changes that are acceptable if they were completed for good reason. Such changes meet the criteria if they were made:

  • To preserve a vehicle, and no original parts were reasonably available
  • When the vehicle was in production or in general use (within 10 years after the vehicle was no longer produced)
  • To improve efficiency or safety (applies to axles and running gear only)

Do Older Commercial Vehicles Need An MOT Test?

Buses and other forms of public service transportation will require an MOT check, even when they're past the 40-year boundary. Commercial vehicles that have more than eight seats will also require testing. This may include classic cars that are used at weddings.

Other vehicles that still require an MOT test include:

  • Cars with a "Q" prefix in the registration number
  • A kit car that's assembled from different makes and models
  • A reconstructed classic vehicle

However, there are still exceptions to this rule. For example, if you have a kit car that hasn't been changed in over 30 years and it has been taxed as a VHI, then it will be exempt from an MOT.

Unsure About Your Old Car's Safety?

Just because your classic car is older than 40 years, that doesn't mean you can't have it MOT tested. It's not a requirement, but if you'd prefer to know that your car is working well and safely, reach out to a shop like Autofusion for a servicing + MOT package. We can also provide full servicing each year to ensure there isn't anything seriously wrong with your vehicle that could cause danger to you or other drivers.