Last updated March 24, 2023
Annual MOT tests are a legal requirement for most vehicles over three years old (unless they are MOT exempt). If you drive without an MOT certificate (or after your most recent MOT certificate has expired), you risk incurring a fine – and in some cases, points on your licence – or even a driving ban.
In this guide, we will explain the various penalties you can face for driving without an MOT. We’ll also clarify the limited circumstances in which you can drive a vehicle without an MOT – and the precautions you should take to avoid MOT penalties.
If you are caught driving without a valid MOT, you could be issued with a fine and, if the vehicle was deemed ‘dangerous’ at its last MOT test, you may also receive penalty points on your driving licence.
If you are caught driving with an expired or invalid MOT certificate, you could be fined up to £1,000. However, in most cases, this is likely to be a £100 fixed penalty notice.
MOT fines will also apply if you received a major fault on your latest MOT test, but the fine may be increased up to £2,500 if the vehicle was classified as ‘dangerous’ – and you may also receive three penalty points on your licence.
If you are fined for this reason twice in a three-year period, you may also receive a six-month driving ban.
MOT fines are fixed penalty notices, so if you receive one, you will have 28 days to pay. You can make payment directly through the gov.uk website.
To pay the fine, you will need to provide a few key details such as the notice number, offence code and the date of the offence, in addition to your own personal details. Payment can be made by card or cheque, but cash is no longer accepted.
If you fail to pay an MOT fine within 28 days, this will be registered with the court - and the fine may also be increased by up to 50%. The court can then enforce the fine and will have the option of issuing a warrant for your arrest if you don’t respond.
When you take your vehicle for an MOT test, the garage updates the DVSA’s database with details of the test’s outcome (including any ‘major’, ‘minor’ and ‘dangerous’ defects) - and your next MOT expiry date.
Anyone with your number plate can run an MOT check - and this could lead to prosecution if you do not have a valid MOT. Systems on board police cars and Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) cameras can flag cars without a valid MOT certificate.
There is no grace period once your car’s MOT has expired. From midnight on the date of expiry onwards, it is illegal to drive your car for everyday use – and if you are caught doing so, you will receive an MOT fine.
The only circumstances in which you can drive without an MOT are:
If your vehicle failed its most recent MOT due to a ‘dangerous’ defect, you cannot drive it at all.
If your MOT is valid and in date, you can safely drive without the risk of MOT fines and licence penalties.
However, if you do not have a valid MOT for your car, you cannot drive it for everyday use. If you wish to scrap your car, you cannot drive the vehicle to a scrapyard – and must arrange for it to be transported to the scrapyard instead.
If you can prove that you are driving to a prearranged MOT test and the vehicle has no ‘dangerous’ defects, then you won’t be given a fine if you are pulled over by the police.
You can be fined for driving at any point after your MOT has run out. When your car’s MOT expires (at midnight on the expiry date), your car insurance will also be invalidated.
To avoid incurring an MOT fine, you should arrange your next MOT test ahead of your current expiry date. Make sure you stay on top of maintenance and repairs to help ensure that your vehicle passes its next MOT.
On May 20th 2018, new ‘defect’ categories were introduced to the MOT tests. Under the new rules, any defects highlighted during MOT tests are categorised as ‘minor’, ‘major’ or ‘dangerous’, with any defects in the last two categories resulting in a test failure.
Minor defects are classified as having no significant impact on the vehicle’s safety or the environment. If your car is found to have only minor defects, it will pass its MOT. However, the DVSA advises that drivers rectify any minor faults as soon as possible.
MOT failures are stored on a national database immediately. In accordance with the new rules, you can be fined if you are found to be driving with a dangerous defect, even if your MOT is still in date - and you may also receive three points on your licence.
Other changes rolled out during the latest MOT update included MOT exemptions for some classic cars, stricter emission standards for diesel cars and additional tests for cars.
For a comprehensive list of the current MOT test criteria, please refer to our MOT checklist.
If you have missed your car’s MOT deadline and are caught driving it for everyday use, you risk incurring a fine (and in some cases, penalty points on your licence).
If you are stopped by the police after failing an MOT test, you may avoid MOT penalties if your last MOT test flagged no ‘dangerous’ defects - and you can prove that you are driving to an MOT re-test or to have your vehicle repaired. However, you will be fined if you are caught driving your vehicle for everyday use.
If your last MOT flagged one or more ‘dangerous’ defects, you cannot drive your car at all until these have been rectified. You risk incurring a fine of up to £2,500 and three points on your licence if you are caught doing so.
If you intend to have your ‘dangerous’ vehicle repaired, you will need to arrange for it to be transported so that the work can be carried out.
If your vehicle has a recall on the database, your MOT tester has to check whether the recall has been remedied. If this isn’t the case, the car might fail its MOT.
However, you won’t necessarily face a fine, unless the car has been recalled for a major defect. You can check if your car has been recalled and find more information about vehicle recalls and faults on the gov.uk website.
You will be given a fine if you are caught driving an MOT-less car that you have just bought, unless you can prove that you are driving it to a pre-arranged MOT test or for repairs.
Yes, you can contact the police to report a vehicle that does not have an MOT, if you have seen it being used on the road. You will need to provide the police with details of the vehicle’s registration number, make and model, colour - and location.
If you are caught driving without an MOT and the vehicle is in a ‘dangerous’ condition, you could receive three penalty points on your licence. You will only receive a driving ban if this penalty brings the total number of penalty points on your licence to 12 or more.
However, if you are fined twice for driving a vehicle that is deemed dangerous within a three-year period, you could receive a six-month driving ban.