Why hasn’t the six-month MOT exemption been cancelled? And what to do if you need an MOT

Time 1 year ago

The six-month MOT extension for cars has been in place since March 25, but as the UK gradually climbs out of lockdown and gets back to work, there are calls for it to be cancelled. 

Those calls have got stronger in the past week as the Driver & Vehicle Standards Agency lifted the three-month extension for heavy good vehicles, prompting many to ask why hasn’t the extension been lifted for cars, too.

Car Dealer Magazine has reported on a number of calls by garages and trade bodies to cancel the MOT extension with immediate effect, but what is stopping that and what are the chances of that happening?

Here we piece together all the information we have so far to give you the clearest picture.

Is the six-month MOT extension going to be cancelled?

Possibly, sorry that’s a bit of a sitting-on-the-fence answer, but it hinges on a number of factors.

With garages back at work, the trade is calling for the extension to be scrapped with immediate effect. However, despite the legislation being put in place quickly, it is proving a little difficult to undo.

The Independent Garage Association (IGA) has been the loudest voice when it comes to scrapping the extension because it says dangerous cars are being driven around on the roads. A third of all MOTs fail, and many for dangerous defects, pointing to the fact that most drivers don’t care for their cars, but there are issues with cancelling the extension now.

Why do they want it scrapped?

Mostly because of those dangerous cars. IGA director Stuart James told Car Dealer that he believes the extension could be cancelled soon.

James said he is ‘hoping and praying’ the government still does ‘the sensible thing’ and calls a halt to the automatic extension.

He said: ‘The extension should be cancelled with immediate effect. Every day they delay the number of unroadworthy vehicles driving around on our roads increases. They should repeal it now – it is the right thing to do.’

How does the six-month extension actually work?

Currently, the MOT extension is running from March 30, 2020, to March 29, 2021 – with any cars due an MOT in that time period given an automatic six-month extension.

Anyone with an MOT due during the current 12-month timeframe automatically gets an extension of six months but it is only issued seven days before the MOT is due. So, if you’re expecting to see it before then you’ll be left waiting.

A government source told Car Dealer Magazine that the legislation was designed this way so that it could run for longer than it was needed without the need for more legislation to be passed – in case a second spike in coronavirus appeared. But it seems to be proving harder to end than first thought to cancel.

What is stopping the government ending the six-month MOT extension?

In a letter to the IGA last month, the transport secretary Grant Shapps said they needed to work out how to cope with the spike in demand that could come in six months time.

He’s referring to the fact that if the extension is cancelled now it will mean all those who were due an MOT in April, May and now June would need to have their MOTs at the same time as all the usual drivers needing one in September, October and November.

The problem is the trade simply won’t be able to cope with that demand on top of the usual bookings and that could mean drivers are forced to lay up their cars until they can get an MOT.

What happens if I decide to get an MOT now anyway and my car fails?

The Driver & Vehicle Standards Agency issued an update last month that stated if any drivers have an MOT carried out during the extension period and their car fails then they will lose the right to an automatic six-month exemption.

That means if you decide to get an MOT any way, or miss the fact that you have been entitled to one, and then subsequently have your car tested and it fails you will lose the right to an extension completely.

What are garages telling customers?

Customers should – where possible – have their cars tested now. Why? Well, not only will it mean your car is checked for safety, but it will also mean you won’t have to deal with a rush at the same time as everyone else.

Garages and car dealerships, like the rest of the country, have struggled during the lockdown and support from motorists now would be welcomed. It’s also vital to remember that the MOT is a safety check and is designed to ensure your car is roadworthy for key, basic things.

Bald tyres are one of the most common MOT failures and if you’re caught with a bald tyre you face three points for every tyre that is under the limit. That means you could lose your licence in one go if all four are under the limit.

How does the government intend to fix the problem of a spike in demand for MOTs?

The government needs to work out how to deal with the spike of MOTs due in six months time. Some 3.5m MOTs have not been carried out in April and May which would put pressure on the trade in September and October. We’re now nearly into July, which means November will be affected too.

The government needs to be sure that there is sufficient capacity to deal with this spike otherwise drivers may be left without a car because they cannot get it booked in for a test. Until they solve that dilemma the chances are the MOT extension will remain in place.

The IGA’s James suggests the way to solve this could be from the point of cancelling the MOT extension, offer a similar six-month extension to those who would need to have their tests carried out during the months that all those who missing theirs now had been moved to.

For example, all those due in April and May have the tests carried out in September and October, and those who have one due in those months are moved on six months to the following April and May, thus back filling the space and flattening out the spike.

Is there a chance the six-month MOT extension will just be allowed to run the whole year?

Yes, there’s a chance that might happen. It would certainly mean the problem of dealing with that spike is avoided and also avoid the complexity of the scheme James suggests above.

However, that would mean potentially dangerous cars are allowed to remain on the roads for even longer, which would be a bitter pill to swallow for many.

Despite this, it could be the easy option the government chooses.

What is the official word from the government on when the six-month extension could be cancelled?

Car Dealer Magazine contacted the Driver & Vehicle Standards Agency and asked when the six month MOT extension will be cancelled, but all a spokesman would tell us is the exemption ‘remains under review’.

‘An update will be provided in due course,’ said a spokesperson, and they would not be drawn on a timescale of when it could be cancelled.

Baroness Vere, parliamentary under secretary of state at the Department for Transport, told the House of Lords that that the MOT exemption is ‘under constant review’.

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She said: ‘The duration of the changes remains under review and, if no longer required, this instrument will be amended to bring forward the last day on which a six-month exclusion can begin.’

The government has said all along that cars should remain roadworthy, even if they are given an extension.

Updated June 23, 08:00am (originally posted June 4)

James Baggott's avatar

James is the founder and editor-in-chief of Car Dealer Magazine, and CEO of parent company Baize Group. James has been a motoring journalist for more than 20 years writing about cars and the car industry.

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