The MOT exemption: should you still MOT your classic car?

Classic owners will know that once their car turns 40, they’re no longer required to give it an annual MOT test in order for it to be road-legal[1].

This is a development that came into play in May 2018, replacing the old rule that only cars registered before 1960 were MOT-exempt. The rolling 40-year rule means that more and more classics are reaching this milestone.

Roadworthiness is still obviously a requirement for classics; it’s simply that the MOT process itself becomes no longer necessary. We’re finding that customers are asking the question, should I get my classic MOT’d anyway?

What gets checked in an MOT?

Nearly half of all faults found during MOT tests could be avoided by carrying out simple maintenance[2]. These include:

  • Lamps, reflectors and electrical equipment, including car battery
  • Steering and suspension
  • Brakes
  • Tyres and road wheels
  • Seat belts and restraint systems
  • Body, structure, and general items such as registration plate and speedometer
  • Exhaust, fuel and emissions
  • Driver’s view of the road, including mirrors and wipers[3]

These are all elements any driver should be keeping an eye on and ensuring proper maintenance of, not just in preparation for an MOT.

However, if you don’t tend to carry out your own vehicle maintenance –  and we know not all classic owners do – a formalised test may bring you greater peace of mind. And even if you do maintain your classic yourself, knowing it’s had a professional eye over it and any advisories have been noted, can help ensure things keep running smoothly.

MOT exemption criteria

A car is exempt from the requirement to have an annual MOT[4] if it:

  • Was first registered more than 40 years ago
  • Has had no ‘substantial changes’ made to it in the last 30 years

What are ‘substantial changes’?

A car is exempt from the requirement to have an annual MOT[4] if it:

  • Was first registered more than 40 years ago
  • Has had no ‘substantial changes’ made to it in the last 30 years

This clause caused some confusion when the MOT laws first changed. The clarifying guidelines are long but can be read here. Broadly, ‘substantial changes’ mean that the technical characteristics of the main components have been changed in the previous 30 years, unless the changes fall into specific categories[5].

This could include changes to the:

  • Chassis
  • Axles and running gear
  • Engine

The Heritage View

In the interests of vehicle and driver safety, we would recommend that classic owners should continue to put their car through an annual MOT, even when it has reached the exemption. This ensures it is being regularly checked for roadworthiness, and gives you as the owner the confidence of a professional, regulated review of your vehicle on an annual basis.

In saying this, we recognise that some older cars may struggle to pass the new, more rigorous tests.

On the exemption criteria, while the government guidance on ‘substantial changes’ is extensive, we don’t feel it is as clear as it could be. We would therefore strongly recommend that if you have made some significant changes / upgrades to your classic car, you continue to MOT the vehicle, to ensure you are not contravening the law.

 

References

[1] https://www.gov.uk/historic-vehicles

[2] Halfords autocentre, ‘what’s checked in an MOT’

[3] Halfords autocentre, ‘what’s checked in an MOT’

[4] https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/historic-classic-vehicles-mot-exemption-criteria/historic-classic-vehicles-mot-exemption-criteria

[5] https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/670431/vehicles-of-historical-interest-substantial-change-guidance.pdf

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