Goverment guidelines on this topic have changed over the years, but the current rules are as follows.
If your car fails the MOT test before the previous MOT certificate elapses, you can drive it away – but only if the none of the faults are classed as ‘dangerous’ and the minimum standards of roadworthiness are met.
The Gov.uk website details these minimum standards. They include requirements that all lights are working, brakes are fully functional and tyres have a minimum depth of 1.6mm across the middle three quarters of the tread.
MOT stations cannot retain your car
A Pistonheads forum user queried whether an MOT tester had a right to detain their car, even if it failed on a non-dangerous fault. The answer? In no circumstances, or with the car in any condition, can a tester keep the car if you don’t want them to.
Speaking with an operative at the DVSA, we were told: “No MOT station can impound a car, even if they find a dangerous defect. You are within rights to get the car towed elsewhere for work”.
However they went on to stress that “It’s a grey area regarding dangerous and non-dangerous defects. Ultimately, if you drive the car away and something happens, you’re still liable”.
Just to reiterate, the DVSA website states: ‘You can be fined up to £2,500, be banned from driving and get three penalty points for driving a vehicle that has failed its MOT because of a “dangerous” problem’.
Our advice is to have the remedial MOT work done there and then at the garage if possible. Alternatively, have the car towed – rather than driving it – if there is any doubt about its legality.