Can you drive your car after an MOT fail if the old test hasn't expired?

The government has updated its guidelines warning motorists that they face prosecution if they drive their car following an MOT failure – even if its previous test hasn’t expired.

Some drivers put their car in for an MOT early to find out if any faults need repairing, mistakenly thinking they can use the vehicle until the old test runs out.

A lot of speculation exists around the topic online, with a number of sites claiming that drivers are within their rights to continue using a car with an in-date MOT certificate, even a tester has since deemed it unroadworthy.

But now the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) has updated its guidelines, saying: “You must not drive the vehicle on the road if it fails the test, even if the MOT hasn’t run out.”

It adds that the only exceptions are to drive to have the defects fixed, or to a pre-booked MOT appointment.

If you’re caught driving a car in a dangerous condition, you could face a fine of up to £2,500, a driving ban and three penalty points.

Update: February 2016

Since running this story, the DVSA has updated its website again – to say the complete opposite of what it originally said.

It now states: “You can take your vehicle away if your MOT certificate is still valid.”

Beware, though – if you do drive your car away it is technically unroadworthy. If you were to be caught driving a dangerous vehicle, you could be prosecuted – and you definitely can’t plead ignorance if you have an MoT fail sheet informing you of this.

Update: September 2018

The situation as it stands is as follows: an MOT fail before the previous MOT certificate elapses does not necessarily mean you can’t drive it away, unless there is a “dangerous” problem listed on the certificate and the minimum standards of roadworthiness aren’t met.

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 that “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 “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”.

From the DVSA site: “You can be fined up to £2,500, be banned from driving and get 3 penalty points for driving a vehicle that has failed its MOT because of a ‘dangerous’ problem”.

The conclusion?

You can drive your car away from a failed MOT, if the previous certificate is still valid and if the car did not fail with a “dangerous” fault.

The usual rules still apply, though. Get it fixed and get it tested and passed in time.