Man carrying out an MOT on a vehicle


Does a valid MOT mean a car is safe and roadworthy?

If you’re buying a used car, the very minimum you want it to be is safe and roadworthy. Sellers often highlight the fact that the car has a valid MOT as concrete proof that this is the case. But is it really enough?

When you’re about to hand over thousands of pounds of your hard-earned cash and invest in a car, you want to be as certain as you can be that it’s sound – and going to run longer than a few months after purchase. It’s feasible to think that an MOT puts a car through its paces and is a rigorous and robust test you can trust. After all, the DVSA puts its trust in it to prove roadworthiness doesn’t it? But there’s a number of reasons you should be wary of placing 100 per cent confidence in an MOT certificate alone.

As experts in the used car market, we never take it as read that an MOT means a second-hand vehicle has the all-clear. While it’s a fantastic annual check-up for your vehicle once you have it, it really can’t be used as a stand-alone measure of safety and reliability.

Here’s why…

It’s only guaranteed correct on the day of testing

Are you under the impression an MOT lasts for 12 months? While the legal requirement is to have your car MOT’d once a year, the stark reality is that it’s only guaranteed correct at the time of testing. The more recent the MOT test, the greater your chance of everything still being in working order but a certificate issued weeks or months ago is far from fool-proof.

It has limitations

An MOT involves dozens of checks on your car, ranging from the brakes and fuel system to lights, mirrors, seatbelts, windscreen wipers and exhaust system. There are, however, vital mechanical systems such as the engine, clutch and gearbox that it doesn’t cover. An MOT will determine whether a vehicle meets the minimum road safety requirements as set out by the DVSA, but when purchasing a car, you really want to be confident it doesn’t just meet those minimum standards. This is why we would always suggest additional service and maintenance history checks, a detailed visual inspection by a trained mechanic and a test drive.

An MOT is not a service

It’s easy to misunderstand the difference between an MOT and a service. There is only a legal requirement to ensure any car over three years old passes an annual MOT, but to keep a vehicle in tip-top condition an annual service is also essential.

Car servicing is set out by the vehicle’s manufacturer, so it is a more tailored test for the make and model of a car and usually includes a more in-depth mechanical assessment as well as top-ups or changes of important fluids such as brake fluid, power steering fluid, oil and coolant.

It’s a proven fact that regular servicing will help prolong a vehicle’s lifespan so, while it’s not required by law, annual servicing is definitely an important detail to note when buying a used car. There are also different levels of servicing available, so it’s worth checking which service the car received.

Do you trust the testing station?

A recent survey by showed that people choose an MOT testing station based on trust and reliability, with many saying they would drive further afield to take their car to a known tester rather than try somewhere closer to home they don’t know. This speaks volumes about the variation in quality of MOT testing! When buying a used car, you have no say at all in where that MOT has taken place and so that trust simply can’t be there.

Be wary of in-house testing

We’re particularly wary of car sellers who operate their own, in-house MOT testing. We’re not saying this is the norm, but unfortunately there may be unscrupulous garages who are more inclined to pass a vehicle to make it easier to sell when it is, in fact, sub-standard.


If you’re one of the many who know little about the mechanics of a car, and let’s face it, modern cars aren’t easy to get to grips with, we strongly advise seeking expert advice before purchasing a used vehicle. Buying without having that peace of mind that a car has been thoroughly checked by an expert can be a costly mistake, not just in financial terms, but your safety is at stake too.

For more information on how we can help you get great value, whilst offering that all important peace of mind that your purchase is practical, reliable and safe, give us a call on 0333 006 3825.

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