• Graham Eason

What the MOT exemption means

Clever people often do silly things. Whether the decision to exempt all cars over 40 years old from any form of independent roadworthiness inspection will prove to be silly or inspired, time will inevitably tell. But the omens are not great.

But, democracy has spoken and we are where we are. The exemption comes into place in May and here's what you need to be aware of.

1. Exemption is Optional

It's easy to get the impression that by exempting older cars from the MOT, the Government is actively preventing them being tested.  That isn't the case.  Even if your car is not required to have a MOT you can still ask for it to be tested by a MOT station.

A MOT test will of course give you either a failed condition check or proof of roadworthiness. However, it's worth bearing in mind that the reason old cars are being exempted is because the MOT test is evolving.  You may find that subjecting your car to a MOT test means that it fails on minor issues that may not be relevant to your age of car. We recommend checking with your local classic car garage before submitting for a test - or ask the MOT tester.

2. You're Responsible

The exemption creates the impression that classic car owners have been let off the hook. It implies that old cars don't need checked so there is no need to check them. The reality is that they do need checked, arguably more so than modern cars. And the roll back puts more responsibility on owners to ensure their cars are safe. They also have to be road legal.

Owners have always been legally responsible for the safety of their cars. But the MOT put some of that responsibility in the hands of an independent assessor. Armed with a MOT a car owner can prove they've taken steps to maintain their car, even if it subsequently deteriorated. There is some defence in law. 

Without a MOT this is far harder to prove of course. This matters because if your car is stopped by the police or involved in an accident, its condition will become an issue.  And your responsibility.

3. Condition is conditional 

Under the MOT system the government decides what is 'safe.'. They set the benchmark. Whether or not that level is correct or flawed is irrelevant because it's legally binding. If you take that bar away for some cars it immediately becomes subjective - what is 'safe and legal?' This applies to owners maintaining their cars and police checking them. 

The temptation for owners to cut corners to save money or time is obvious. Or, more likely, through ignorance. Because even knowledgeable classic car owners are not trained to MOT standards.

It is not possible for owners or the police to look at a car and tell whether it's roadworthy. That requires a ramp and experience.

We recommend getting your car independently checked so that you know its true condition.

4. Don't Rely on Hope

The argument put forward by the MPs and classic car organisations that supported the exemption is that classic car owners don't use their cars much.  This is certainly true - most classics cover a 10th of the annual mileage of a modern car.

But this line of attack makes two assumptions.  Firstly, that low use means low deterioration.  Anyone who has returned to their car after a 6 month lay up will know that old cars go down hill without any encouragement.

Secondly, lack of use does not mean reduced risk of accidents. There may be less accidents involving old cars because they're used less, but the probability of an accident is exactly the same for every car every time it is taken onto the road.  Each trip is an independent event with its own level of risk - it doesn't reduce because you make less trips.

The same applies to breakdowns or accidents caused by mechanical failure.  If your car is not maintained, low use won't alter the level of risk to you and other road users each time you use it.

Our Advice

Great Escape Cars has created a Classic Health Check for owners affected by the new exemption.  You can find out more by clicking here or call 01527 893733. It's just £50 and takes an hour.  Free collection and return of your car within 20 miles is included.

We strongly recommend that all classic car owners either subject their cars to an annual MOT-standard check by a MOT station or get them checked by their local classic car specialist. Anything that provides you with an independent assessment of condition will give you added protection in the event of an accident.  If you can't prove your car was adequately maintained and roadworthy in the event of an accident you open yourself up to risk.

We've learnt the hard way what it takes to keep classic cars safe and reliable because we maintain the hire fleet for Great Escape Cars. We also maintain cars for customers. We offer an independent safety inspection backed by a MOT-standard test. All for just £50.

To find out more call 01527 893733 or visit www.fixclassiccars.co.uk


01527 893733

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