Car insurance and MOTs: what the rules are

In the UK, you can insure a car without an MOT. But, like most things in insurance, the details are a little more complicated. Here's how it works.
By Team member, 04/02/20205 minutes read

In the UK, you can insure a car without having a valid MOT.

But (like most things with car insurance) the details are a little more complicated.

You can’t drive your car without a valid MOT

First things first. Legally, you have to have a valid MOT to drive a car. There are only a couple of exceptions to this.

  1. Driving it to a pre-booked MOT test. You’ll need to be able to prove that’s where you’re going if you get stopped.
  2. If your car is less than 3 years old. But even this isn’t a hard rule. Some types of vehicles have to be MOT’d before they’re 3 years old.

And if the person who owned the car before you got it MOT’d when it was less than 3 years’ old, the normal rules apply, and you’ll have to get it MOT’d every year.

(It’s worth noting that, with COVID-19 making it pretty difficult to get around, the Government’s given drivers an extra 6 months to get their MOT renewed.)

Can you insure your car without an MOT?

Yes. You can insure a car that doesn’t have an MOT.

And if you’ve already bought insurance, your policy doesn’t necessarily stop being valid once your MOT expires.

Bear with us. This is where things get a little confusing.

Roadworthiness

In the world of car insurance, there’s a concept called “roadworthiness”.

If your car is “roadworthy”, that means it’s fit to drive. And most insurance policies are only valid if the car is roadworthy.

When your car passes its MOT, this means the car is roadworthy at the time it was tested. But that doesn’t mean the car will be roadworthy a month later. And not having an MOT doesn’t necessarily mean the car isn’t roadworthy.

So as long as your car is roadworthy, you’ll be able to insure it. And your insurance will (usually) still be valid if your MOT expires - as long as the car’s fit to drive.

That means, if you were caught driving without an MOT and got a fine because of it, you wouldn’t also get a fine for driving without insurance.

There’s a big caveat to this, though: some insurance policies specifically say your car insurance isn’t valid if you don’t have a valid MOT. So double-check your policy docs to make sure this isn’t the case.

(This is more common with something like temporary car insurance. Most annual car insurance policies won’t be invalid once your MOT runs out.)

Making a claim without an MOT

Because not having a valid MOT doesn’t (usually) mean your insurance is invalid, it shouldn’t stop you being able to make a claim.

But, if your car is stolen or written off, you will usually get a lower payout. Sometimes 10 or 20% lower.

This is because cars automatically drop in value when they don’t have a valid MOT, so your insurance company will knock a certain amount off the value of your car when deciding how much to pay out.

And if your car is stolen without an MOT, you can expect it to take a long time before you get your payout. Your insurance company will probably want to do a pretty detailed investigation.

But, like everything in car insurance, it tends to vary from insurer to insurer. And some of them will specifically say when you buy the policy that you won’t get a payout if you don’t have an MOT.

Check your policy documents to find out if this is the case.

You need car insurance to drive it to its MOT

Your car needs to be insured whenever you drive it. Even if it’s just to an MOT and back. It is always illegal to drive without insurance in the UK – even to drive an uninsured car to a pre-booked MOT appointment.

If you get stopped, you’ll usually be fined £100.

And if the person who drove your car got into an accident, both they and you as the ‘registered keeper’ would be in trouble. It’s up to the driver and the registered keeper to double-check that the car’s roadworthy.

So if you’re insuring someone else’s car, make sure you check it’s fit to drive. And it wouldn’t hurt to double-check with the owner that the car’s got a valid MOT. Just in case.

How to insure your car to get it MOT’d

So if you need to insure your car to get to your MOT, you’ve got a few options.

1. Buy a full car insurance policy

If you buy a full policy, it should still be valid without an MOT. As long as your car’s not falling to bits.

If worst comes to worst, and you have to make a claim, you should still be covered.

2. Buy temporary car insurance

Some temporary car insurance policies will cover you to drive to your MOT (but not ours - sorry about that).

So if you’re not keen on spending loads of money on a full policy without getting your car checked, you might be better off looking at short-term cover.

But bear in mind that, for some temporary car insurance policies, you need to have an underlying policy anyway.

3. Don’t get it insured, and get it towed instead

Otherwise, you could ask your nearest mechanic to tow the car to their shop. It’s pretty expensive, but (sometimes) a bit more practical. And you won’t need any insurance to do it.

Why it’s (usually) fine to drive a SORN car to its MOT

In the world of car insurance, there’s a law called Continuous Insurance Enforcement, or CIE. (It’s as fun as it sounds.)

CIE basically means that a car has to be insured all the time. Not just when you’re driving it.

The only time you don’t need car insurance is if your car is “off-road”. To make it off-road, you need to register a Statutory Off-Road Notification, or SORN.

And because a SORN is a way of saying “I’m not going to be driving this car around”, you don’t need to get it MOT’d.

The tricky bit comes if you want to get rid of the SORN on your car. Because you can’t drive a SORN car. But as soon as a car isn’t SORN, it needs an MOT and insurance.

Luckily, you’re legally allowed to drive a SORN car to a pre-booked MOT important. But you can only go as far as your local garage, and you’ll need to be able to prove that’s where you’re off to if you get stopped.

And, as ever, you’ll need car insurance.

You can (usually) use temporary car insurance to do this. But just check that it’s valid without an underlying policy. And make sure you’re allowed to drive SORN cars.

Some policies say in the policy documents that you can’t.

How do you check if your car has insurance and an MOT?

When your car passes its MOT, you’ll get a certificate to confirm it. If you’ve still got your latest MOT certificate lying around, check the date on it. If it’s less than a year ago, your MOT is still valid.

If you don’t have it, you can order a new one.

To do that, you’ll need your vehicle registration and 11-digit reference number from your log book (V5C).

You can also check your MOT history online.

All the MOT information for every car in the UK is publicly available. So your insurance company can use it to check if you’ve got a valid MOT on your car, too.

What happens if you get caught driving without an MOT? 🚫

People forget to renew their MOT all the time. It’s easily done. (That’s why we’ve added reminders in the app.)

But that doesn’t make the punishment any less hefty. 😬

If you’re stopped by the police without a MOT, you’ll usually get fined £100.

And if the case goes to court, that fine could rise to £1000.

But you won’t usually get any points unless your car isn’t “roadworthy”, which is the technical term that means the car isn’t fit to drive.

Whether you’ve got a valid MOT or not, driving a car that’s not roadworthy can get you in big trouble.

The most common things the police check for are:

  • Illegal tyres
  • Brakes that don’t work properly
  • Less than 1.6mm tyre tread-depth

Having any of those things wrong with your car will usually get you 3 points.

Team member

Team member

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