MOTs and car insurance: all the rules you need to know

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Driving without an MOT
Roadworthiness
Claiming
Driving to an MOT
MOTs and SORNs
Checking your MOT
Fines and punishments

The world of MOTs and insurance can be a little confusing, with exact rules changing depending on insurer.

For example, Cuvva always requires you to have a valid MOT before you can take out one of our temporary car insurance policies. Some insurers have slightly different rules, though.

Here's how it all works 👇

What is an MOT?

An MOT is an annual check of a vehicle's safety and roadworthiness. The MOT tests the condition of numerous parts of your car, including brakes, lights, exhaust systems, tyres, mirrors and windscreen wipers. All vehicles over three years old must have an MOT certificate.

MOT testing can be done at an MOT centre, which is a garage authorised by the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA). MOTs can also be carried out by Approved Examiners who are registered with the DVSA. It’s important to make sure you use a qualified MOT tester if you decide to have your vehicle MOT tested.

If your MOT passes, you will be issued a MOT certificate which is valid for up to 1 year. If your MOT fails, you need to repair any faults identified in the MOT report before it can pass its MOT test. You may be able to take the MOT retest free of charge, but you will need to check with your MOT centre for more details.

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.

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. Some temporary car insurance policies allow this - but Cuvva's doesn't. It's fine with our subscription policy, though.

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.

You can check when your car was manufactured using our free car checker.

Can you insure your car without an MOT?

Yes! You can sometimes insure a car that doesn't have an MOT, providing it meets the above conditions.

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

But that doesn't mean every insurer will allow you to insure a car without MOT, and it doesn't mean you can drive it.

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

Roadworthiness

Let's talk about "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.

You need to have a valid MOT to drive
You need to have a valid MOT to drive
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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.

Bonus reading 📚
The big Cuvva guide to claims. Learn more

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's 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 that the car's got a valid MOT. Just in case.

How to insure your car to go to an MOT

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.

You can drive to an MOT if you have a Cuvva subscription policy.

  1. 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 (not ours), you need to have an underlying policy anyway.

  1. 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.

Interested in learning a little more about the different types of car insurance? Our expert Cam goes into more detail in our quick video below 👇

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.

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.

(But even if you do declare your car SORN, you still need to manually cancel the insurance.)

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 appointment. 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.

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.

You need a valid MOT to make the most of your car
You need a valid MOT to make the most of your car
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What happens if you get caught driving without an MOT? 🚫

People forget to renew their MOT all the time. It's easily done. 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.

Check your MOT here.

Updated on 14th December 2022