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What are the MoT rules for cars registered before 1977?

Published 06 October 2017

From May next year, 40-year-old cars will no longer be required to pass an annual roadworthiness test. This raises plenty of questions and there’s no doubt the move has its critics. Not least the people who took part in the consultation – the majority of drivers thought exempting older cars from the MoT test was a bad idea.  

This all started in 2012 when the Government decided to exempt pre-1960 cars from the MoT test. Back then, we showed that the average pass rate for older cars was very good. Of the 55,000 MoTs for cars registered before 1960, the overall pass rate for all the years combined was 85.2 per cent.

And in some ways, this does make sense. Classic cars tend to cover fewer than 3000 miles a year. They’re also much easier to work on, which means the driveway mechanic can keep the brakes in check as well as perform basic servicing work.

Cars from the year 2000 have the worst pass rate with 51.5 per cent failing. After this point, the figure improves for older cars.

But what do the latest figures say? We looked into the most recent MoT data to find out. Currently, cars from the year 2000 have the worst pass rate with 51.5 per cent failing. After this point, the figure improves for older cars.

So, for example, 67.3 per cent of cars made in 1977 passed their MoT in 2016. On the whole, this figure climbs steadily so that by the time you get to 1960, the rate has climbed to 79.2 per cent (with 4919 vehicles taking a test).

Check your car's MOT history

In total, the exemption will put 46,745 unsafe vehicles on the road. This is the number of cars built between 1960 and 1977 (that will be exempt from 2018) that failed their MoT in 2016. That's a quarter of all cars tested from the same era.

But despite what the figures say, having an MoT is useful for the buyer of any potential classic. And it means that there’s nothing to stop you giving a 40-year-old car that hasn’t moved in 20 years fresh fuel and a battery and driving it off down the road… only to find the brakes don’t work.

There is also a huge grey area that is a court case waiting to happen. That’s because, technically, your car needs to be roadworthy for it to be insured. Passing an MoT test was always considered a good way of judging this – but what happens when there’s an accident with an MoT-exempt car that the insurer claims wasn’t roadworthy? Let’s hope we don’t have to find out.

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Keith Moody

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