How old does a car have to be to be MOT exempt?

September 30, 2021

Changes to the law that came into effect in May 2018 mean that almost all cars that were built over 40 years ago are exempt from the annual MOT test - unless owners choose to have their vehicle tested. Prior to the law change, only cars registered before 1960 were exempt from an MOT.

The change also means that the requirement for an MOT is now in line with road tax (VED), where old and classic cars over 40 years old are also exempt.

What types of car are exempt from an MOT?

The change means that all manner of classic cars are legally regarded as roadworthy without an MOT, including the Ford Capri (Mk I and Mk II), Escort (Mk I) and Granada, the Fiat X1/9, Vauxhall Viva, MGB and Triumph Stag.

However, there are exceptions to consider. The MOT exemption doesn’t apply to vehicles that have undergone ‘substantial change’ in the past 30 years.

The government have provided full guidelines regarding what modifications are classed as ‘substantial’ here: https://www.gov.uk/historic-vehicles. As a general rule, vehicles might not be classed as MOT exempt if the following has been significantly altered in the last 30 years:

  • Chassis, including any sub-frames
  • Axles and running gear, including the type of method of steering or suspension
  • Engines, such as changes to the number of cylinders present.

This is not an exhaustive list and owners of old and classic cars should refer to the government’s full guidance for more detailed information.

In 2018, Kwik Fit (the fifth largest MOT testing company in the UK) carried out research and found that there were over 250,000 cars in the UK that were first registered over 40 years ago. Of these, 116,927 were declared as being ‘off-road’ with a Statutory Off Road Notification (SORN).

According to the research, the models with the greatest number registered as SORN are the MGB (12,997), VW Beetle (6,774), Morris Minor (6,466), MG Midget (5,651) and Ford Escort (4,857). It is thought that the 40-year MOT exemption will lead to many classic car owners taking the opportunity to get their cars back on the road.

What if my car is not yet 40 years old?

The 40-year MOT exemption is a rolling law, so it will apply as soon as your car reaches 40, For example, if your car was first registered on 1 September 1982, it will become exempt from an MOT on 1 September 2022.

Does the MOT exemption apply to motorbikes and other types of vehicles?

The 40-year MOT exemption applies to more than just classic cars. Providing they have not been significantly modified, it also applies to vans and motorbikes that are over 40 years old.

Lorries and trucks, however, are not MOT exempt and will still require an annual MOT test and certificate to be deemed roadworthy. The same applies to self-built and kit cars.

How to declare your vehicle as MOT exempt

As part of the rule changes, as of May 2018 vehicle owners must declare their old and classic cars as a Vehicle of Historic Interest (VHI) by completing a V112 declaration form. This should be done at the same time as you apply for vehicle tax exemption at the Post Office.

For more information, visit: https://www.gov.uk/historic-vehicles/apply-for-vehicle-tax-exemption 

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