Classic Cars & MOTs: What Are The Rules

Written by Danny Collins
Last updated: January 26, 2024
classic cars MOT

The number of classic cars in the UK is on the rise. This is because people are becoming more interested in vintage and classic vehicles. While the number of people who own them is increasing, so is the number of people restoring them.

While this is great news for the classic car industry, it also means that more people must be aware of these vehicles’ regulations. In the UK, all cars over a quarter of a century old are exempt from MOT testing. If your car was built before 1960, you don’t have to get it tested. However, this doesn’t mean that you can neglect your classic car. Even though it’s not required by law, it’s still important to ensure your car is safe to drive. The best way to check this is to take it to a qualified mechanic who can give it a thorough inspection.

What Is An MOT?

MOT stands for “Ministry of Transport.” It’s a test that all cars in the UK must take every year once they reach a certain age. The MOT’s purpose is to ensure that vehicles are safe to be on the road. The test checks things like your car’s brakes, tyres, and lights. If these components are not up to standard, your car will not pass the MOT.

What Is MOT Exemption?

As we mentioned earlier, all cars over a quarter of a century old are exempt from MOT testing in the UK. This is because the government considers these vehicles to be “historic.” However, this doesn’t mean that you can neglect your classic car. Even though it’s not required by law, it’s still important to ensure your car is safe to drive. Take your classic car (but do a classic car check first) to a qualified mechanic who can give it a thorough car inspection.

Do I Need To Get My Classic Car Tested?

Determining what constitutes a classic car can be subjective, but it generally refers to vehicles that are at least 30 years old and possess historical interest. Classic cars often display exceptional design, and unique engineering, and are held in high regard by collectors and enthusiasts. However, it’s worth noting that some vehicles may qualify as classics before reaching the 30-year threshold, provided they hold significant historical or cultural importance.

Even though classic cars are exempt from MOT testing, we recommend taking your car to a qualified mechanic for an inspection. This is the best way to ensure your car is safe to drive. A qualified mechanic can spot any potential problems with your car and fix them before they become a bigger issue.

The Consequences of Failing an MOT

Failing an MOT can have various repercussions, regardless of whether your vehicle is a classic or not. When it comes to classic cars, the consequences can be particularly disheartening. Firstly, failing an MOT means your car is considered unsafe or non-compliant with roadworthy standards. Consequently, you will be unable to legally drive your vehicle until the issues are resolved and it passes the MOT retest.

Moreover, failing an MOT can have financial implications. Rectifying the faults identified during the test can be costly, especially if the repairs require sourcing rare or discontinued parts. Additionally, insurance companies may view a failed MOT as a sign of negligence, potentially leading to increased premiums or even policy cancellation. Therefore, it is crucial to ensure your classic car is well-maintained and meets the necessary MOT requirements.

Tips to Maintain Your Classic Car

Maintaining a classic car requires dedication and regular care to preserve its beauty and performance. Here are some essential tips to keep your classic car in top condition:

Regular inspections

Conduct routine checks on your classic car’s engine, fluids, tyres, brakes, and lights. Take immediate action to resolve any issues promptly and prevent their escalation.

Proper storage

Store your classic car in a dry, well-ventilated environment to protect it from moisture, rust, and other damaging elements. Consider using a car cover to shield it from dust and debris.

Scheduled maintenance

Follow the manufacturer’s recommended maintenance schedule for your classic car. This includes oil changes, filter replacements, and other routine servicing tasks.

Be mindful of fuel quality

Classic cars may have specific fuel requirements. Ensure you use the appropriate fuel type and consider using additives to keep the fuel system clean and prevent corrosion.

Drive it regularly

While it’s important to protect your classic car, regular usage prevents mechanical components from seizing up and keeps the battery charged. Aim for occasional drives to keep everything in good working order.

How To Prepare Your Classic Car For MOT 

Preparing your classic car for its MOT test requires careful attention to detail. By following these steps, you can increase the likelihood of a successful MOT and identify any potential issues beforehand:

Review previous MOT reports

Examine previous MOT reports to understand the recurring problem areas for your classic car. This will help you focus on addressing those specific issues and ensure they don’t hinder a successful test this time.

Exterior inspection

Inspect the bodywork for any signs of corrosion, dents, or structural damage. Check all lights, indicators, and reflectors to ensure they are in working order.

Under the hood

Examine the engine compartment for leaks, loose wires, and worn-out belts. Verify the levels of essential fluids such as oil, coolant, and brake fluid.

Brakes and suspension

Check the brake pads, discs, and drums for wear. Inspect the suspension components, including springs, shock absorbers, and bushings, for any signs of damage or excessive wear.

Tyres and wheels

Ensure that the tyres have adequate tread depth and are free from cuts or bulges. Verify that all wheels are securely fastened and aligned correctly.

Electrical system

Test all electrical components, including headlights, taillights, indicators, horns, wipers, and washers, to ensure they are functioning properly.

Interior examination

Inspect the seats, seat belts, and mirrors for any damage or wear. Check that the dashboard controls, including gauges and switches, are in proper working condition.


Gather all necessary paperwork, including vehicle registration, proof of insurance, and any maintenance or repair records. These documents may be required during the MOT test.

Find a reputable MOT testing centre

Choose an authorised MOT testing centre that specialises in classic cars or has experience working with vintage vehicles. They will have a better understanding of the specific requirements and challenges associated with classic cars.

Address identified issues

If you discover any faults during your preparation, address them promptly. Seek professional assistance if needed to ensure the problems are rectified before the MOT test.

By following these guidelines and thoroughly preparing your classic car for its MOT test, you enhance its chances of passing with flying colours and continuing to enjoy the road legally and safely.

Taking your classic car for an MOT is a great way to ensure it’s safe to drive. Even though classic cars are exempt from the test, we recommend taking your car to a qualified mechanic for an inspection. This is the best way to ensure your car is in good working order and safe to be on the road. You should also run an MOT check on your car if selling it. This will help you get a better price for your car and give potential buyers peace of mind. Use to check the MOT history of any car in the UK. All you need is the automobile’s registration number, and you’ll be able to see its full MOT history. This includes any failures, advisories, and reasons for refusal. You can also use to check a car’s tax status, insurance details, and more.

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. What is an MOT test for classic cars?

The MOT test is a legal requirement in the UK for all vehicles aged three years or older. However, classic cars, which are vehicles manufactured before 1960, are exempt from the MOT test. This exemption is due to the recognition that these older vehicles have different construction and safety standards compared to modern vehicles. While classic cars may not require an annual MOT inspection, it’s still important to ensure they are maintained in a safe and roadworthy condition.

  1. Are classic cars exempt from MOT testing?

Yes, classic cars are generally exempt from MOT testing. The UK government defines classic cars as vehicles manufactured before 1960 and considers them to be of historical interest. This exemption recognises that classic cars are often well-maintained and used on a limited basis, reducing the need for regular MOT inspections. However, it’s important to note that modifications made to classic cars may affect their exempt status. If significant modifications or alterations have been made, it’s advisable to check with the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) for specific rules and regulations.

  1. Can I voluntarily submit my classic car for an MOT test?

Absolutely. Although classic cars are exempt from the MOT requirement, you can voluntarily submit your classic car for an MOT test. This can be particularly useful if you want an independent assessment of your vehicle’s roadworthiness or if you plan to sell your classic car. Having a valid MOT certificate can provide potential buyers with confidence in the vehicle’s condition. Moreover, a voluntary MOT test can help identify any safety issues or mechanical problems that may have gone unnoticed.

  1. What are the benefits of having a classic car undergo an MOT test?

While classic cars are generally exempt from the MOT requirement, there are still several benefits to having them undergo an MOT test voluntarily. Firstly, an MOT test can serve as a thorough and objective assessment of the vehicle’s condition, ensuring it meets safety and environmental standards. It can help identify potential issues that could compromise the vehicle’s performance or safety. Secondly, a valid MOT certificate can increase the market value of a classic car when selling it, as it demonstrates its roadworthiness and adherence to standards.

  1. What should I check before submitting my classic car for an MOT test?

Before taking your classic car for an MOT test, there are a few things you can check to ensure it has the best chance of passing. Start by inspecting the lights, including headlights, indicators, and brake lights, to make sure they are all functioning correctly. Check the tyres for adequate tread depth and any signs of damage. Additionally, inspect the brakes, suspension, steering, and other essential components to ensure they are in good working order. It’s also advisable to address any known issues or concerns before the test to increase the likelihood of a successful outcome.

  1. How often should I service my classic car if it’s exempt from MOT testing?

Even though classic cars are exempt from MOT testing, it is still important to regularly service them to maintain their performance and safety. The frequency of servicing will depend on various factors, including the age and condition of the vehicle, as well as how often it is used. As a general guideline, it is recommended to have a classic car serviced at least once a year or every 3,000 to 5,000 miles. Regular servicing includes oil and filter changes, checking fluid levels, inspecting belts and hoses, and addressing any necessary repairs or adjustments.

  1. Are classic cars exempt from road tax?

Classic cars that were manufactured before 1 January 1974 are exempt from paying road tax in the UK. The exemption applies to vehicles constructed before this specific date as they are deemed to have historical interest and lower emissions. However, it’s important to note that this exemption only applies to the vehicle itself and not to subsequent owners. If you purchase a classic car that was previously exempt from road tax, you will need to apply for the exemption and meet the eligibility criteria.

  1. Are there any specific rules or regulations for modifications on classic cars?

Yes, there are specific rules and regulations regarding modifications to classic cars. Modifying a classic car can be an exciting way to personalise and improve its performance, but it’s crucial to ensure compliance with the law. Any modifications made to a classic car can affect its exempt status from MOT testing and road tax exemption. It’s advisable to consult with relevant authorities, such as the DVSA, to understand the specific rules and regulations for modifying classic cars and how they may impact the vehicle’s legal status.

  1. Can I use my classic car for daily commuting?

Yes, you can use your classic car for daily commuting if it meets the legal requirements for roadworthiness and is insured appropriately. However, it’s important to consider that classic cars may have certain limitations compared to modern vehicles. Factors such as fuel efficiency, safety features, and comfort may not be on par with contemporary cars. Therefore, it’s advisable to assess the reliability and suitability of your classic car for daily commuting based on its condition, maintenance history, and your personal preferences.

  1. What resources are available for classic car enthusiasts?

There are several resources available for classic car enthusiasts, providing a wealth of information and opportunities for community engagement. Classic car clubs and forums are a great way to connect with other enthusiasts, share knowledge, and discuss common issues. Online platforms dedicated to classic cars offer valuable resources, including articles, restoration guides, and classifieds for buying and selling. Specialist magazines, books, and events focused on classic cars provide further opportunities to learn, connect, and immerse oneself in the world of classic car culture.