The MOT test changed considerably about a year ago, and now fails are classed into one of two main types. These are classed as major or dangerous, and one of the words which you’ll often hear in connection with the dangerous faults is unroadworthy. What exactly does this mean, and what happens if you’re found to be driving an unroadworthy vehicle?
Unroadworthy Cars and the MOT
In terms of your car’s annual MOT check, unroadworthy and dangerous faults means more or less the same thing. It means that your car has been found to have a fault which is so serious that it could pose a risk to either you as the driver, or to other people using the road. Cars which are found to have dangerous faults shouldn’t be on the road.
If you take your car in for a MOT test and are told that it has a dangerous fault, then there are a couple of things you are allowed to do. Firstly, you could ask the garage which carried out the MOT to do the repairs and retest the car to make sure it has been brought up to standard. This is the easiest option, but might be expensive too as you don’t have the opportunity to shop around and find out if another mechanic will do the work more cheaply. You also have the option of taking the car somewhere else to be fixed, but as you can’t drive it, you will have to arrange for it to be taken away by tow truck. Remember that the cost of this might be more than the saving you’re making on the repairs.
MOT fails are uploaded automatically onto the DVLA database. The garage can’t stop you getting into the car and driving off, but by doing so you’re risking being stopped by the police. A car without a valid MOT will mean an instant fixed penalty fine. If your car has failed on something like not having enough tread on your tyres, that can carry a separate fine and points on your licence for each tyre not up to scratch. It’s an expensive business so the best advice is not to risk it.
Across the Year Checks
If you’re not really interested in what goes on under the bonnet of your car, it’s tempting to leave all inspections until it’s time for the MOT test to roll around again. But although the MOT is a legal requirement for all cars over the age of 3, the requirement for roadworthiness has no age limit. If you put badly worn tyres on a brand new car, that still makes it unroadworthy. The police have the right to stop drivers at any time. If they inspect your car and find that it’s not up to scratch then you could be either fined, or given a prohibition notice. A prohibition notice is a formal “get it fixed” request which is registered with the police. Once you have the work done, you have to go to the police station with the receipt or invoice from the garage to have the work marked as complete on the system.
It’s good advice for all drivers to get into the habit of checking their car over regularly, at least the basic elements like tyre treads, lights and brakes. Check oil levels and windscreen wash levels every time you set off on a long journey. Don’t ignore any strange noises coming from under the bonnet or assume that weird clunking noise when you go round a corner will get better on its own. Keep up with your manufacturer’s recommended servicing plan, and ask your mechanic to flag up any issues they spot with your car before they have the chance to get any worse.
Separate Rules for Selling Cars
If you are selling a car, whether as a private seller or motor trader, you have additional obligations. The Road Traffic Act of 1988 states that it is an offence to sell a car you know to be unroadworthy. So what does this mean in practical terms? It’s all about providing protection to the buyer of the car, who should have some degree of reassurance that a vehicle is safe. If you’re selling the family car, you should do the basic checks to make sure that brakes are working, all lights are functioning, seatbelts aren’t frayed and treads on tyres are deep enough. You may choose to have your car independently inspected, but you don’t have to. If there’s a problem further down the line with a car you’ve sold, you should be able to prove that you’ve done everything you can to make sure it’s safe. Many councils around the UK don’t take action against private sellers, but that doesn’t stop your unhappy buyer taking you to court themselves.
From a buying perspective, the old adage of buyer beware applies. Buying from a registered second hand car dealer should give you a bit more protection than getting a car from a private seller. However, don’t just take their word for it that the car is roadworthy and safe. Start by asking to see documents such as the MOT certificate and the service history book. If you have s smartphone, you can also look up information about past MOT tests and find out whether or not the car is taxed by looking at the DVLA website.
Buying a new car represents a significant investment, so it makes sense to protect your money by getting an independent mechanic to give your car the once over. This should give you a good indication as to whether it is roadworthy or not. If it needs work, then you are in a stronger position to negotiate on price. Many dealers will also put a car through its MOT before selling it to you, or at least offer some sort of warranty should things go wrong in the first year you own it.