MOT test: 1 in 10 cars granted pass certificate despite failing to meet safety check standards

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Garages ‘not upholding testing standards’ as 1 in 10 unroadworthy cars granted a pass and 1 in 50 fails unfairly

Up to 1.3 million unroadworthy cars were issued an MOT last year, according to new analysis. 

One in 10 cars checked by the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) was found to have been granted an MOT certificate despite displaying at least one fail-worthy fault, including potentially dangerous defects with tyres and brakes. The study of DVSA data also showed that one in 50 cars which failed the test should have passed - equivalent to almost quarter of a million unfair test refusals.

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The figures were uncovered by What Car? analysis of the annual MOT Compliance Survey and revealed that garages are consistently overlooking or misjudging the severity of faults when carrying out the annual MOT test. Safety critical components including tyres and brakes were among the issues where the DVSA’s experts most frequently disagreed with MOT testers. 

Each year the DVSA’s in-house examiners retest a random sample of cars, including those that passed the MOT and those that failed. For 2021-22, the survey of 1,732 cars found 12.2% of results were wrong, with 10.1% granting MOTs to cars which should have failed and 2.1% failing a car that should have passed.

What is an MOT?

The MOT is a legal requirement for all cars aged between three and 40 years and assesses whether a vehicle meets basic safety standards. Driving a car without an MOT carries a £1,000 fine, while driving a car in a dangerous condition - even if it has a valid MOT - can leave you open to a fine of up to £2,500 and three penalty points.

In two-thirds of cases - 1,141 - the DVSA found at least one defect which the MOT test station had missed or incorrectly recorded a defect, and in more than half of these there were three or more defects missed or disagreed upon. Tyres were the component area with the highest number of defects disagreed, at 734, followed by brakes (660) and suspension (642). 

As a result of the retest the DVSA took disciplinary action against garages in 27 cases and issued 164 advisory warning letters.

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As part of its research, What Car?’s survey also found that 13% of drivers knew of a garage local to them with “favourable” pass rates for MOTs. 

What Car? editor Steve Huntingford said: “Our investigation highlights the differences between official vehicle roadworthiness standards and those upheld by some in the industry. With safety critical components such as tyres and brakes at the top of the list of defects missed there are potentially serious road safety concerns at play here.

“It might seem beneficial for owners to have their vehicle inspected by a favourable garage, but the test is there to provide a minimum standard of vehicle safety.”

A DVSA spokesperson said: “Our MOT Compliance Survey is an essential tool helping us make our roads among the safest in Europe.

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 “The vast majority of MOT testers carry out testing to the highest standards. Our survey targets a random selection of vehicles and is designed to identify any problems with MOT testing so that we can put them right.

 “We are delighted to see that standards have improved since the last report. This underlines the importance of DVSA taking action on the survey results and supporting testers with new digital tools, as well as demonstrating the hard work of MOT testers.”

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