The Government’s rationale for looking again at extending the time allowed before the first MOT of a car or motorcycle's life despite overwhelming evidence regarding its road safety risks, is that to do so would “reduce the burden” on the motorist.
With fuel prices high and incomes tight, Ministers are constantly looking for ways to make life easier for car drivers. Yet extending the time allowed before the first MOT will have exactly the opposite effect - far from reducing the burden it risks adding considerably to the financial costs that motorists must bear.
Extending the time allowed before the first MOT of a car or motorcycle's life from three years to four may reduce MOT fees motorists have to pay – currently £54.85 - although discounting of the fee is widespread and re‐tests common.
But these are likely to be far outweighed by the additional costs associated with repairs required and higher insurance premiums.
VAT would also be payable by a consumer at normal commercial garage rates – no VAT is currently paid on an MOT.
The existing MOT test acts as the opportunity when motorists will pay to make necessary and often minor repairs to their cars - yet extending the time allowed before the first MOT raises the likelihood that minor problems become more serious defects which require more significant and more costly, repairs later.
As well as providing essential safety checks, the MOT test is also an effective way of spotting minor problems with a car that can then be cheaply fixed before they become major problems.
This is something that actually saves motorists money – minor repairs typically cost a fraction of the cost of major repairs, especially where something can be fixed before it needs replacing.
Furthermore, currently the cost of an MOT test is limited to a maximum set by Government. The evidence is that this is generally lower than garage rates for normal servicing and repair work - so, it could be that even if motorists were to self-regulate at an increased level, and to have their cars checked voluntarily in the absence of a statutory test, they might have to pay normal commercial garage rates instead of rates which are at a currently capped cost under the MOT scheme.
In such a scenario the cost to motorists could be higher than now, for delivering exactly the same benefits.
Anything that risks increasing the number of road accidents is likely to have an impact on insurance costs – and it will be motorists that will have to bear that burden. As the Association of British Insurers said:
“Insurers have concerns [about proposals to reduce the frequency of MOT testing]. While not perfect, the current system is clearly more likely to pick up on faults than less frequent tests. Insurers are concerned that fewer tests could lead to more accidents, more injuries, more damage to cars, and therefore increased motor insurance premiums.”
In December 2010, the MOT Forum (supported by the National Tyres Distribution Association) surveyed 4,200 motorists on attitudes to reducing MOT frequency - it found that 93% of respondents did not believe the current cost of an annual MOT Test was an unnecessary burden on motorists.
Wider Costs Due To Pollution
It is also important to consider that the only independent check on vehicle emissions is the MOT – and we know from recent evidence that the type approval emissions test has recently proved to not represent real life usage.
Diesel Particulate Filters (DPFs) are being removed from vehicles - the only chance of detecting a removed filter is the MOT test.
Extending the age of a vehicle from 3 to 4 year before its first MOT would therefore allow a polluting vehicle to go undetected for an extra year.
Wider Costs Due To Fraud
The MOT is also the first official recording of a vehicle’s mileage - extending the MOT introduction period would increase the window of opportunity in which fraudsters can clock vehicles into a fourth year – this could represent an increase to the amount of mileage removed from vehicle milometers by 25%.
 Summer Budget, 2015
 DfT, ‘MOT Scheme Evidence base’, 2008
 ABI, August 2011 – check with Louise Hanson, Director of Advocacy, Association of British Insurers
 MOT Forum
Regularly inspecting a car means faults which could casue fatalities, such as this corroded brake disc, are picked up.