Man conducting MOT test checks on vehicle is 1960


3 mins

The evolution of the MOT test

December 12, 2023

There are approximately 35 million cars on UK roads today, and with a few exceptions, each of those vehicles that is three years or older would require an annual MOT test.

The MOT test was first introduced in 1960 as part of the Road Traffic Act and has remained an instrumental tool for road safety, and ensuring that all vehicles meet the necessary environmental standards. However, this pivotal test has undergone a series of changes over the decades, becoming more sophisticated, accurate, and comprehensive.

Keep reading to see how the MOT test has evolved from its inception to the present day.

If you need to book an MOT, book today in Caura and get access to exclusive pricing.

The first ever MOT test

When first introduced in 1960, the MOT test was a simple, but fundamental check that applied only to vehicles over ten years old. In 1961, the age of vehicles that needed to undergo an MOT test was reduced to seven years, and further reduced to three years in 1967.

The focus was primarily on testing brakes, lights, and steering. Tyre checks were only included from 1968 with a minimum tread depth of 1mm. In comparison, the minimum tread depth required today is 1.6mm.

Furthermore, defects were only classified as dangerous or minor, where any dangerous faults found with the vehicle would result in an MOT failure. With time, it became apparent that a more rigorous system was required.

Image of a 1960s car showing what was checked during the MOT test in 1960

The 70s, 80s and 90s: expansion and refinement

Throughout this time, the MOT test saw multiple iterations.

In 1977, the scope of testing expanded as checks of parts such as indicators, windscreen wipers, the vehicle’s horn and body were added to the test.

In 1989, it became compulsory for children under the age of 14 to wear seatbelts in the back of the car. As a result of this law, a rear seat belt check was added to the test in 1991, along with an Anti-lock Braking System inspection.

In 1994, emissions testing became a fundamental part of the test, aligning with the growing awareness and legislation regarding environmental impact.

Image of older car showing what was checked during the MOT test in the 70s, 80s and 90s

What changed in 2012

2012 was a big year of change for the MOT test. Vehicle safety was further regulated with the following additional checks:

  • Establishing airbags are securely fitted and operational
  • All car warning lights are functioning properly
  • Visual inspections of the car’s battery and electrical wiring
  • Tow bars should be securely fitted
  • Mileage history is recorded on MOT certificates to prevent fraud
Image of new car showing what was checked during the MOT test in 2012

The modern day MOT test

In 2018, a new MOT manual was created and issued to all authorised MOT testers across the UK. Within this, defects were reclassified as minor, major, and dangerous. A minor defect would not cause an MOT failure, but would inform the driver to get those faults repaired as soon as possible. Major and dangerous defects would result in an automatic MOT failure.

This new system was designed to make it easier for motorists to understand the results of their MOT test.

Ready to book your MOT?

Now that you’re familiar with how the MOT test has evolved over the years, don’t miss your annual MOT test!

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Download Caura, get reminded when your MOT is due and book in-app via over 6,000 independent garages and main dealerships nationwide. The best part about booking in Caura – you’ll get access to exclusive prices, costing you less to keep your car safe!

*Image credit Rayner Bosch Car Service


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