Why Is a Car Missing MOT History?

Written by Danny Collins
Last updated: June 1, 2023

When it comes to owning a car in the United Kingdom, there are certain legal requirements that must be fulfilled to ensure the safety and roadworthiness of vehicles. One such requirement is the annual MOT (Ministry of Transport) test.

The MOT test is designed to assess the safety, environmental impact, and overall condition of vehicles. It plays a crucial role in keeping the roads safe and ensuring that cars are maintained adequately. However, there are instances where a car’s MOT history may appear to be missing. In this article, we will explore some of the reasons why a car may be missing its MOT history.

Why Do You Need a Car MOT?

MOT certificate

The MOT (Ministry of Transport) test is a legal requirement for cars in the United Kingdom, and it serves several important purposes. Let’s explore why a car MOT is necessary:

Ensuring Safety: The primary reason for conducting an MOT test is to ensure the safety of vehicles on the road. The test examines various components and systems of a car, such as brakes, tires, lights, steering, suspension, and emissions. By assessing these critical elements, the MOT test helps identify any potential safety issues or faults that could compromise the driver’s and others’ safety. Fixing these problems before they cause accidents or breakdowns is crucial for road safety.

Promoting Environmental Friendliness: The MOT test also focuses on assessing the environmental impact of vehicles. It includes examining exhaust emissions to ensure that they comply with the set standards. This helps in controlling pollution and reducing harmful emissions, contributing to environmental conservation and public health.

Maintaining Roadworthiness: An MOT test evaluates a car’s overall roadworthiness, ensuring that it is in a condition suitable for safe operation on public roads. By examining various components and systems, the test identifies any defects or wear and tear that could affect a vehicle’s performance. Addressing these issues promptly helps maintain the overall quality and reliability of cars, reducing the risk of breakdowns or accidents caused by mechanical failures.

Legal Requirement: In the UK, having a valid MOT certificate is a legal requirement for most vehicles aged three years or older. Without a valid MOT, it is illegal to drive or keep a vehicle on public roads. Non-compliance with MOT regulations can result in penalties, fines, or even the possibility of having the vehicle impounded. Therefore, obtaining a valid MOT certificate is essential to meet legal obligations and avoid any legal consequences.

Insurance Requirement: Another crucial reason for having an MOT is that it is often a requirement for vehicle insurance. Insurers typically require a valid MOT certificate as proof that a car has undergone the necessary safety checks and is in a roadworthy condition. Without an MOT certificate, it may be challenging to obtain or renew vehicle insurance, leaving the owner financially vulnerable in the event of accidents or damages.

Safeguarding Consumers: The MOT test serves as a consumer protection measure. When purchasing a used car, checking its MOT history can provide valuable insights into its condition and maintenance. A comprehensive MOT history report reveals any previous faults, repairs, or advisory notes, helping buyers make informed decisions about the vehicle’s suitability and potential costs of ownership.

Here are some of the reasons why a car may be missing its MOT history:

Marked as SORN

Mechanic filling paperwork

Younger than 3 Years Old

Young, new car

Another reason why a car may not have an MOT history is if it is younger than three years old. In the UK, cars that are three years or younger do not require an MOT test. This exemption is based on the assumption that newer vehicles are generally in better condition and less likely to have significant issues that would affect their safety and roadworthiness. However, once a car reaches its third anniversary, it must undergo an MOT test annually.

Private Registration Plates

British registration plate

Cars with private registration plates can also contribute to the appearance of missing MOT history. When a vehicle’s registration number is changed to a private plate, all the information associated with the original registration is transferred to the new plates. As a result, when the original registration is searched for on an MOT history website, it may appear as if there is missing history. However, in reality, the MOT history is still attached to the private registration and can be accessed using the new registration number.

Mistake on MOT Certificate

Sometimes, a mistake on the MOT certificate can lead to a car showing no MOT for a certain period. It is possible that during the MOT test, the registration number or other details were incorrectly inputted into the system. As a result, when searching for the MOT history using the correct registration number, it may appear as if there is a gap in the MOT records. In such cases, it is essential to verify the information with the relevant authorities to rectify any errors and ensure accurate MOT records.

Too Soon After MOT

Too soon for MOT on calendar

Another reason for missing MOT history could be timing-related. After completing an MOT test, it can take up to five days for the details to refresh and appear in the online database. Therefore, if you are trying to purchase a car from a dealership or check the MOT status of a recently tested vehicle, it may seem like it does not have an MOT. In reality, the information simply hasn’t been updated yet, and it is advisable to confirm the current MOT status with the seller or the appropriate authorities.

Vehicle is Exempt from an MOT

MOT mechanic giving thumbs up

Certain types of vehicles are exempt from requiring an MOT test. These include goods vehicles, tractors, some classic or historic vehicles, as well as certain types of lorries, buses, and trailers. If a car falls into one of these categories, it may not have an MOT history as it is not legally obliged to undergo the test. However, it is worth noting that exempt vehicles should still be maintained in a safe and roadworthy condition to ensure the safety of both the driver and other road users.

How to Check the MOT Status of Your Vehicle

MOT sign

Checking the MOT status of a vehicle is a straightforward process. The DVLA provides an online service called the MOT History Check, which allows vehicle owners and potential buyers to access the MOT records of a particular car. To check the MOT status, you will need the vehicle’s registration number and the 11-digit reference number from its V5C registration certificate (log book). By entering this information on the official DVLA website or other reputable MOT history check websites, you can obtain accurate and up-to-date information regarding the MOT history of a vehicle.

In conclusion, there can be several reasons why a car may appear to have missing MOT history. These reasons include the vehicle being marked as SORN, being younger than three years old, having private registration plates, errors on the MOT certificate, the timing of the test, or being exempt from an MOT. It is essential to consider these factors and verify the information with the appropriate authorities to ensure accurate and complete MOT records. By adhering to the MOT requirements and keeping track of a car’s MOT history, both vehicle owners and potential buyers can make informed decisions and prioritise road safety.