12 September, 2018

Free / Cheap MOTs - Good deal or scam?

Halfords have recently introduced a free MOT offer for car owners (1), where you make a purchase (no minimum value required) then you'll be eligible for a free MOT with Halfords Autocentres. But are these MOTs and discounted price MOTs a good deal for car owners or are they going to cost you more in the long run?

What is an MOT?

An MOT is an annual inspection of a vehicle to ensure that it meets minimum safety standards. Whilst the MOT test is conducted by local and national garages, it's overseen by the government agency the Driver Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA). The DVSA fixes the maximum price a garage can charge for an annual MOT at £54.85 (price correct as of 12/09/2018).

With the MOT overseen by the DVSA, you expect that if a car passes or fails at one garage, then if the vehicle were to be taken to another garage, then the result would be the same, wouldn't you? Generally speaking the results will be the same, but there are anomalies in the testing process which means the results at garages can differ.

Why do garages offer free or discounted MOTs?

When the government allows garages to charge up to £54.85 per MOT and their average hourly labour rate is anywhere between £40 all the way up to £100+ per hour, you have to ask why would a garage offer a free or discounted MOT? Ultimately it's to encourage you, the car owner, to take your car to them, in the hope that should you car fail, you'll leave you car with them to have the repair work carried out.

So is it a scam?

The vast majority of garages are honest and hardworking. They offer free or discounted MOT tests in the hope that should you car fail, you'll leave it with them for the repair work to be done. This isn't a scam, I think it's purely a marketing technique to get you through the door because this may generate them extra work should your car fail, but also, once you've come through the door, your increasingly likely to return in future if you like what you find.

There are however a small number of rogue garages that offer free or discounted MOTs, intending to fail your vehicle in order to generate themselves work. This is a scam.

How do you tell the difference?

There is no way to tell the difference until you've had your MOT done. The best way is to speak to people who have used the garage in the past, check Google or similar websites for reviews but also don't be afraid to trust your gut instinct. Speak to the garage, ask them questions about why they're offering free or discounted MOTs, ask them how many vehicles they've failed. Finally, there are a number of organisations whose sole aim is to help you find an honest mechanic, see if they're a member of one of those organisations. These include the likes of the Good Garage Scheme.

What happens if your vehicle fails and you disagree with it?

If your vehicle fails its MOT and you disagree with the reasons for it failing, then there is a process where you can dispute the test result. 

But before you go lodging complaints, look at the failures. If your vehicle failed for a lightbulb that doesn't work and it doesn't or your brake fluid is below the minimum level and it is then this isn't grounds for complaint. 

However, if the MOT tester says something which is untrue (i.e. your brake discs are heavily corroded / weakened and they're not) then you should appeal that decision.

To begin with, you need to register your complaint with the DVSA. Once you have done this, you'll be directed to take your vehicle for another MOT (at your expense). The result of that MOT test will determine the outcome of your complaint.

Have a look at the DVSA website for the full appeals process :


what if car fails MOT and you disagree

(1) - http://garagewire.co.uk/news/halfords-promotes-free-mot-customers/