Yesterday, the government started a consultation on reducing the frequency of MOTs. As things stand, a new car needs to have its first MOT after three years, and thereafter the car must be MOT’d once a year. The government is considering (a) extending the new-car MOT period to four years and (b) increasing the time between subsequent MOTs to two years.
Not exactly well received
It’s safe to say the proposal has not gone down well.
It’s rare that the govenment unites the country, but this latest scheme has managed it. Almost everybody hates it.
- The RAC is against two-year regular MOTs.
- The AA says it will lead to ‘death traps on wheels.’
- The tabloids don’t like it – see the Daily Mail’s scathing, in-depth piece.
- Drivers don’t like it – an RAC poll back in September showed 55% of drivers are against two-year MOTs, with only one in five in favour.
- Garages, of course, are hopping mad.
Surely at least the motoring forums are brimming with enthusiasm for less regulation? Nope, at least not on the RAC forum we checked.
Now, whenever we wade into a current motoring issue, we try to look at both sides evenly. But in this case…well, we’re struggling to find the other side of the argument. In fact, we’ve got six reasons why we think these changes are a horrible idea.
1. The four year first MOT doesn’t account for mileage
If these proposals are passed into law, owners of new cars won’t need to get an MOT for four years.
An obvious problem with this is that four years of ownership covers a lot of different scenarios. For a driver who clocks up 4,000 miles a year and gets their car serviced regularly, moving from three to four years probably won’t make much difference. But four years could also mean 120,000 miles and minimal or no maintenance. After all, servicing your car isn’t mandatory. AA supremo Edmund King points out that, “a new car could also easily have bald tyres within year three.”
Nicholas Lyes, the RAC’s Head of Road Policy comments:
“While we’re not opposed to delaying a new vehicle’s first MOT, we believe there should be a requirement for particularly high mileage vehicles to be tested sooner.”
The government argues that most cars pass their MOT at three years, and says their analysis suggests that an extra year before the first test will not impact on road safety. Hmm.
2. Risking the UK’s road safety record
The UK has plenty of disadvantages: rubbish weather, massive inflation, a revolving-door government, yada yada. Feel free to make your own list. However, one thing we do have is exceptionally safe roads. In fact, in the whole of Europe, only Sweden has safer roads. This is even more impressive considering on many Swedish roads, you can drive all day and only see a moose.
The majority of road incidents are down to driver error, but poorly maintained vehicles can and do cause accidents. As Edmund King, head of the AA, puts it:
“The MOT is not ‘a nice to have’, it’s crucial to road safety…While the majority of cars probably will be fine, it is those outliers – the car that does high mileage and isn’t maintained – that potentially cause tragedy.”
3. Adding to environmental costs
The government, with massive public support, wants to cut carbon emissions. Everyone in their right mind wants less urban pollution. And these proposed changes are all but guaranteed to increase both.
Back in the day, you often saw cars (or drove behind one) that looked like they were powered by bonfires. Higher emissions standards have got rid of those lung-destroying monstrosities. But standards are no good without enforcement, and it’s the emissions test part of the MOT which ensures that all vehicles abide by minimum standards.
With less regular enforcement, cars in breach of those regs will be on the road for longer periods. In addition, for many drivers the MOT identifies incorrect tyre pressure and deteriorating tyres, both of which contribute to poor fuel economy, and therefore higher emissions.
4. Costing motorists more
The government argues that these proposals will save motorists money by removing an extra expense. However, we’d argue that they will often cost motorists more.
For a start, swapping to a bi-annual MOT only saves a measly £55, once every two years. That less-than-whopping saving has to be weighed against how often the MOT nips expensive problems in the bud.
The obvious example is tyres, where identifying a faulty tyre prevents a catastrophic failure, and all the costs that go with that. Similar arguments can be made for exhaust components, and we’ve already noted that less well-maintained cars cost us more at the fuel pump.
As the only mandatory check on a vehicle’s condition, the MOT has a vital function in alerting drivers to problems they might otherwise miss. Ultimately, that protects their wallet more than emptying it.
5. Damaging the economy
As a garage offering a great MOT service, of course we have a dog in this fight.
Yet putting our own interests to one side, it still seems to us that these proposals can only hurt the economy. For thousands of garages up and down the UK, the MOT is part of their bread and butter earnings. At a stroke, the government might cut that income in half.
Given that many great little garages are already feeling the squeeze, it looks like a formula to push smaller businesses under. That can only hurt the British economy.
6. Comes with added unpleasant irony
Helping cash-strapped motorists is a noble sentiment, but it misses this unpleasant irony: it’s the cash-strapped motorists who are most likely to be damaged by the proposed change.
Look at it this way: if you’re well-off, you’re far more likely to be driving a newer, higher-quality car that’s been regularly maintained. For you, a less frequent MOT won’t make much difference, because you’re already driving one of the safest vehicles on the road.
By contrast, if you’re on a low income, statistically you’re more likely be driving an ancient shed with dodgy history. And if you’re really struggling to make ends meet, you might have no choice but to skimp on servicing. So, although shelling out £55 on an MOT isn’t ideal, it’s a vital bit of protection for you and other road users.
The WVS blog covers a wide range of automotive topics, from the contentious to the light-hearted. We are an independent garage specialising in the VW group marques, including Audi, Volkswagen, Skoda and SEAT. WVS provides services, repairs and MOTs, delivering a main dealer level of care at affordable prices. To book your vehicle in, or for any enquiries, get in touch.