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The complete guide to classic car MOT exemption

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January 26, 2023
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Here at Adrian Flux, we’re passionate about classic cars and ensuring car owners are getting the very best deal when it comes to insuring, maintaining and driving their beloved vehicles.

Owners welcomed news that an extra 300,000 classic cars were to become MOT exempt after a law change in 2018. Changes to the law mean that in the UK, most vehicles become MOT exempt once they reach 40 years of age.

The new rules were implemented in May 2018, but many classic car owners may ask themselves what the change means for them and whether their own cars still require an MOT. With that in mind, we’ve created the ultimate guide below to help you navigate the 40 year MOT exemption laws.

How old does a car have to be to be tax exempt?

Classic VW Beetle in the UK

The Department for Transport (DfT) states that cars 40 years and older no longer have to undergo their annual roadworthiness check, known to most as an MOT.

Prior to the rule change, only vehicles built or first registered before 1960 were MOT exempt, which accounted for almost 200,000 cars on the road at the time. This number has increased dramatically – as many as 300,000 extra cars became MOT exempt as a direct result of the changes.

What types of car are covered by the 40-year MOT exemption regulations?

The change meant that all manner of era-defining models have become legally fit for the road without an up to date MOT, including Ford’s Capri (Mk I and Mk II), Escort (Mk I) and Granada, the Vauxhall Viva, Fiat X1/9, Triumph Stag and MGB.

Are there any exceptions?

Classic car on UK road
As always, there is small print to consider. Classic car MOT exemption does not apply to vehicles that have undergone significant modification – or ‘substantial change’ – in the past 30 years.

Full guidelines around what is classed as a substantial change to ‘vehicles of historical interest’ (VHI) has been provided by the government. However, as a general rule of thumb, vehicles may not be MOT exempt if the following components have been drastically altered within the last three decades:

  • Chassis, including any sub-frames
  • Axles and running gear, including the type of method of steering or suspension
  • Engines, such as changes to the number of cylinders present

It’s worth noting this is not an exhaustive list and car owners should refer to the full guidance document for more detailed information.

Do the changes apply to other types of vehicles, too?

The category of MOT exempt vehicles includes more than just classic cars. The changes mean that cars, vans and motorbikes over 40 years of age are now MOT exempt, provided they haven’t been significantly modified.

Trucks, lorries and other large good vehicles are not exempt and will still require an annual MOT. The same rules apply to kit cars and self-built vehicles.

What if my car has only recently reached 40 years?

Classic car on UK road
The 40-year MOT exemption is a rolling law – it applies at the time your car reaches 40, whenever that happens. For example, if your car was first registered on 31 December 1982, it will officially become MOT exempt on 1 January 2023.

How do I declare my vehicle as MOT exempt?

Your car will need to have been through the DVLA historic vehicle registration process before it is eligible for exemption.

The owner of the vehicle must then complete a V112 form, which can be found online or at your local Post Office. This form’s full name is the ‘Declaration of exemption from MOT’ and you must complete one for each classic vehicle you own. In order to complete the form, you will need your vehicle tax reminder, the log book, and if you are a resident in Northern Ireland you will need an insurance certificate or cover note as well.

Are there any risks around making more cars MOT exempt?

Risks associated with the change in law haven’t gone unnoticed. More than 2,000 members of the public took part in a government consultation about the scheme. Of those asked, 56% opposed the plan, saying that vehicles travelling on public roads should have the annual safety check.

What was the outcome of the consultation?

Red classic car E-Type

In response, the DfT argued cars more than 40 years old are often kept in good condition by owners and not used regularly enough to warrant an MOT. They added the test, which costs a maximum of £54.85 for most regular vehicles with up to eight seats (correct as of 2023), is no longer relevant to many of these older cars.

The consultation also proposed a more basic biennial test for models that fell out of the 40-year bracket. This would have included checking the vehicle identity and making sure important components like the brakes and steering are in working order. However, this was not made legislation – owners may instead opt for a voluntary MOT if they deem it necessary.

The DfT decided not to go ahead with the introduction of that check-up, stating: “Those owners who feel an annual check is needed will be able to submit their vehicles for a voluntary MOT.”

Scott Goodliffe from insurance experts Adrian Flux said: “We encourage the general public to be aware that more cars over 40 years of age will come on to the market. Of those, it’s likely that a good amount will be possible MOT failures.

“No matter what the law says regarding an MOT, insurance policies still require the car to be in a roadworthy condition as part of the policy terms. So the vehicle should still be in a good state of repair.

“There are also driving convictions for bald tyres, defective brakes, etc. that people should be careful of if they don’t get a mechanical check at least once a year.”

Important checks for MOT exempt vehicles

Engineer looking under the bonnet
Even if your vehicle is covered by the new 40-year MOT exemption rules, we still recommend you carry out regular and thorough checks to ensure its roadworthiness. These include, but aren’t limited to:

  • Brake performance
  • Fluid levels (engine oil, brake fluid etc.)
  • Tyres and tyre treads
  • Lights and bulbs
  • Windscreens and windscreen wipers

Make sure to take out insurance for your car

Whether your vehicle classifies as MOT exempt or not, it will certainly need a good-value car insurance policy. That’s where Adrian Flux comes into its own, providing competitive insurance quotes for vehicles of all ages and conditions, including for classic cars and limited mileage cover. Call us on 0800 081 0777 for a quote or book a callback at a time that suits you.

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