Whether you've bought used or brand new, your van is bound to start showing some signs of wear and tear. And while chips in the paint or a coffee-stained dashboard are easily spotted, there might be things going on under the hood that aren't so apparent. That's why it's a legal requirement to get regular health check-ups for your worker-on-wheels.
The simple answer: it's illegal to drive without one. With a few exceptions – such as driving to an MOT appointment or to get the required repairs done – having a valid MOT certificate is just as essential as having van insurance. On top of that, it's just good common sense. A trained professional can check almost every aspect of your vehicle, assuring you that it’s safe and meets the legal standards.
If it's a new van, you've got three years from its registration date before you must get an MOT test. After its third birthday, you'll need to get it tested again every year after that. There's a little bit of an overlap allowed in order to make booking a test more convenient – you're able to renew your MOT up to one month before the old one expires, and the new MOT won't expire until one year after the expiration of the old one. For example: if your current MOT is due to expire on 1 September 2015, you could get a new test on the 1 August 2015, and the results would last you for thirteen months, until 1 September 2016.
A government-authorised tester will usually run through a comprehensive check-list, making sure that your van meets legal road-safety and environmental standards. They'll check your van's:
If your van's up to scratch, they'll give you a VT20 certificate to show that you've passed. If it fails, you'll get a VT30 document instead. They'll probably also point out any problem areas that you'll need to keep an eye on – even if you've passed.
Unless you want to face prosecution, you won't be able to drive it once your old MOT certificate expires – with the exceptions mentioned above. You'll have to get the appropriate repairs made, and then get it retested.
Luckily, if you leave it at the test centre to be repaired and get a retest within 10 working days, you'll only need a partial retest and there won't be another fee. That's why it's probably worthwhile to use a repair shop that's also an approved MOT tester – look for the blue sign with three white triangles. If you have to take your van away from the test centre to get it repaired, you can still bring it back within 10 working days for a partial retest, but you might have to pay a partial retest fee.
Booking an MOT isn't a death sentence for your van. It's a way to make sure you can fix any problems before they become dangerous or costly. So keep up the maintenance and get it regularly serviced, and you'll hopefully pass with flying colours every time. For more information about whether you should buy a van, read our tips and advice. And always ensure you are properly covered with low cost van insurance.