Imagine if you no longer had to take your car in for its annual MOT test.

It’s a blissful thought. As well as avoiding the hassle of getting your car to the garage and back, you’d save some cash - up to £54.85 alone just for the test itself.

You’d also avoid those weeks of growing angst about the bill you might face for any unexpected, but urgent and necessary repairs.

And you’d escape those tougher new standards that the government introduced in May, the biggest changes to the MOT test since it was first introduced in 1960.

Well, a new report compiled by economists at the Adam Smith Institute is proposing just that: do away with MOTs entirely.

The cost of MOTs

The report argues that the MOT is costly, outdated and fails to target the main cause of vehicle accidents. Specifically, it says:

  • Collectively, motorists could be up to £250m better off each year if they were scrapped - that’s the annual revenue the test generates each year for more than 20,000 garages across Britain.
  • These garages haven’t been rigorously evaluated for over 20 years.
  • The idea of vehicle safety inspections is outdated, originating from back in the 1950s when there was widespread use of unsafe vehicles.
  • Mechanical failure accounts for only 2% of all accidents in the UK. Improvements in vehicle safety technology are what really matter for improving road safety, and which have driven a 55% decline in traffic fatalities over the last 10 years.
  • Research in the US, published this year, showed ending MOT-style inspections has no effect on either the rate or severity of accidents due to mechanical failure.
  • Two-thirds (65%) of accidents in the UK are due to dangerous driver behaviours, such as speeding, driving under the influence of alcohol, or not using a seat belt — and an annual MOT test can’t prevent any of these.

The report makes a variety of recommendations:

  • Scrap the MOT test for all vehicles, except those older than three years entering the UK from abroad.
  • Reduce the rate of vehicle safety inspections from annually to, for example, every three to five years.
  • Increase the testable age of new vehicles from three years to five years or more.
  • Separate the MOT into two tests: a less frequent one to probe vehicle safety and another that just tests carbon emissions.
  • Focus more resources on campaigns to prevent people travelling without a seat belt, speeding or drink-driving.
  • Dedicate more resources to developing and testing driverless vehicles to remove driver-related accident factors.

Or should we keep it?

Driving groups were in strong opposition to the idea of scrapping the MOT. The RAC said it could lead to huge numbers of vehicles being driven that pose a danger to all road users.

It added that more than a third of all cars and vans taken in for an MOT each year initially fail, which shows the test’s value in picking up problems that might otherwise make a vehicle unsafe.

Edmund King, president of the AA, rubbished the proposals, and pointed to AA polls showing drivers appreciate the importance of an MOT. 

See our tips on how to prepare your car for MOT success, or go to our Your Car hub on Solved to read more guidance on some of the issues that matter to drivers.