Tips & advice

Van MOTs explained: rules, costs and tips to help your van pass

The annual MOT check-up is an essential part of owning a van, here’s everything you need to know...

If you or your company uses a van, you will need to make sure it’s safe and legal to use on the road. That’s where a van MOT comes in - it’s the Ministry of Transport test that certifies a vehicle has a minimum level of safety and can be driven legally on British roads.

Read on to find out everything you need to know about van MOTs, including the things that are tested and how much it should cost you.

Van MOT rules and costs

Just like with normal car MOTs, your van needs to be tested once a year, before the expiry date listed on the current MOT certificate. There’s an exception to this, and that’s if a van is less than three years old. New vans don’t need to be tested until their third year on the road.

If you drive a van without a valid MOT then you risk a fine and the invalidation of your insurance policy, which in turn could result in even more costs. Of course, it’s also extremely unwise to drive, or ask an employee to drive, a van that is unsafe.

There are rules about how much a van MOT can cost you - the fee for goods vehicles up to 3,000kg gross weight is capped at £54.85, while vans from 3,000kg to 3,500kg can only cost up to £58.60. There are higher charges for passenger carriers like buses, as these need to have seatbelt safety checks for all of their seats.

However, garages don’t have to charge those prices, and you’ll often find places charging less. With modern technology it’s easy to find a local garage that will perform an MOT test for your van at a competitive price.

Van MOT preparation and tips

The van MOT covers many aspects of your vehicle to ensure it’s safe to drive, but it doesn’t cover everything. For example, the engine, clutch and gearbox are pretty much ignored unless there are leaks or obvious safety hazards, so a poor-running van can still pass an MOT despite barely being able to move under its own power. 

It’s worth asking a garage to sort other issues while the van is in for an MOT, and get them to service it if you don’t deal with this maintenance yourself. Below we’ve listed some of the key areas that are looked at by MOT testers, and how you can prepare your van so it’s ready to pass and get back on the road straight away.

Lights

Check that your headlights, taillights, foglights, indicators and side lights at the front and rear are all working correctly by asking someone to operate them for you while you stand outside the van.

Windscreen and wipers

Check that the windscreen wipers operate correctly and that there is plenty of washer fluid in the bottle - it’s easy to top up via a marked flap under the bonnet.

There should also be no cracks or chips that are bigger than 10mm across in the driver’s vision (or 40mm elsewhere). Our advice is to get any chips, no matter the size, fixed - as they can grow over time and become much worse.

Tyres

Tyres are a common fail point for van MOTs as these vehicles tend to do a lot of miles in a short amount of time. It’s easy to check that there’s enough tread left as all tyres have a depth indicator - but the ridge on a 20p piece is another handy way to check there is enough tread left.

The wheels also need to be fixed on securely, so nip the bolts up with a wrench while you’re there.

Number plates

Make sure that your number plates are secured correctly and visible. There are standards the plates must conform to, so make sure you’ve got the correct font and spacing if you have bought new plates for any reason.

Exterior

Check that there are no bodywork pieces that are falling off and could come loose. Any kind of sharp edge, for example from a dent or crash, could cause a fail, so get them repaired before the MOT.

Doors must be easy to open and latch safely and securely - that goes for the bonnet, too.

Rust may also be an issue, as if there’s any corrosion that could affect the suspension or safety of occupants then it’ll be an MOT fail.

Interior

Seatbelts must be secure and fully functional, so check that they all work correctly, and the seats need to be properly fixed down as well. Your mirrors need to be intact and provide a good view around the vehicle, so get them fixed if there are cracks.

While you’re inside, check the horn - it needs to be audible by other drivers and easily accessible for the driver to use (if it’s been removed from the steering wheel, which is admittedly unlikely in a van).

You should also take notice of any abnormalities when driving, as faults with the suspension and steering will be an MOT fail. They’re usually apparent when driving so will not be a surprise - get them fixed as soon as possible.

Mechanical parts

There are a few things that you should be aware of here, but some may not be easy to check for a layman without experience or tools, so you could ask your garage to check them before the MOT goes through.

There needs to be no leaks that could cause an environmental hazard, for example oil, fuel or coolant. The exhaust needs to be intact and without major leaks, and the brakes also need to be up to scratch. These are a wear item, so will need to be changed every so often - it’s not a major job, though.

What to do if your van fails its MOT

If your van fails its MOT, you have a few options. You can leave it with the garage until the failing items have been repaired. If this is done within 10 days of the fail notice, there’s no fee for the retest (though the garage will charge for the repair).

Your other option is to take the van back and repair it yourself or by another garage, then have it retested. If you return within one day, there’s no fee for the retest, or if it’s within 10 days, there’s a reduced fee for the retest. You can only do this if your current MOT has not yet expired, so it’s good practice to book your van for an MOT before the expiry date. If it has expired, you are allowed to drive to and from pre-booked MOT tests or repair work.

Looking to get a van on a budget? Check out the cheapest vans on sale here...

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