MOT vs servicing, what’s the difference?

You might have grown accustomed to often using the terms “get an MOT” and “get a service” interchangeably in casual conversions about your car – all without realising that an MOT and servicing aren’t quite the same thing. So, where exactly do the two differ?

Any confusion between MOTs and servicing is understandable, as there is indeed a fair bit of overlap between the two. Nonetheless, it is important that you do know the difference – as, while both have practical benefits, one of the two is more stringently required by UK law. 

What is an MOT?

Once your car is older than three years, it is legally required to pass an MOT test every year to demonstrate that the vehicle remains roadworthy.

Although the Government applied a temporary six-month exemption to this rule as a result of the initial onset of the COVID-19 crisis last year, that exemption expired on 1st August 2020, except in limited specific circumstances. The policy was not repeated for the third nationwide lockdown in early 2021.  

An MOT test is available at roughly 21,000 authorised test centres – along with local council test centres – around the UK, and includes tests of various functional aspects of a car, including its brakes, lights, windscreen wipers and fuel and exhaust systems. 

On average, an MOT test should last between 45 and 60 minutes – but your car will probably need to be left in the test centre for longer if it fails the test. That’s because the test centre might need to fix the car there and then, although you could still drive it away if its existing MOT certificate is valid.

Should you be happy with “just” an MOT, then?

Your annual MOT alone could take up much of the slack that would otherwise be left to whoever services your car. Indeed, research reported by This is Money reveals that many car issues picked up during servicing could be detected earlier by an MOT if it is undertaken first. 

Given that the MOT would be a yearly legal requirement in any case, prioritising an MOT over servicing could help you to detect issues more cost-effectively. Consequently, you could prevent minor issues from developing into major problems that would be financially costlier to fix. 

Nonetheless, while it is usually recommended that a car is serviced on a yearly basis, your car’s manual may tell a different story. For example, you might find that your vehicle’s oil needs changing more often than yearly, particularly if you habitually run up a lot of mileage on the vehicle. 

The Money Advice Service outlines various things your car’s service manual should show, including when your vehicle’s replacement parts might need to be changed and how often particular regular maintenance tasks will need to be completed on your vehicle. 

You may find that your local garage is happy to customise its servicing to meet specific needs applicable to your vehicle. This is the case, for example, with Advanced Service Centre, which can provide both servicing and an MOT in Grays, the Essex town.


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