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When Can a Number Plate Fail an MOT?

According to the British Number Plate Manufacturers Association, number plates are the first thing mechanics check. Once a new car is registered it will take three years before a MOT is required. Hereafter, MOTs are needed yearly and can be done a month, minus a day, before the expiry date and will be valid for 13 months.

Driving your car without a valid MOT certificate can result in a fine of up to £1,000, and driving or parking your car on the road with an expired MOT could result in prosecution, so it is crucial that your MOT is valid and in date. The only time you are permitted to drive with an expired MOT is when travelling to or from an arranged MOT test.


Note: If you cannot remember your car’s MOT expiry date, you can find out by inputting your registration number into the MOT history checker.


When can a number plate fail a MOT?

You can fail your MOT due to the condition of your number plates. If your number plate is obscured, damaged or has any features that effect or change the appearance and legibility of the characters, it can result in a failed MOT test.

As a result, before going to your MOT test centre, it is a good idea to ensure your number plates are clean[VA1]  and legible, as this could save you a significant amount of time and money. Here are some of the main reasons why your number plate may cause you to fail your MOT.


Will a cracked number plate fail a MOT?

BNMA found that 4% of all MOT failures are due to number plates not meeting the specified requirements. If your number plate has been damaged due to a collision, such as being cracked or smashed, it should be replaced prior to your next MOT test as it may result in a failure.


Can you fail a MOT on number plate light?

Your rear number plate has a small light fixture that illuminates your plate number to other drivers when visibility is impaired, such as at night or in foggy conditions. If your rear number plate light is damaged it will be considered as a major defect and result in the failure of your MOT.

It is worth noting that it is illegal to use coloured feature lights on your number plate; only white light is permitted above and below your number plates. However, there are no restrictions on the number of lights, wattage or intensity.


- Can you fail a MOT without a number plate? 

It is illegal to drive without front and rear number plates. The DVSA states that if your plate is missing it will result in a major defect.

Note: “Stuck on” number plates do not adhere to the British Safety Standard BS AU 145D as they can detach during accidents.

Photo credit: AngelaAllen / Shutterstock


Other reasons your number plate might fail an MOT 

If the number plate shows an incorrect registration, or the does not conform to specified number plate requirements (such as having honeycomb effects or other patterns on the plate), your vehicle will fail its MOT immediately.

Therefore, when purchasing a private reg from a personalised number plate dealer, you must ensure they are reputable and trustworthy. They must follow the rules, otherwise you may end up in trouble with the law.

Please note: Some number plates have a honeycomb type construct, this should not be confused with the honeycomb effect.


What happens if you fail a MOT?

MOT failures are divided into two categories: dangerous and major. If the car is classed as dangerous, the vehicle cannot be used until the fault is repaired. A major defect means the repair must be rectified immediately.

Failing a MOT requires fixing any defects found and a retest. Fortunately, the retest is normally free provided the fixtures are completed within 10 working days after failing the first MOT test. As a result, if your vehicle fails its MOT due to a number plate issue, you will need to get a new number plate printed as soon as possible. To find out how to do this, carry on reading below.


What documents do I need to get a new number plate made?

Unfortunately, you cannot walk off the street and order a new number plate; you must have the correct documentation with you in order to prove that you own the vehicle, van or motorbike. To get a new number plate, you will need documentation to prove your identity (stating your name and address) and that you are the owner of the vehicle.

Without the correct documents, new or replacement registration plates cannot be provided. Read our handy guide to registration documents to find out what information you must take with you. 


 - How much does it cost to get number plates made?

If you need to get your number plate re-printed, you can easily do this from a local garage, or online via Halfords. Typically, a number plate costs around £16 to purchase and £6 to fit, but this can differ from place-to-place.


Please note: If your car, van or motorcycle’s MOT expiry date is due to expire between 30th March 2020 and 31st July 2020, your MOT will be automatically extended by 6 months. For all up-to-date guidance, follow updates from the website


Feature image credit: Jevanto Productions / Shutterstock

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