Classic car owners risk £1,000 fine after being caught out by little known MOT rule

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Classic cars which were built or first registered over 40 years ago do not need an MOT test as long as they meet certain criteria. As part of this exemption, vehicles must have had “no substantial changes” over the last 30- years to qualify.

This includes any changes to the chassis, body or engine which has changed the way the vehicle works.

Some owners may have purchased a vintage car but then later decided to upgrade the model or restore some key parts.

These drivers would have become accustomed to not getting an MOT test and may not be aware they are no longer exempt.

Drivers then risk being fined £1,000 for driving a vehicle without a valid MOT test certificate which could also invalidate your car insurance.

Even models which are not exempt must be kept in a roadworthy condition to avoid being hit with extra charges.

GOV.UK warns drivers could be issued £2,500 fines and three penalty points for using a car in a dangerous condition.

They say owners of historic models may voluntarily decide to vet their cars tested to ensure their car is safe and legal.

In official government guidance on substantial changes to historic vehicles, experts have warned drivers should conduct regular maintenance on their vehicle to avoid charges.

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The guidance says: “You need to check whether the vehicle has been substantially altered in the last 30 years, checking against the criteria.

“If it has been altered substantially a valid MOT certificate will continue to be required. If you are unsure check, for example from an expert on historic vehicles.

“If you buy a vehicle, we also recommend checking with the previous owner if you can.

“The registration number of a vehicle should not be used to determine if the vehicle is a VHI (Vehicle of Historic Interest) as it may not reflect the vehicle’s age (cherished transfers, reconstructed classic vehicles etc).

“The registration certificate (V5C) is more authoritative, but there are specific cases for example related to imported vehicles where in some cases the age of the vehicle would not have been captured at point of registration.

“If your vehicle does not have a current MOT certificate and is exempt from needing an MOT test you will need to declare this each time when you apply for Vehicle Excise Duty.”

What are considered substantial changes?

According to GOV.UK substantial changes to vehicles can vary from a range of minor fixes to major upgrades.

Alterations to the suspension and steering are considered substantial changes as these can adjust the way a car handles.

Any updates which have changed the number of cylinders in the engine from its original format is also likely to be a substantial change.

Vehicles which have been given a Q registration number or a model which contains parts from a kit car would also fail to meet the exemption criteria.

A reconstructed classic vehicle or a kit conversion will also be considered a major change to the vehicle

However GOV.UK warns anything made to preserve a vehicle because the original parts are no longer available would be allowed.

Any changes which were made when the vehicle was still in production or within 10 years of the end of production will also not have been substantially changed.

To avoid being unfairly caught out and penalised, GOV.UK urges drivers to speak to a historic vehicle export after making any changes.

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