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MOTs for classic cars and bikes

Not every classic car or motorcycle needs an MOT and those that do usually receive slight concessions in certain areas.

There are two types of vehicle that no longer require MOTs:

  1. The first are vintage cars and bikes built before 1st January 1960. This a 2013 change to the law and has been frowned upon by a number of people within the classic vehicle world. It is felt that the MOT is actually a good checking process for all classics.
  2. The second group of vehicles that do not require MOTs are those that are of a specific type or set out in a specific way. For example, tractors, electric powered goods vehicles, and vehicles only being used on certain islands in the British Isles.

Those classic vehicles that do require an MOT are often given a few leniencies when it comes to certain tests, with other tests not included at all. For example, cars built without seatbelts cannot be failed for not having them. Also it is accepted to a degree that classic vehicles will have less efficient engines and brakes, so braking tests and emission test are often undergone by judgment of the inspector, rather than by a scientific limit as with modern machines.

It is important to find a garage and test centre that are sympathetic to classic cars, which can usually be identified through classic vehicle clubs. Their understanding of classic cars means that they can apply the regulations of the MOT more realistically to the classic vehicle than someone who is only used to working with modern machines.

Classic car and motorcycle exemptions

A number of legal requirements for modern cars and bikes are relaxed for most classic cars and motorcycles. In most cases this is based on the limitations of the classic’s technology and what the vehicle had when it was first manufactured. However, you also need to bear some of this in mind when restoring machines if you are thinking of retrofitting any parts not standard on your car or motorbike at point of production.


Clearly not something to think about with motorcycles! Many classics of today were first manufactured without seatbelts. This is the important factor. If they were manufactured without one, you don’t have to have one fitted. If it does not have a seatbelt, you aren’t allowed to carry any children under the age of three in the vehicle. If they were fitted with one, you have to maintain it to a minimum standard.

Interestingly, if a seatbelt has been fitted to a classic car since it was built, it will then need to meet minimum standards of safety and could fail if unsatisfactory. However, strangely, as it was produced without one originally, you would be legally within your right to remove it entirely and it not be tested.


Many vintage cars and bikes didn’t have lights. Well, they did, but some were only really effective up to about three feet. As with seatbelts, the rules here are about what it was manufactured with – that is the standard you need to maintain. Some owners of classics choose to upgrade the lights with better and more modern bulbs, which is fine, as long as they are aligned correctly as not to dazzle other drivers.


Some vintage/classic cars and motorcycles have a braking system largely based on hope: you apply the brakes and hope it stops. Most classics do have adequate braking if well maintained, but it is nowhere near the standard of modern systems. Some machines will also have a different braking layout, such as only having brakes for one set of wheels, rather than all four. As with the above, this is legally taken on board with the original specifications in mind. If it was built with rubbish brakes, it can stay with rubbish brakes – as long as they are maintained to their correct levels and not considered dangerous.

The VOSA (Vehicle and Operator Services Agency) has information on the restrictions and exemptions in MOTs.


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