More than two-thirds of British drivers think that relaxing MOT rules would put lives at risk.
A survey of motorists commissioned by industry body the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) found that 67% of car owners were opposed to extending the time before new cars, vans and motorbikes need their first MOT, saying they had safety concerns.
The Department for Transport (DfT) has proposed changing the rules so an initial MOT is needed after four years, rather than the current three. It claims the move could save drivers millions of pounds a year without compromising safety.
According to official data, more than 300,000 vehicles fail their first MOT after three years and critics of the plan warn it could lead to a surge in unsafe vehicles remaining on the road. DfT figures show that in 2021, 26 people died in crashes where vehicle defects were a contributory factor.
The MOT assesses a car’s roadworthiness, checking lights, brakes, tyres, seatbelts and other key components. Although problems with lights and reflectors are the most common reason for MOT failure, almost a fifth of all refusals (18%) are related to suspension and 17% are brake-related.
The DfT says the proposal could save drivers a combined £100m a year and bring Britain in line with many European countries, including Belgium, Denmark, France, Italy, Spain and Portugal. However, the SMMT said that the savings amount to just 23p per week over three years for an individual driver.
Nearly three-quarters (74%) of respondents to the SMMT survey said the typical cost of an MOT - currently set at a maximum of £54 - was worth paying for peace of mind. Instead, almost 90% said they would prefer other measures to save them money, such as reducing vehicle excise or fuel duty.
SMMT chief executive Mike Hawes said: “Safety is the number one priority for the automotive industry and the MOT is a crucial component in keeping the UK’s vehicles and roads safe. Our survey shows that drivers support the existing MOT frequency and that there is little appetite to change it, despite the increased cost of living.
“If changes to the MOT are to be made, these should enable testing of advanced electrified powertrains, driver assistance technologies and connected and automated features, as drivers value the peace of mind the MOT offers.”
A DfT spokesperson said: “Road safety is an absolute priority, but as car technology becomes more advanced and fewer new vehicles fail MOT tests, we are considering whether an initial test at three years remains necessary in this age.
“The move would align with the many other countries in Europe which don’t require roadworthiness tests for the first 4 years, and would also save motorists across Britain around £100 million a year in MOT fees.
“We are currently consulting on the proposed changes and will carefully consider responses before setting out decisions.”
The DfT consultation, which closes at 11.45pm on Wednesday 22 March, is also seeking views on extending the time between subsequent tests from one to two years - a move that has been widely criticised for its potential impact on road safety.