Historic MOT: Red Can Mean Go

by Hagerty
29 October 2019 3 min read
Historic MOT: Red Can Mean Go
MOT Check Online

Hagerty unpicks the confusing online status of MOT-exempt classic vehicles.

Last year, we published an article about the implementation of the rolling forty-year exemption for the MOT check. We had a huge response, and wrote a follow-up article to answer some of the questions that arose. Well over a year after the new rules were implemented, we thought that was that. We were wrong.

How much is your car to insure? Find out in four easy steps.
Get a quote

A few weeks ago, a client told us that he’d been contacted by his local garage, a very classic-friendly place who had serviced and MOT’d his cars for many years. They told him his MOT on his 1970 classic car was overdue. He told them that last year, when his tax was due, he had duly submitted a V112 along with his tax renewal certificate at his local post office, stating that his car was exempt as a ‘Vehicle of Historical Interest’ over 40 years of age that was not substantially altered from new. As far as he was concerned, it was exempt.

The garage showed him the Government’s web page that tracks the MOT history of a vehicle and entered the car’s registration. Sure enough, a big red banner appeared at the top, stating that ‘THIS VEHICLE’S MOT HAS EXPIRED’. The garage also told him that because his front drum brakes had been replaced by later series disc brakes, it couldn’t be exempt as this constituted a ‘substantial alteration’. This greatly concerned the owner, who feared he had been driving his classic without a valid MOT.

Hagerty did some research and found that our client was fine on both counts, but that it was easy to see how the garage was confused. His vehicle was indeed registered as MOT exempt, and although the MOT check page returned a large red ‘EXPIRED’ warning, there’s a small disclaimer at the bottom stating that the vehicle may be exempt.

Secondly, the MOT tester had based his opinion on the advice given as to what constitutes ‘substantial change’ on the following statement:

Axles and running gear – alteration of the type and or method of suspension or steering constitutes a substantial change.

However, further on in the same document, comes the clarification:

The following are considered acceptable (not substantial) changes if they fall into these specific categories:

  • Changes of a type, that can be demonstrated to have been made when vehicles of the type were in production or in general use (within ten years of the end of production);
  • In respect of axles and running gear changes made to improve efficiency, safety or environmental performance.

Disc brakes had been fitted as standard to the client’s model of vehicle two years after his was built, and he upgraded his brakes solely to improve the safety of the vehicle. It’s clear this does not constitute ‘substantial change’.

So, what are the lessons to be learnt from this? Firstly, there’s still some confusion over the MOT status of some historic vehicles, a situation that is not helped by the MOT history web page’s red banner. This could be problematic when you go to sell your vehicle. Secondly, even well-regarded garages that are used to dealing with classic vehicles may be unclear about the exact regulations regarding historic vehicle exemptions. Hagerty recommends the following:

  • Use the ‘Check if a car is taxed’ web page. This also shows the MOT status which, if the car is MOT exempt, presently shows ‘No Results Returned’ but is GREEN.
  • You can now state a car’s MOT exemption online when you receive a V11Z tax reminder, and no longer have to fill out a paper V112 (although you can still do so at a post office if you wish).
  • Follow the DVSA’s guidelines and have an MOT check completed if you’re unsure whether your vehicle is exempt.
  • Remember that whether MOT exempt or not, it is your legal responsibility to ensure it is fully roadworthy before driving it.

Hagerty contacted the DVSA and Lilian Greenwood MP, Chair of the Transport Select Committee, who we asked to push for the web pages to be updated to reflect the correct historical exemption status. We’ll keep you updated of any progress.

Useful links:

MOT Check Online: Click here.

Tax Status Online: Click here.

Advice for MOT testers covering ‘Substantial Change’: Click here.

You may also like

2018 Changes to the MOT: What You Need to Know
8 pre-war prizes crossing the block at Monterey in 2023
8 pre-war prizes crossing the block at Monterey in 2023
Coryton Sustain Classic fuel
The first sustainable fuel for classic cars is now on sale, but there's a catch
A story about

Your biweekly dose of car news from Hagerty in your inbox


  • Dromore Co Down says:

    In Northern Ireland (which at the moment is still part of the UK!) the exemption of MOT is still pre 1 Jan 1960 manufacture or first reg. Swansea do not liaise with the NI MOT which makes the situation complicated over here. On line V112 forms have been altered for the 40 year rule so the NI V112 has to be obtained from a post office – if they still have stocks. My problem however is that the on line registration details for my car shows manufacture as 1960, the same year as first reg – this is incorrect as I have the BMIHT certificate confirming the manufacture date as 1959. Do Swansea care – no they don’t, three letters, two of which were posted signed for and received have been ignored to date, the third one included my V5C and certificate as advised by an uninterested telephone answerer at DVLA, will I ever see them again?

  • Surrey says:

    I think £50 for an expert annual check of the safety of my old Morris Minor is well worth it, regardless of whether it is required by DVSA or not.

  • Honiton, Devon says:

    Having just read your newsletter and the article about MoT expiries being flagged by DVLA website, this prompted me to check one of my own classic’s MOT status. To my horror found it also was flagged up Red as having expired, despite declaring it exempt at my road tax renewal when it’s then MoT was still current. So online declarations are not secure.

  • Hertfordshire says:

    Interesting article re.MOT exemption. Thought I would check my 54 year old classic on the DVSA web site and indeed it does show the red banner with MOT expired, even though I declared my vehicle was exempt online. My immediate thought was what information would flag up on ANPR cameras in police vehicles and what would be their response?

  • Newton Abbot, Devon. says:

    I think some of these problems came about by conflicting information issued by various parties at the time the MOT exempt ruling for cars over 40 years old came into being. Some Post Offices sent in the V112 form whilst others looked at it & handed it back. At this time there was not a way of putting this information onto the DVLA computer system by the P.O.. Some weeks later this was changed. In my opinion when a vehicle qualifies to be exempt the v112 should be used & submitted to DVLA & then a tick box on the annual renewal form could be used.

  • Hagerty, Towcester says:

    We’ve just had responses back from DVSA and Lillian Greenwood, MP. The former admits it is a glitch in their system, and suggests (as we do) people should use the Tax check online page instead. The latter told us that due to the General Election, the Committee is now disbanded. We’ll take this up again next year.

  • Honiton, Devon says:

    Having now checked all three of my Historic Vehicle and MoT exempt cars using the online MoT check, I found that they ALL flag up Red as having expired MoT tests, despite two having been renewed and declared exempt since the introduction in 2018. Clearly the online DVLA system isn’t recognising the declarations made when taxing the vehicles. ANPR must be recording exemption otherwise I would have been prosecuted more than once by now!

  • London says:

    try putting your reg at will show you tax and MOT expiry date

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

More on this topic
Hagerty Newsletter
Get your weekly dose of car news from Hagerty UK in your inbox

Thanks for signing up!

Your request will be handled as soon as possible