Can the police seize your car for no MOT?

Driving a car without an MOT invalidates your insurance and makes it impossible to get tax, meaning the police could seize and impound your vehicle. Read our quick guide and avoid getting caught out.

At the Insurance Factory, we understand how easy it is to forget to book your vehicle in for its annual check.

And we also know what a huge hassle and expense it is to get reunited with your car.

We aim to take some of that strain away by arranging temp cover impound insurance so you can drive your car away from the pound to the MOT test centre.

And to help you avoid getting into this predicament in the first place, we’ve put together this guide to MOTs and impounded vehicles. Read on for tips on how to stay on the right side of the law.

On what grounds can my vehicle be seized?

There are many reasons why your car could be seized and towed away, including some which relate to your MOT. These are the main categories:
  • Under the Road Traffic Act 1988, uniformed police can seize your vehicle if it’s being driven without a valid insurance policy or licence. If your car has no MOT, then your insurance is invalidated.
  • Under the Police Reform Act 2002, uniformed police have the powers to seize your vehicle if it’s being used in a manner causing alarm, distress, or annoyance.
  • The DVLA can seize cars that are not taxed, and have devolved these powers to many police forces and local authorities. You won’t be able to renew your tax if your MOT has expired.
  • Both the police and local authorities have the right to remove vehicles that are parked illegally on roads or public land, or are causing a hazard or an obstruction. Check out our blog about where it’s legal to park in the UK.
  • Enforcement officers can seize your vehicle if you have unpaid penalty charge notices or other outstanding debts.
Want to know more? Read our blog on reasons why cars can be impounded.

If any of the above happens to you, then you’ll need to head to the car pound to get your car back. One of the many documents you’ll have to present is proof of insurance.

At the Insurance Factory, we can arrange temp cover impound insurance so you can collect your vehicle legally and drive it to a test centre.

What is an MOT?

An MOT is your car’s basic annual check. It helps keep you, your passengers, and other road users safe, and ensures your vehicle meets environmental standards.

To get an MOT, go to a registered MOT test centre (usually a local garage). Mechanics will check:
  • Body and structure (including exhaust system, seats and doors)
  • Brakes, brake fluid and brake pads warning light
  • Suspension
  • Axels, wheels and tyres
  • Steering
  • Battery and electrical wiring
  • Lights, including daytime running lights (DRL) and reversing lights
  • Fuel system
  • Exhaust emissions and diesel particulate filter (DPF)
  • Fluid leaks (not coolant or diesel exhaust fluid)
  • Wipers, windscreen and mirrors
  • Speedometer
  • Horn
  • Seatbelts
  • Number plates
They won’t examine the engine, clutch or gearbox. You can find out more about which car parts are checked at an MOT on the government’s website.

Who needs an MOT?

Just about every car owner needs to get their vehicle through its MOT each year. Here are the details:
  • Most cars that are less than three years old are exempt from needing an MOT. After that point, you need to book an annual test.
  • Taxis, ambulances and many other types of passenger vehicles don’t have that three-year grace period. If you drive one of these, it will need to be tested by the first anniversary of its registration, and every year after that.
  • Some vehicles are exempt, including tractors and certain historic vehicles.
  • Lorries, buses and trailers have a different MOT system, often called the “annual test”.
  • Vehicles that aren’t driven or parked on public land, and are declared off-road, are exempt – see our section on SORN below.
  • If you don’t have an MOT, you can only take your vehicle on public roads if you’re driving to a booked test at an MOT centre.

Read more about these exemptions in our recent blog on when it’s legal to drive without an MOT.

What effect does an MOT have on my tax and insurance?


To drive legally in the UK, you need:
  1. Vehicle excise duty (VED), aka car tax. Some vehicles, such as electric cars or those driven by people with disabilities, are exempt, but you still need to register for vehicle tax.
  2. Vehicle insurance. You need a minimum of third-party insurance, to cover any damage you cause to other people or property while driving.
  3. MOT certificate. And even if you have a valid MOT, remember that it’s your duty to ensure your vehicle is roadworthy at all times.

These three essentials go together. If you don’t have a valid MOT, you won’t be able to pay your car tax.

And if you are already covered by insurance when your MOT runs out, your policy will become invalid.

So you end up breaking three key motoring laws for the price of one! That could lead to a hefty fine, points on your licence, and even your vehicle being impounded.

If this happens to your vehicle, you’ll need temp cover impound insurance to drive it away from the pound and take it to an MOT test centre. There’s more about this process below.

How do I arrange an MOT?

MOTs are standardised tests, and garages have to follow strict guidelines to be accredited as a test centre.

There’s a maximum that garages can charge: currently, it’s £54.85 for cars.

So it doesn’t really matter where you go – just choose the accredited garage that’s most convenient, or where you trust the staff to carry out any necessary repairs to a high standard.

You can book your MOT test up to one month earlier than the date your certificate expires, while keeping the same renewal date. It’s a good idea to do that if possible, as it gives you a bit of breathing space.

To jog your memory, you can sign up to the government’s free MOT reminder service. This will send you a text or email one month before your current MOT expires.

If you forget to book a test, you could get a very nasty shock when you receive a fine of up to £1,000! Worse still, your car could be impounded.

At the Insurance Factory, we’ve got lots of experience in helping out motorists who’ve made a simple mistake.

We can provide temp cover impound insurance that allows you to drive your vehicle away from the pound to the MOT test centre.

What if my vehicle fails the MOT?

The mechanics who put your car through the MOT will explain to you what the outcome is. Here are the possibilities:

1. Pass. You might also be told of a few “minor” or “advisory” problems that you should consider getting fixed in the future.

2. Fail with “major” problems. You may drive your vehicle until the expiry date of your old MOT, but must get these problems fixed before you can get a new certificate for the coming year.

3. Fail with “dangerous” problems. You mustn’t drive your car until these are fixed, even if there is still validity left on your old MOT.

All MOT results are recorded on the MOT database. If you drive your vehicle after it’s failed on the grounds that it’s dangerous, you risk a £2,500 fine and three penalty points on your licence.

Plus, your insurance will be invalidated. That could mean your vehicle is seized by police.

Should your vehicle end up in the car pound, it’s an expensive and complex business to get it released. At the Insurance Factory, we aim to make the process smoother for you by arranging temp cover impound insurance.

Not sure if you need this cover? Read our recent blog to find answers to all your questions about impounded car insurance.

What if I don’t drive my vehicle?

You need a current MOT certificate not just to drive on the roads, but even to leave your vehicle on them or on any public land.

Alternatively, you could make a Statutory Off-Road Notice (SORN) declaration. To do so, you’ll need to have a private drive, garage or other piece of land on which to park your vehicle for the duration.

This is a good alternative to getting an MOT if you’re going away for a while, or having a car restored.

But don’t be tempted to take it out for a quick spin – you could land yourself a hefty fine, and might even have your vehicle seized.

We’ll help you get reunited with your vehicle by arranging temp cover impound insurance for one month. With this cover, you can drive your vehicle away from the pound and take it to an MOT test centre.

Will anybody notice if my vehicle doesn’t have an MOT?

You might have heard tales from friends or family of how they got away without a valid MOT for days, weeks or even months.

But technology is catching up with these MOT evaders. There is an increasing number of automatic numberplate recognition (ANPR) cameras across the UK.

So every time you pass one of these cameras on roads, in car parks, or in police vehicles, your number plate is being scanned and cross-checked. While criminals and speeders might be the main targets, your MOT lapse could get picked up, too.

Plus, the DVLA runs regular clampdowns on uninsured and untaxed vehicles. If you don’t have an MOT, your tax and insurance won’t be valid either, so your vehicle could be targeted.

And you could even be spotted by a neighbour or passerby! Any member of the public can check online to see if any vehicle has a valid MOT.

Of course, people are unlikely to bother if you drive your vehicle safely and park it legally. But if you park or drive it in a way that inconveniences others, that’s one of the first actions they might take.

If your MOT has expired, that could lead to a call to the police, the local authority, or the DVLA, and a potential fine for you. You might even have your vehicle seized.

Just get in contact with the Insurance Factory team for a quote for temp cover impound insurance, to give you time to get your paperwork in order. Then chalk it up to experience, and put a note in your diary for next year!

Does an MOT mean my car is safe for a full year?

An MOT is a basic safety check, not a guarantee that your car will remain legal to drive for a whole year. It’s your responsibility to ensure that your vehicle is roadworthy at all times.

So what do you need to keep an eye on?

Tyres are often problematic: hardly surprising, given they are squashed between the weight of your car and the hard, rough road surface. Check their tread, pressure and general condition regularly.

Wipers, brake pads, and lights are also elements that often need replacing. Do so as soon as you spot a problem.

Read more in our blog on what makes a car unroadworthy: it’s full of helpful tips for keeping your vehicle in tip-top condition.

What happens once my vehicle has been impounded?

If you forget to get an MOT for your car, or it fails and you drive it anyway, then you’re most likely to receive a fine of up to £1,000. But there is a chance your vehicle will be impounded – particularly if the tax has run out, too.

If you’re present when your car is seized, you’ll be given a leaflet explaining the process and telling you which pound you need to attend. Otherwise, a letter will be sent to the address of the registered keeper (usually, that’s you).

Alternatively, you might have the horrible experience of returning to where you left your vehicle to discover it’s vanished! To find out whether it’s been stolen or impounded, you can call the local police on 101 or NSL on 0343 224 1999.

We’ve put together a blog on what to do if your car is impounded, and we’ll run through the process quickly here, too.

One thing you may well need is temp cover impound insurance. We can arrange that for you, helping to ease some of the stress you’ll undoubtedly be feeling.

What documents do I need at the car pound?

Once you’ve discovered where your car has been taken, you need to assemble a range of documents to present to officials and get your vehicle back.

Check what you’ll need before you set out, as they may differ somewhat from pound to pound. Plus, some authorities want you to present your paperwork at a police station, before heading to the pound.

Documents you’re likely to need include:
  • Proof of ID, such as your passport or driving licence.
  • Proof of address, such as recent utility bills.
  • Proof of insurance. Regular cover may not be available for impounded cars, so contact us at Insurance Factory to arrange temp cover impound insurance.
  • Proof that you’re the registered keeper of the vehicle. Your V5C document, also called a logbook, is essential here.
  • Evidence of a booked MOT test, if your vehicle doesn’t have a valid MOT. See below for what to do if you can’t drive your vehicle to the test.

And, sorry to say, you’ll also need a means to make payment – read on to discover some of the costs you’re likely to incur.

What if I can’t take my car to an MOT test?

If your car won’t start, has failed its MOT on the grounds of “dangerous” problems, or is otherwise unroadworthy, you won’t be allowed to drive it away from the pound.

Instead, you’ll have to arrange a specialist recovery service to collect it and take it to a garage for urgent repairs. It needs to be an approved service – you can’t just ask a mate to tow it for you.

You don’t have to attend the pound with the recovery service – they can do so on your behalf. They’ll advise you on what documents you need to provide to prove they’ve got your permission to collect your vehicle.

While your car is in the garage, you must declare it off-road. Then once it’s passed its MOT, you can get it taxed and insured, and put this whole unhappy episode behind you!

What costs will I incur?

Getting your impounded car back is likely to be a pricey business. You may have to pay one or more of the following:
  • Removal fees (the cost to the authorities of towing your vehicle)
  • Storage fees per day.
  • Any outstanding fines, if that’s why your car has been seized.
  • The cost of an MOT and any repairs.
  • Car tax. Alternatively, you can pay a surety deposit which will be refunded once you pay your tax in full.
  • Insurance, such as temp cover impound insurance arranged by the Insurance Factory.

If you don’t reclaim your vehicle within a certain amount of time, police will dispose of it. If it’s not worth much, they’ll send it to a scrapyard; otherwise, they’ll sell it at auction.

You are entitled to any proceeds from the sale, less any costs incurred. But bear in mind that auction prices are usually much lower than the market value of your vehicle, so you’re unlikely to make a profit.

Read more about police auctions in our recent blog.

Top tips for passing your MOT


Finally, we’ve just got time for a few pointers to avoid this problem ever happening again.
  • Get your car serviced regularly. It means you’ll pick up any problems well before your MOT, so your vehicle is more likely to pass.
  • Pop to the garage as soon as you notice any issues developing. You might be able to nip them in the bud.
  • Set yourself reminders to get your MOT. Put it in your calendar and sign up to the government’s free reminder service.
  • Don’t delay booking your MOT. If you leave it too late, you might find your preferred garage is full.
  • Make sure you don’t fail your MOT on something avoidable. Before you go to the test centre, carry out quick checks on your tyres, lights, windscreen wipers, screenwash levels, and horn.
  • Give your car a clean! It can fail on visibility grounds, such as a dirty windscreen or mirrors.

Many test centres will give you a free retest, so it’s not a disaster if you fail on something that’s quick to remedy.

But they will probably charge you for the cost of the repair. If it’s something you could have done for yourself, such as topping up screenwash, that’s highly frustrating!

Get a quote from the Insurance Factory team today

At the Insurance Factory, we help thousands of motorists like you who’ve had their vehicles seized after making simple errors concerning their MOT.

We understand how stressful this situation is, and we want to help you get back legally on the road once more. But many regular insurance policies won’t cover you for driving your vehicle away from the pound to the MOT test centre.

So we do the legwork for you, searching our panel of trusted specialist insurance providers to find policies to suit your needs and your budget. We can arrange insurance that’s valid for 30 days, giving you time to get your paperwork in order and search for longer term insurance cover.

Call our friendly team for a quote today.