Most vehicles that have had their 40th birthday will become exempt from MOT testing and vehicle tax.
Here’s some helpful advice on whether your classic will qualify, how to go about declaring a Vehicle of Historical Interest and guidance on if your motor is “substantially changed”.
Classic cars that were registered 40 years ago and earlier may no longer have to undergo the annual roadworthiness test if they are declared to the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) as a historical vehicle.
This MOT exemption is on a rolling basis, for instance in 2018, cars registered in 1978 or earlier can apply for Vehicle of Historical Interest (VHI) status.
As well as becoming tax and MOT exempt, registering your vehicle for the historic tax class can also help when it comes to driving in Ultra Low Emission Zones. The cameras should detect your numberplate and automatically understand that your vehicle is exempt from the ULEZ charge.
For more information on this, visit our guide When does a classic car or bike become MOT exempt?
To declare your car or motorcycle as a Vehicle of Historic Interest, MOT exempt and tax exempt, you need to apply at a Post Office with:
But remember, just because your vehicle has passed the big 4-0, doesn’t mean it automatically becomes exempt. The responsibility to ensure that your vehicle meets the criteria lies with you, and so it’s important that you make sure your vehicle is not exempt from the new rules.
This can include consulting an expert on your particular marque, or a specialist in historic vehicles.
Knowing the exclusions that apply to the new rules is essential. These exceptions are:
Even if your classic car or bike meets the criteria for MOT exclusion and is declared as a VHI, you must still ensure your vehicle is taxed when on a public road – whether it’s parked or being driven.
You are required to declare that your vehicle is MOT exempt when you apply to the DVLA for your Vehicle Excise Duty (road tax) each year.
If your car or bike has a current MOT certificate but is likely to expire within the year, and will then fall under the new rules for exemption from future MOTs, at the time of relicensing you’re required to declare that the vehicle is a VHI.
If a VHI is deemed to have changed considerably from its original spec then it may still require a roadworthiness test, even if it meets the age criteria for exemption.
The definition of “substantially changed” is if the technical characteristics of the vehicle’s main components have changed in the previous 30 years.
If the engine has been changed to one that is different from its original, this is considered a substantial change. One way of identifying this is if the number of cylinders in an engine is different from the original. However, if it is the same basic engine with alternative cubic capacities then these are not considered a substantial change.
Chassis or Monocoque Bodyshell
This includes any sub-frames. However, replacements of the same pattern as the original are not considered a substantial change.
Axles and Running Gear
If the type and or method of suspension or steering is altered then this constitutes a substantial change.
Unless they have been kept in pristine condition, the age of many classic cars means they will usually have undergone some work to bring them to a roadworthy standard.
In addition to the Historical Vehicles class, there are other exemptions from full or part MOT testing.
For instance, steam-powered vehicles are fully exempt and all spark ignition (petrol) vehicles over 3.5 tonnes are not required to undergo the metered check in the test.
If a heavy goods vehicle weighing more than 3.5 tonnes was first used before 1960 and used unladen, it will be exempt from testing, providing it has not been substantially changed.
However, some pre-1960 large goods vehicles will require goods vehicle tests. If they have never been tested, owners will need to apply for a first test using a VTG1 application form.
If you require more guidance, the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency can provide advice over the phone and via email.