The MoT Files - the full story

Finding out how a particular make or model of car performs in its MoT should be easy. After all, every car owner takes their vehicle for an annual MoT, a certificate of roadworthiness that is issued by the Vehicle Operator and Service Agency or VOSA as it’s more commonly known. There are more than 31 million vehicles on UK roads and each one that’s more than three years old requires an MoT.

Knowing which cars pass and which ones don’t, along with the reasons for those cars failing is incredibly useful. But up until now VOSA has declined to supply this information to the public, even though it ultimately belongs to us, the public. After all, these are our cars that are being tested.

Fortunately that changed when the Conservative Party came to power in May 2010. It promised to make Government data more accessible to the public and eventually VOSA’s refusal to disclose this data was overturned. It means we were able to access more than 355m records and 200m MoTs - all those since the system was computerised in 2006. This was the basis for the MoT Files.

The findings make for very interesting reading. The big fact that will surprise many is that 20 per cent of cars registered in 2008 failed their first MoT in 2011. There are a variety of reasons why a car might fail its MoT and it’s as much down to the individual owners and regular maintenance as it is to the durability of the car in question. But even with that in mind, this is a significant proportion. With an MoT now costing almost £55 it’s a huge sum of money lost too.

There’s a range of reasons why they failed from lighting and signalling – blown number plate lights are a favourite – to wipers and tyres. It’s all fairly straightforward and obvious but it appears that plenty of owners aren’t checking these things or simply don’t expect them to fail or be worn after three years.

It’s important to remember that this is not a reliability survey. JD Power and the like do a very good job of collating that kind of information. Instead the MoT Files relies on actual data from the very cars that our currently on our roads. That said, it’s safe to say that there’s a correlation between the build quality of a car and how likely it is to pass its MoT. Indeed there are definite trends emerging.

As with many reliability and customer satisfaction surveys it’s the Japanese makes that perform the strongest. Of the volume brands (so not taking into account the likes of Rolls Royce and Ferrari) it’s Lexus that leads the way with an overall pass rate of 75 per cent with Toyota and Honda not far behind. There are some surprises though with Chevrolet performing well and along with Jaguar with 70 per cent of cars passing their MoT.

And down the bottom? Well there are fewer surprises here. It’s dominated by French brands with Renault the worst performer – a pass rate of just 50 per cent is poor whichever way you look at it. Peugeot and Citroen fare little better and other usual suspects include Fiat and Vauxhall. The performance of Swedish brand Volvo raised a few eyebrows though with a pass rate of only 57.4 per cent, less than the likes of Ford and Volkswagen. We expected it to be considerably higher given the typical Volvo owner.

When it came to analysing individual models we set a minimum of 2000 MoTs per year. Otherwise the results would be dominated by high end cars like Aston Martins and Bentleys of which you’d expect a high success rate given their price tag and the fact that their owners, you’d imagine, take great care of them.

So of the volume models it was the 2008 Suzuki Splash that was the best performer with a success rate of 90 per cent. It’s a very impressive result which reflects the hard work Suzuki has put into its dealer network, especially when it comes to regular contact with their customers. At the other end of the scale the worst performing car is the 2000 Fiat Multipla with a woeful pass rate of just 33 per cent. The figures speak for themselves.

There’s a huge amount of data in the MoT Files but we hope we’ve interpreted and presented it in a way that makes it easy to digest. What we are publishing for the first time goes into more detail than ever, showing makes and models going back to 1980, information about tests in 118 postcode areas and how mileage affects the MoT test. Hopefully it means car owners will be better prepared when it comes taking their car for an MoT and helps potential buyers to see what cars are more likely to pass first time.


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