Thursday, 12 June 2008

Cheap MOT Test Dilemma

My VW Golf up on the ramp during the MOT inspection

The annual MOT test for my VW seems to come round quicker than Christmas. I've been taking my car, and the one before it, to the same testing station for years - at least ten. The first time I went they were doing a deal and as they seemed to sell cheap used cars rather than repair them I figured they wouldn't try and hit me with a big repair bill instead of simply passing the car (if it was OK).We've all heard the horror stories of unnecessary repairs to pass an MOT.

This year, when I phoned to book, my local wasn't offering any MOT discounts - judging by the current stock these are sticky times in the second hand motor trade and as you'll see from the photo this isn't a high end place. So the MOT would cost £50 (the full official fee is £50.35)

The absence of discount left me with a dilemma - should I try somewhere new? Nationwide Autocentres are offering 33% discount - an MOT for £33.77

When I googled for feedback on this chain I was disappointed to discover high levels of disgruntled user feedback. Now of course interweb reviewers are self-selecting and much more likely to report negative than positive experiences. But the number of customers reporting problems - like hefty repair quotes to pass - was too great for a £16 saving.

So next I go into my annual ritual of preparing the car for its MOT. It's regularly serviced and maintained but - a bit like a trip to the dentist - I fear something unexpected will crop up. So I wash and polish the car and vacuum inside. I check the wipers and the tyres. The rear wiper is split, so I decide to do something I've never done before and buy a cheap replacement from the £1 shop - after all its only the rubber bit I need. The saving is enormously disproportionate to the amount of satisfaction I feel after sabotaging the rubber blade and fixing it to the old wiper arm. The car gleams as I drive it to the testing station. 45 minutes later and I have the certificate.

The tester tells me he's having some bathroom tiles fitted at home today. 'Guess how much the tiler charges? Sixty quid an hour! Can you believe it - that's two grand a week! Course he's not charging me that, cos I walk his dog when he's away.'

As I hand over my £50 for the 45 minute MOT I don't like to point out it works out to an hourly rate of £67 - after all he's not the guvnor - and the ramps and testing equipment are more costly to run than a diamond wheel tile cutter.

Incidentally, while writing this post I found this website with great advice to help you pass the MOT - without having to wash and vacuum the car! But checking the wipers and tyres is however top of the list. There's also a helpful pie-chart showing what most MOT failures are due to (lighting and signalling 23% and brakes 23%, suspension 18%). Please note, none of these potential failures are prevented by polishing or vacuuming...

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