1978 MoT Exemption – Good Idea, or Problems for Classic Insurance Sector?

The revision of the rolling exemption rule for MOT tests on “historic vehicles” has not caused a huge stir in the insurance world. Is this because there is no impact anticipated or because it is too early to tell if the self-management of roadworthiness will give rise to problems in the event of a claim?

Lee Jones, managing director of www.freemotorlegal.co.uk offers his views on the subject, in this Insurance-Edge.Net comment piece;

ford classic insurance new rules
Many older classic cars won’t be affected by the MoT rule changes, as they’re pre-1960.

The current rules mean cars registered before 1960 do not need an MoT but a new 40-year-old rolling period will be effective from May 2018, resulting in classic cars and motorcycles manufactured before 1978 being exempt from an annual test to check if they are roadworthy. An exception being they are not used for commercial gain or substantially altered since manufactured.

In a nutshell, this means historic vehicles used in films and TV work, or customised cars, including kit cars, will need an MoT test.

Currently the 1960 rule accounts for approximately 197,000 cars on UK roads. The new rules would exempt a further 293,000 cars from MOTs. This is still small beans in the overall scope whereby historic vehicles make up only 0.6% of cars on the road and they are only involved in 0.03% of road casualties according to DOT stats.

Generally, classic vehicles cover low mileages and are owned by more mature drivers, who aren’t using the vehicles for regular commuting. But placing the burden of checking for and interpreting roadworthiness on the owners, rather than have a compulsory test, may give rise to vehicles being involved in accidents, with potentially fatal consequences.

triumph trident T160 1
An early 1970s Triumph Trident T160 will not NOT need an MoT – but would you ride without a checkover once a year?

It is not unheard of for classic vehicles to be in excellent condition cosmetically, yet hide a multitude of sins underneath, such as chassis corrosion, steering faults or brake problems. The Road Traffic Act still requires that vehicles be in a good, safe condition, so it won’t turn into the Wild West out there. But there will be inevitable cases where a `light touch’ in terms of maintenance results in an accident.

On the upside accident data on pre-1960 vehicles has NOT shown any increase since the exemption was introduced. So in theory, these latest changes should not affect things too much. But insurers may investigate claims where the condition of the vehicle gives cause for concern that maintenance – or the lack of it – was a factor. This could mean a refusal of indemnity, or recovery action against an owner.

ford granada

The bottom line is that insurers will need to stress the owner’s obligation to keep any classic vehicle in a roadworthy condition, regardless of the MoT exemption. This comes down to appropriate wording within policies, especially the T&Cs.

Will this lead to drastic changes within classic insurance, such as ratings groupings? Unlikely, unless history proves otherwise.

classic kawa Z1 detail
Most classic bike owners will want to know their machine is safe at a potential 130mph


Is it safe to allow users of 130mph vehicles on the roads without an MoT check – that’s the big question here.

There is a world of difference between the performance of the typical £5000 classic motorcycle, or £10K classic car, when comparing 1950s performance and 1970s. Here are some examples below;

1959 Triumph Speed Twin 500 

27 bhp twin, Top speed: 90mph. 0-60 in 9.5 seconds.

1973 Kawasaki Z1 900

70 bhp, top speed 130mph, 0-60 in 5.3 seconds

1958 Triumph TR3 two seater

95 bhp, 105mph, 0-60 in 12 seconds

1973 Lotus Europa 1.6

126 bhp, 127 mph, 0-60 in 6.6 seconds.

What do you think – is a rolling exemption a step too far, what happens when we get to the 1980s and things like the Audi Quattro, or 150mph Kawasaki GPZ900 don’t require an MoT test?





About alastair walker 10959 Articles
20 years experience as a journalist and magazine editor. I'm your contact for press releases, events, news and commercial opportunities at Insurance-Edge.Net

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