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Running a car

What’s the difference between a service and an MOT?

They're both things you have to get done at a garage and cost you a lump of cash. What's the difference?

What a car service is for:

A service is an inspection of all the parts of your car: lights, engine, brakes, suspension, the lot. It's to make sure your car is in good working condition between MOTs, which are a legal requirement.

It's recommended that you have a regular service in line with the manufacturer's recommendation - once a year is pretty normal but you might not need a full service every time.

Find out more about what gets checked in a car service.

What an MOT is for:

The MOT is an inspection set by the government (a department called VOSA), so every MOT is the same for every car. The car has to pass minimum standards for safety and emissions once a year, or the government says it's not roadworthy.

The MOT is a visual test: the tester doesn't take anything apart - even the wheels stay on.

The MOT is a legal requirement and driving your car without an MOT can make your insurance invalid.

So why do I need a service and an MOT every year?

You're probably seeing a bit of cross over between the 2 inspections but there is a very good reason for needing a service and an MOT each year.

As the MOT only checks off the list of the government's minimum safety standards at the time of the test, it doesn't mean your car is running at the top of its game and will continue to do so for the next year. Because it's a visual test, it also doesn't get into all the nooks and crannies.

A service tells you your car is in good condition for another year on the road, and can be tailored to what your car needs. You can have everything from brakes to heated seats checked, meaning you know your car is keeping its value and running real nice.

But do you REALLY need a service? Find out.


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Honor joined ingenie in 2014 and is in charge of words on the Young Driver's Guide and blog. Her first car is a Peugeot 206 cabriolet, which is a very sensible choice for the British climate. Follow her on .