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UK Van drivers face big repair bills for failed MOT tests

We all know that unexpected bills can crop up when we put our vans through the annual MOT test, but just how much do we spend on these unscheduled repairs? According to new data released by Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles almost half of larger (3.0t to 3.5t GVM) vans fail their MOT, and even 1 in 3 of those vans at the lighter end don’t get a pass at the first attempt.

Although specific information isn’t available for the repair costs incurred by vans, data previously obtained by whocanfixmycar.com suggested that car and light van drivers spent an average of £143 in repairs to get that coveted pass certificate. As workshop costs for larger vans are generally quite a bit higher than for lighter vehicles, even adding just 50% to this figure would mean an annual repair bill of well over £200. Let’s also take into account that this is an average, and that vehicles 3 or 4 years old will almost certainly require less expenditure than older vans.

Data from the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) suggests that damaged lights, faulty brakes and unsafe suspension are the most common cause of a failure, all things that are a result of a van that gets worked hard. Other regular reasons for the refusal of a pass certificate are worn or damaged tyres, steering faults and cracked windscreens.

What the data doesn’t tell us is the cost of the downtime incurred. We’ve probably all had that phone call from the garage at 4:00PM (the one we had hoped would be to tell us that the vehicle had passed and was ready for collection) to say that there were various failure items and that the vehicle wouldn’t be fixed until the end of the following day. You’ve got work booked on that day – the garage doesn't have a suitable courtesy vehicle and so you’ve the choice of an expensive hire van (if it’s available) or cancelling a second day's work with not only the financial impact but also the knock on effect that this has.

How do you reduce not only the cost of the repairs but also consequential expenses such as lost work? Regular, scheduled servicing will keep your van in tip top condition, and your garage will give you early warning of any components which might need replacing prior to the MOT. Armed with this knowledge, if the workshop can’t carry out the repair that day, then providing there’s no safety issue or imminent breakdown likely, you can rebook the vehicle in at your convenience, perhaps on a day where you don’t need the van for work. 

Don’t wait for a failed MOT to tell you that your tyres are illegal. Not only is it unsafe to drive around on damaged tyres or those with insufficient tread, you’re not going to be in a position to shop around for the cheapest (but of a reputable brand) replacement rubber unless you’re going to take the van away and arrange for a retest. It’s not recommended and possibly not legal either. Although many garages are reasonably competitive with the price of tyres, you’re not going to be in a great place to haggle.

The older your van gets, the more likely that it’s going to need expensive MOT repairs. The vast majority of vans don’t require one until the vehicle's third birthday so by changing your van every 3 or 4 years, you’ll greatly reduce the risk of a pricey pass certificate. Leasing a new van from Vanarama might just be the answer, with low initial and monthly payments you can set the term so that you’ll rarely need to worry about the test. Check out our latest lease deals here.

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