MOT in km and miles?

Wondering what to do about odometer readings on the MOT in km and miles? Trying to avoid a messy odometer history on your Japanese import vehicle? Hopefully this will clarify a few things for you.

I’ve been inspired to write this article by numerous forum / Facebook posts from owners of imported Japanese vehicles. There are a few common themes:

  • “The MOT tester has recorded the odometer reading in miles….but the car is in kilometres.”
    • “They won’t change it.”
    • “They say they can’t record it in km.”
  • “The MOT history has a mixture of kilometres and miles.”

This article is my response to these comments.

What is the MOT test?

Let’s start with the basics: MOT stands for ‘Ministry of Transport’ and is the name given to the annual roadworthiness inspection for vehicles over 3 years old in the UK. Once the test has been passed, a certificate is given to the vehicle owner. I’ve written MOT-related matters here, here and here.

The odometer reading is shown on the certificate and this can be a useful means of verifying the ‘mileage’ of a vehicle.

When a MOT test certificate is issued, it is also recorded online with the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA).

The MOT tester has the option of recording the odometer reading in kilometres or miles. The vast majority of the cars they test will have an odometer reading in miles, so it is easy to forget to change it to km when testing a vehicle imported from Japan.

Why are we bothered about a MOT in km and miles?

There are a lot of Japanese import vehicles with an odometer reading in kilometres but the MOT certificate showing miles. There hasn’t been any conversion factor applid: the numbers match but the units do not.

A mile is equivalent to about 1.6 kilometres, so recording an odometer reading as miles when it is actually kilometres can ‘add’ a whole lot of unnecessary (and untravelled) distance to the vehicle. This can in turn create uncertainty about the vehicle’s history in the mind of a prospective purchaser.

It may not be so much of an issue where there is a single reading in miles amongst many others, all of which are in km. In this situation it is easy to view the miles reading as an error. But where the odometer readings start in km and then switch to miles, without any solid evidence of odometer conversion, the picture becomes less clear.

Another common situation is that recording the odometer reading in miles becomes the norm. In that situation a few readings in km amongst all the readings in miles also stand out and look like errors, even though they are the correct readings.

Here is an example from a vehicle I encountered recently. This is a chart showing the odometer readings each year from the MOT. This one had been in the country for a while, so there were plenty of data points. All of the blue bars were MOTs recorded in miles and the red in km.

Odometer readings recorded on MOT certificate. The blue bars were in miles and the red in km.

When running a pre-purchase vehicle check, the red bars are flagged as potential discrepancies as they are in km when everything else is in miles. BUT…the odometer on this vehicle had been recording in km all the time. The speedometer had been converted to read in mph using a replacement dial face, so the odometer continued to record distance in km. However, as the majority of the readings are in miles, it appears that the miles readings are correct and the km incorrect, even though the opposite is true.

Looking at the record from 2018, this is showing an odometer reading of 214000 miles, but the actual reading was 214000 kilometres. This is actually only 133000 miles, a difference of 81000 miles! Hence we see that inaccurate MOT certificates have ‘added’ 81000 miles to our Japanese import vehicle.

I think it’s advisable to do what we can to make sure the odometer reading is accurate on every MOT test certificate.

How to fix the MOT in km and miles problem

The best way, in my opinion, is to check your MOT certificate before you pay for the test. I know from experience this is easier said than done! It’s easy to feel so pleased your car has passed the test, that you forget to check the details on the certificate before leaving.

If your MOT tester says they can’t record the odometer reading in kilometres (and I have encountered several people who’ve been told this), that just isn’t correct. You could either take your business elsewhere or try to work with them to change their viewpoint, depending on how much you value their services overall.

The MOT certificate can be changed

A lot of people seem to have been told that once the certificate has been issued, it cannot be changed. This is not true either. The certificate can be taken back to the test centre for amendment within 28 days of the test. Amendments are still possible after the 28 day period, but you’ll need to contact the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) directly.

Summary

I hope this has raised awareness of the issue and provided some ideas on dealing with incorrect odometer readings on MOT certificates. It is best dealt with at the time of the test, but I appreciate that isn’t always possible.

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