The NCT (National Car Testing) was first introduced to Ireland in 2000 as a roadworthiness and safety test. The test checks tyres, headlamps, safety belts, the engine’s emissions, the brakes, and the suspension among many other car functions. It’s a rigorous and comprehensive test but does not replace getting the car serviced regularly. We are required by law to have an up-to-date NCT on all cars over 4 years old. But this year, reports of long delays in booking NCT test appointments have caused concern for Irish motorists.
According to the Road Safety Authority, The average wait time for an NCT is 27 days, but many drivers are reporting delays with online booking where no test can be offered for the next four or even six months. This has caused outrage, dismay and a high degree of worry amongst motorists. It’s a nuisance for anyone wishing to trade in a car needing a test to increase its value. More importantly, there is some concern for the ramification, legally and insurance-wise, of not having a current NCT. What does an outdated NCT mean for the Irish driver and is there anything that can be done to secure an earlier test?
All cars will require their first NCT on the fourth anniversary of their first registration. So, if you buy a new car in January 2023, it won’t need an NCT until January 2027. Then it will need an NCT every two years until it’s ten years old. Once your car is ten years old or older, it needs an NCT every year. It is against the law to drive a car without an NCT. The regulations state:
“It is an offence to drive a vehicle in a public place without a current NCT certificate. This applies to vehicles from the fourth anniversary of their first registration. The initial fixed charge amount is €60 (increasing to €90 if you do not pay within 28 days) and you will also get three penalty points.”
Thankfully, the Gardai are allowing a certain amount of leniency because of the delays in accessing test times and were quoted in the Irish Times newspaper as saying:
“Where a vehicle is detected without a valid NCT certificate and the driver is able to produce evidence of a date for a test having been scheduled, a Garda will take this evidence into consideration.”
If you are concerned about being stopped and are waiting for a test, check out the last paragraph here on how to get the test pushed forward and carry a copy of your pre-booked test to show the officer.
It is not necessary to have your NCT up to date in order to tax your car. You can pay as normal even if the National Car Test is delayed.
Technically, if you are driving without a valid NCT certificate your insurance may not be valid. The insurance companies are taking a sensible line on this and keeping cover for those who, through no fault of their own, have been unable to obtain an NCT because of a backlog at test centers. We are all still expected to keep our cars in good condition. There have, however, been reports of motorists refused breakdown cover aligned to their car insurance, when their NCT is out of date. This means roadside assistance for punctures etc. may be useless to you until the NCT has been updated.
Booking through the online system for an NCT test has long been the preferred option for motorists and for the RSA. Many motorists do not realise that although this is a simple and easy option, it is unlikely to yield the earliest booking date. The online bookings only offer about a third of the appointments which may be available in each centre. Two to three weeks later, as staff schedules are confirmed, the centre release more test appointments. These are allocated to those who phone in and who fill in the cancellation or priority option. If the testing center is not offering a test within a reasonable time, you can opt for a cancellation or to place your car on this priority list. The Swiss company, Applus, who run the NCT testing centres on behalf of the Irish Government and the Road Safety Authority (RSA), claim that you will get a test within 4 weeks if you take this course of action. There Is a backlog of cars awaiting tests in each centre now and depending on where you live, there may still be long delays. It is possible to get your car tested in any centre in the country, so it might be useful to look at neighbouring counties. A full breakdown of the waiting times for each county can be seen here. In case you are wondering, Longford are currently showing a 22.39 day wait. It is not ideal, but it is a lot better than a six-month lead time.
It is hoped that the delay in NCT testing will be sorted in the next few months, but in the meantime, keep your scheduled services up to date. When you do finally get that booked appointment and the car passes the test, you should note that the date of your next test will not be one year ahead, but remains as the original date on the certificate. The wisest thing to do at that point might be to book next year’s test in advance.
Here at Peter Hanley Motors, we offer pre-NCT servicing, to increase the likelihood of a pass when your special day for an NCT rolls round. Book your car service here.