What to do if your NCT is out of date

As the NCT continues to be hit with delays, there are many question marks over where this leaves us with our insurance provider or the authorities.

The delays surrounding the National Car Test Service (NCTS) have dominated the news waves over the past week or so. 

There have been delays in every test centre around the country, with reports suggesting that 60% of the 49 test centres around the country have no appointments until June. 

This has left many motorists wondering how this will impact their car insurance premiums and their ability to drive on Irish roads legally. 

What has caused NCT delays?

This is actually a problem that has been going on for the past year or so, and like so many issues it arises from COVID related backlogs. 

A lack of trained mechanics, increased demand and a reduction in the size of the workforce have all come together to present this latest difficulty. 

The NCTS is run by Spanish group Applus, which recently signed a 10-year, €800 million deal to continue running the NCT test centres. Recently, it has recruited mechanics from Spain and The Philippines to help plug the gaps, but delays still remain. 

But, what are the ramifications for our  insurance if our vehicle is due an updated NCT certification but cannot book an appointment? 

And, how will we be affected if we are stopped by the Gardaí with an out-of-date NCT? 

How will your insurance be affected? 

Obviously, one of the areas that can really be impacted by an out-of-date NCT is our insurance premium.  

Ordinarily, insurance companies won’t cover a car that doesn’t have a valid NCT disc. It is also an offence under Irish law to drive a car that is due a visit to the NCT. 

However, due to the increasingly long wait times there has been generous leeway given by insurance companies and road traffic authorities alike. 

Insurance Ireland, the main representative lobby for insurance companies in Ireland, said in a statement to bonkers.ie: 

Insurance Ireland members will be pragmatic and understanding in their approach to the current delays at the National Car Testing Service (NCTS). Cover will continue to be provided where customers, through no fault of their own, are unable to obtain their NCT due to backlogs at test centres. Motor insurance and road traffic legislation require that motorists maintain their vehicles in a roadworthy condition at all times and this remains the case. 

Under the current circumstances, provided motorists make every effort to book appointments in the normal way, insurance companies will recognise that the current issue is not the fault of the customer. Motorists should keep evidence of their appointment booking.”

Insurance companies have experience with this, as they agreed to honour a four-month extension to NCT renewal dates due to the Covid-19 pandemic. 

Some insurance companies have suggested to obtain a road-worthiness check from a mechanic in the event of a long NCT wait - this covers any driver with an out-of-date NCT. 

So, a customer’s current insurance policy is likely to be unaffected by the NCT delays, but what happens when you attempt to switch providers? 

How can you switch insurance without NCT?

This is where it gets a bit tricky. 

If you are looking to switch your car insurance, your new prospective insurer will look up your details in the national database, and will check if you are up-to-date with your car tax and NCT. 

Insurers could refuse to quote a customer whose NCT or car tax is out by a certain threshold, which is usually over six months. 

In the case of this, customers are advised to book the earliest available NCT date, even if it may be a number of months in the future. 

Then, a customer should ring the insurer directly to make them aware of the fact that they have an NCT appointment booked, upon which the ‘pragmatic and understanding’ approach mentioned by Insurance Ireland should prevail. 

If you’ve been denied car insurance, find out what your next step is here.

What happens if you’re stopped by the Gardaí without a valid NCT? 

What can be very worrisome to drivers is the potential for penalty points or fines without a valid NCT. This can not only increase a driver’s insurance premium but also potentially blemish their record for years to come. 

However, the current wait times have been taken into consideration within the Garda’s response. 

In a statement, An Garda Síochána said that: 

  • While it “is a legal requirement” for a car four years or older to have a valid NCT, members of An Garda will be aware of the delays with the NCT.
  • If a motorist is stopped without a valid NCT certificate and with no test date or place on the priority list the “driver may be prosecuted for not having a valid NCT certificate” and may have their vehicle seized.
  • If a vehicle doesn’t have a valid NCT certificate but do have a test date or a place on the priority list, the Garda will “take this into consideration when deciding on the appropriate course of action”. 

So, while the waits may be long, it is important to still have a test date booked to ensure that you aren’t prosecuted. 

This showcases the difference between policy and procedure with road authorities - while it is a legal requirement to hold a valid NCT, outside forces can prevent a large number of drivers from achieving this. If the policy was followed to the full extent of the law, there would be tens of thousands of motorists with road traffic citations. 

On an FAQ document on the NCTS website, the company gives some guidelines on how to interact with the authorities when a test is booked or a customer is on a priority list.

“Customers are advised to keep a copy of their confirmation letter/email with them in order to present it to a member of An Garda Síochána, if required. This letter/email will clearly show that the customer has a confirmed booking or is on the current Priority list waiting for an appointment. 

Where a vehicle is detected without a valid NCT certificate and the driver can produce evidence of a date for a test having been scheduled, a Garda will take this evidence into consideration.”

Just bear in mind that it’s a legal requirement for drivers to keep their vehicle in a road-worthy condition, regardless of their NCT disk. If there’s a glaring issue with your car that endangers other drivers, long NCT wait times are unlikely to be your saving grace and may end up with serious consequences.

Is there any way of getting a quicker NCT appointment?

If you need your NCT disk quickly, there are a few ways of skipping the queue. 

A handy way is the priority list. To get on this list, a customer can: 

  • Contact the NCTS directly through phone on 01 4135992 
  • Or they can go on ncts.ie, where the online option is available at the bottom of the screen after you input your vehicle registration number.

The NCTS state that only ⅓ of the tests available for future dates are shown online, as the other ⅔ of times are available two weeks prior, when it knows how many staff are available. 

As such, being on the priority list can cut your waiting time significantly. The company says that it will ‘endeavour to provide you an appointment within 4 weeks’ of going on the priority list. 

You can also ring the NCT directly and see if it has any cancellations coming up in the next two weeks.

Another option might be a bit impractical, but works if you’re in a bit of a pinch.

Different test centres around the country have different wait times, so if you can find a test centre with a shorter wait time, you can always take the road trip to perform your test there. 

Obviously, this can’t work for everyone. Depending on distance, this can cost significantly more in fuel costs and may necessitate the need for an overnight stay. 

On a different note, the NCTS website says that if a customer can't obtain an NCT appointment within 28 days, then they're due a refund of their €55 fee for the test. However, despite public and political calls for this, there have been no refunds given by the NCTS for these delays.

Booking a driving test without a valid NCT

For those looking to get on the journey of independent driving, an out-of-date NCT could be a cause for concern. 

Earlier in the week, driving testers raised concerns following the Road Safety Authority’s (RSA) decision to relax the need for drivers to have a valid NCT before a test. 

However, the RSA only covers drivers who are under 3 months out-of-date with their NCT, so prospective drivers are at a bit more of a disadvantage compared to full licence holders. 

As such, the guidance is that if you have a driving test coming up and your NCT ran out over three months ago, you should book an NCT test in the future and reschedule your driving test through the MyRoadSafety portal. 

If your NCT ran out under three months ago, you should bring your evidence of an NCT appointment in the future to your test, or else your test will be cancelled and you will lose your fee. 

Bear in mind that your driving tester will perform a check of your car before the test, and may cancel if they deem that your car is in an unsafe condition for the roads. 

Find out more about car insurance

We have a number of helpful guides and articles that can help you learn more about the ins-and-outs of your car insurance. 

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