A consultation has begun to investigate changing the date at which new cars take their first MOT, from three years to four years.

The Department for Transport has launched the consultation with a view to making the changes in the MOT rules for light vehicles. The government says that most new cars pass their MOT after three years, and that the changes will not impact road safety. There has been a mixed response to the news from road safety campaigners and road user organisations.

"The MOT plays a vital role in ensuring that vehicles on our roads are safe and well maintained, and while not a formal recommendation, we totally oppose any change from an annual MOT,” said Edmund King, president of the AA. “Last year, 83% of drivers said that the annual MOT was ‘very important’ for keeping our cars and roads as safe as possible, which highlights why an annual MOT must remain in place.”

“With one in 10 cars failing their first MOT, we strongly discourage the government from extending a car's first MOT to the fourth anniversary due to road safety concerns,” said Mr King.

In a survey the RAC conducted last year, 55% of people thought that a proposal to have MOTs every two years for cars more than three years old was a bad idea.

The RAC’s head of roads policy, Nicholas Lyes, said: “While we’re not opposed to delaying a new vehicle’s first MOT, we believe there should be a requirement for particularly high mileage vehicles to be tested sooner. If the Government is looking to improve the MOT, now is the ideal time to take into account how much a vehicle is driven, alongside the number of years it’s been on the road.”

The DfT has said that any changes will have road safety as their first concern. In many countries across Europe vehicles receive their first MOT four years after registration, and the government is looking at ways to adapt the MOT so it can monitor the environmental efficiency of vehicles more effectively.