Compulsory car testing was introduced in Ireland in January 2000 as part of an EU Directive that makes car testing compulsory in all member states. It is an offence to drive a car that is liable for testing without displaying a National Car Testing Service disc and offenders will face Class C fines, as well as penalty points.
The test is called the National Car Test and is carried out on behalf of the Government by the National Car Testing Service Ltd (NCTS). The NCTS is independent of the garage and motor trades and doesn't benefit if your car passes or fails. The test is aimed at improving road safety and enhancing environmental protection. You can view the national monthly update of NCT pass/fail rates here.
The central testing operation is based in Citywest Business Campus, outside Dublin, with 46 operating centres nationwide. The testing procedure is computer controlled and highly automated and provides maximum test security and accuracy.
The test cover among other things: brakes; exhaust emission; wheels and tyres; lights; steering and suspension; chassis and underbody; electrical systems; glass and mirrors; transmission; interior and fuel system.
Minor things such as broken windscreen wipers, wing mirrors or indicators will fail you just as easily as high emission levels, faulty steering or bad brakes. The single largest categories for car failures are problems with headlights, emissions and brakes. A pass certificate or a failure report is issued after the test and if the car fails, the report explains why and what needs to be done.
The National Car Test Manual (pdf) is available on the NCT website
The NCTS recommends that you prepare for the test by ensuring that:
If you do get your car serviced, the NCTS advises that special attention is paid to the most common failure points:
Since 2002 onwards, all cars 4 years and over are tested. Vehicles that pass the test will have to undergo repeat tests every 2 years. Since June 2011, cars over 10 years old are tested each year.
Since 28 July 2014, you can submit your vehicle voluntarily for the test any time before the test due date and receive an NCT certificate which is valid for 1 or 2 years (depending on the age of the car) from the date of the test.
You must bring your vehicle registration/licensing certificate with you to the test centre. You are also required to produce your driving licence or passport as identification.
Since January 2010, vehicles registered before January 1980 are not required to be tested.
Cars permanently based on islands that are not connected to the mainland by road do not have to be tested.
In the case of car-vans that have their rear side-windows blocked off, you should contact the Road Safety Authority (Tel: 091 872 600) for further information.
Vehicles imported to Ireland from outside the State (including Northern Ireland) must also go through the NCT once the vehicle is 4 years old or more. This applies even if the vehicle previously received an MOT or any other vehicle test abroad. If the imported vehicle is already 4 years old or more when imported, it must go through the NCT immediately. For more information about the NCT and imported cars contact the NCT Customer Services Department on 1890 200 670.
Read more about importing a vehicle into Ireland here.
If you are dissatisfied with the test result you may appeal it through the NCTS appeal process. You must appeal within 7 days of the date of the original test. To make an appeal, obtain an Appeals form, from the test centre or from the NCTS Customer Service Department.
Complete all relevant sections of the form, giving details of the reason(s) why you feel you should not have been refused a test certificate. Forward the completed form, to the NCT Customer Service Department at the address below (see 'Where to apply'). You will then be offered another test in the testing centre but you have to pay the full test fee. If your car passes the second test, you fee will be refunded.
The test costs €55 and takes between 40 minutes - 1 hour to conduct. It involves approximately 60 different checks (pdf), which will be carried out both by computer and manually.
According to the NCTS Customer Charter if you request an NCT appointment within 4 weeks and it cannot be provided, you are entitled to have the test carried out for free.
If your car fails the test, you must book a re-test within 21 days and the re-test must be completed within 30 days of the original test. A re-test costs €28. Re-tests that do not require the use of test equipment are free. (Free re-tests include minor visual items such as the replacement of a windscreen wiper).
If you cancel your confirmed appointment with less than 5 working days notice (Monday-Friday, not including the day of the test) or if you do not turn up for your test, you will be charged an extra €22 (on top of the usual fee) when you next bring your vehicle for testing.
If you lose or misplace your NCT certificate, you can obtain a replacement by filling out an application form. Call into your local Garda station and obtain form RF134 (pdf). You must complete the form and it must be stamped and signed by the Gardai. Send the form, your windscreen disk or NCT certificate (whichever part you still hold) and a bank draft or postal order for €15.50, payable to Applus Car Testing Service Ltd., to the Test Certificate Administrator at the address below (see 'Where to apply').
If you wish to obtain a replacement NCT report, simply write to the Test Certificate Administrator at the address below with details of your car registration, make and model of the vehicle and your own details together with a bank draft or postal order for €15.50 payable to Applus Car Testing Service Ltd.
If your car is eligible for the NCT test you can
NCTS may offer you a provisional appointment at a nearby test centre or invite you to arrange your own NCT appointment. If the provisional appointment suits you or if you wish to re-arrange the time, date or test centre you must contact NCTS.
When you get your notification SMS, email or letter, you must contact NCTS to confirm, rearrange or cancel your booking. After you contact NCTS confirming or re-arranging your provisional appointment, you will receive a 'Confirmation of Appointment' letter. Confirm, cancel or rearrange your booking online here.
If the NCTS have not heard from you 14 days before the provisional appointment date, your test will be cancelled automatically and made available to other customers.
You may cancel or re-arrange your confirmed appointment by giving five working days notice (Mon-Fri). If you cancel or re-arrange your appointment giving less than 5 days notice (Mon-Fri), you will be charged an additional fee of €22.
Applications by post should be sent to the address below. You can book/confirm/cancel your test interactively online, through the link above. Enquiries about bookings can be forwarded to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Enquiries about the NCT test can be made by email to email@example.com.
If you have a question relating to this topic you can contact the Citizens Information Phone Service on 0761 07 4000 (Monday to Friday, 9am to 8pm) or you can visit your local Citizens Information Centre.