National Car Test
The test is called the National Car Test. It is carried out by the National Car Testing Service Ltd (NCTS). The test aims to improve road safety and enhance environmental protection. You can view NCT pass/fail rates.
If your car is 4 years or older, it must take a test. How regularly you repeat the test depends on the age of your car. You must repeat the test:
- Every 2 years, if your car is over 4 years old and less than 10 years old
- Every year, if your car is over 10 years but less than 30 years old
- Every 2 years, if your car is between 30 and 39 years old and you are not using it for commercial purposes
The person taking the car to the NCT must bring the cars vehicle registration or licensing certificate to the test centre. They must also bring their driving licence or Public Services Card (PSC) as identification.
Delays getting NCT certificates
There are delays with the NCT, which means you might not get your NCT appointment on time. If you cannot get your NCT because of these delays, in most cases your insurance cover will continue to be provided. You must have tried to book an appointment in the normal way for this to apply.
Insurance Ireland has stated that insurance companies should be understanding if you can’t get an NCT appointment, due to backlogs at NCT test centres. However, you must always keep your vehicle in a roadworthy condition under motor insurance and road traffic legislation, which is still the case. If you want to know more about this, you should contact your insurance company about your policy.
Format of the NCT test
NCTS has a network of operating centres nationwide. You must bring your car to one of these test centres to take the test.
The test looks at:
- Exhaust emissions
- Wheels and tyres
- Steering and suspension
- Chassis and underbody
- Electrical systems
- Glass and mirrors
- Fuel system
An on-board diagnostics testing system (OBD) is used during an NCT inspection. It scans your vehicle for its vehicle identification number, the odometer reading, the electronic braking system and the anti-lock braking system.
Since 20 May 2023, On-Board Fuel Consumption Monitoring (OBFCM) data has been collected as part of the NCT test. This ensures that the car's CO2 emissions and fuel or energy consumption values meet EU regulations. If you do not want this data stored, you can email your name, address and car registration number to firstname.lastname@example.org. This only applies to the current test cycle and not future tests. All data collected will be anonymized. Find out more on the NCT website.
The National Car Test (NCT) Manual (pdf) is available on the NCT website.
Preparing for the NCT test
The NCTS recommends that you prepare for the test by ensuring that:
- Your car has adequate oil and water
- The boot is empty and the seats are clear of personal belongings such as removable baby seats
- Your glove compartment is unlocked and clear of personal belongings (allow for OBD testing)
- Any devices using the OBD port in the vehicle are removed in advance
- The vehicle is reasonably clean (especially the underbody)
- The wheel hubcaps are removed and the tyres are inflated to the correct pressure
- Seat belts and clips are fully visible
- Your vehicle registration plates comply with current regulations
- The timing belt has been replaced in a diesel vehicle within the timeframe specified by the vehicle manufacturer
- Your lights have been checked and set before the test.
The NCTS has a checklist of what to check before your NCT to help you prepare for your test.
If you get your car serviced before the NCT, the NCTS advises that special attention is paid to the most common failure points:
- Headlights: alignment and condition
- Suspension and steering
- Brakes: front, rear, and hand brake
NCT test results
All vehicles receive an NCT Vehicle Inspection Report after the test. The report details test results and explains what faults (if any) have been found. You will also receive a pass certificate if your car has passed the test.
There are 3 types of test results that you can get. A minor result, a major result, or a dangerous result.
Minor test result
The vehicle has passed the test with minor faults. These faults must be repaired and re-inspected by NCTS before you can get an NCT certificate.
Major test result
The vehicle has failed the test. You have 30 days to get your vehicle repaired and re-inspected by NCTS. If it passes the re-inspection, you will get an NCT certificate. If you do not have the vehicle re-inspected within 30 days, you will have to do the full test again.
Dangerous test result
The vehicle has failed the test because of a dangerous defect that poses a direct or immediate risk to road safety. The NCTS will put a ‘failed dangerous’ sticker on your car. It is illegal to drive a vehicle with a dangerous defect. If you continue driving your car and you get stopped by An Garda Síochána, you may get penalty points or have to go to court. You must get the vehicle repaired and re-inspected by NCTS within 30 days. If it passes the re-inspection, you will get an NCT certificate.
Your car can be tested 90 days before its due date. Your NCT certificate is valid for 1 or 2 years (depending on the age of the car) from its due date.
If you book a test that is more than 90 days earlier than the test due date, this test will be a voluntary early test. The NCT certificate issued will be valid for 1 or 2 years (depending on the age of the car) from the date of the successful test.
Exemptions from NCT
Vehicles registered before 1 January 1980 or vehicles that have reached the 40th anniversary of their first registration do not need to be tested. However, if a vehicle is over 40 years old and is used for commercial reasons, such as a wedding hire vehicle, a test is needed.
Cars permanently based on islands that are not connected to the mainland by road do not have to be tested.
Motor vehicles belonging to the Armed Forces, the Garda Síochána or the Fire Service are not subject to mandatory testing.
Transferring an EU Roadworthiness Certificate to an NCT
If you are importing a car from another EU country and you have a current EU Roadworthiness Certificate, you can continue to use it in Ireland until it expires. You no longer transfer the unexpired portion of an EU certificate for a mutual recognition cert. You should apply and pass the NCT before the expiry of your EU Roadworthiness Certificate. See the FAQs on nct.ie. Read more about importing a vehicle into Ireland.
Appealing NCT results
Appealing NCT results If you are dissatisfied with the test result, you can appeal it through the NCTS appeal process. In the first instance you should raise your concerns with the person in charge of the Test Centre before leaving. Information on making a complaint or an appeal is available on the NCT website.
Cost of NCT
The test costs €55 and takes between 40 minutes - 1 hour to conduct. It involves approximately 60 different checks 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 to 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.
Lost NCT certificate
If you lose or misplace your NCT certificate, you can get a replacement certificate. You must complete the application form (pdf) (RF134) which is available from your local Garda station. The form must be stamped and signed by the Gardaí. Send the form, your windscreen disk or NCT certificate (whichever part you still have) 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 want a replacement NCT report, 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.
Where to apply
If your car is eligible for the NCT, you can book a test:
- Online at ncts.ie
- By phone on 01 413 5992
- By email at email@example.com
- By writing to the Booking Department at the address below
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 you want 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.
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 can cancel or re-arrange your confirmed appointment by giving 5 working days' notice (Monday to Friday). If you cancel or re-arrange your appointment giving less than 5 days' notice (Monday to Friday), you will be charged an additional fee of €22.
Applications by post should be sent to the address below. You can also book, confirm or cancel your test online at ncts.ie. Enquiries about bookings can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Enquiries about the NCT test can be made by email to email@example.com.