National Car Test
Compulsory car testing was introduced in Ireland in 2000 as part of an EU Directive that makes car testing compulsory in all member states. It is an offence to drive a car without displaying a National Car Testing Service disc, if the car is liable for testing. 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 test is aimed at improving road safety and enhancing environmental protection. You can view NCT pass/fail rates here.
Format of the National Car 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
The National Car Test (NCT) Manual (pdf) is available on the NCT website
The NCTS recommends that you prepare for the test by ensuring that:
- Your car has adequate oil and water
- The boot is empty and seats are clear of personal belongings such as removable baby seats
- 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 prior to the test.
The NCTS has a complete checklist of what to check before your NCT (pdf) 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
Although faults like broken windscreen wipers, wing mirrors or indicators may seem more minor than high emission levels, faulty steering or bad brakes, they all mean you will fail the test. The most common categories for car failures are problems with headlights, suspension, steering, brakes and tyres. All vehicles receive an NCT Vehicle Inspection Report after the test. The report details the results of the test and explains what faults (if any) have been found. If your car has passed the test you will also receive a pass certificate.
Since 13 August 2018, defects identified during testing will be classified as minor, major or dangerous. Test results will appear in this format on the NCT Vehicle Inspection Report. See details of these classifications below:
Minor: 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 (previously fail refusal): the vehicle has failed the test and you have 30 days to get it 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 (previously fail dangerous): 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 to drive 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.
Read more about these changes in this press release.
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. The test must be repeated:
- Every 2 years, if your car is over 4 years and less than ten 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
Voluntary early testing is available, which lets you take the test before the mandatory due date. If you take the test within 90 days of your mandatory test date, your NCT certificate is valid for 1 or 2 years (depending on the age of the car) from your mandatory test date. If you take the test prior to this 90-day period, your NCT certificate will expire on the anniversary of your voluntary test.
The person taking the car to the NCT must bring the cars vehicle registration/licensing certificate with them to the test centre. They must also bring their driving licence or Public Services Card (PSC) as identification.
Exemptions from NCT
Vehicles registered before 1 January 1980 do not need to be tested.
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.
Vehicles imported from Northern Ireland and abroad
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. From May 2018, if you import a second-hand vehicle from another EU member state and the vehicle has a current EU Roadworthiness Certificate, you can have the time remaining on the certificate recognised in Ireland. This means you will not have to take an NCT, until your certificate expires. To do this you must send the following documentation to NCTS, see ‘Where to apply’ below:
- Your completed application form
- The fee of €15.50 (this fee is currently being waived)
- The original or a certified copy of the out of state roadworthiness certificate (if the certificate is not in English, you must provide a translation of the certificate)
Read more about importing a vehicle into Ireland here.
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.
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-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 certificates and reports
If you lose or misplace your NCT certificate, you can get a replacement certificate. You must complete the application form (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.
How 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 if 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 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 can 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.
Where to apply
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 forwarded to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Enquiries about the NCT test can be made by email to email@example.com.