MOT (in the UK at least) stands for Ministry of Transport.
This is somewhat of a misnomer, though, as the ministry no longer exists - its function is now included as the Department of Transport under another division of government.
However, the term is still widely used in the context of "MOT Test", usually abbreviated to "MOT". This is a test of a car's roadworthiness in the UK.
The normal test is performed on all cars on or before the 3rd anniversary of their registration, and then on or before the anniversary every year after that. A certificate is issued at each test valid for one year.
You can have the test done up to one month before the date it becomes due, and the certificate can be post-dated to the expiry date of the previous certificate, on production of the previous certificate. The first issue can be post-dated to the anniversary of the registration on production of the vehicle registration certificate.
Technically, this means that a car can fail its MOT but still be driven until the old certificate expires. This therefore gives you time to get minor things fixed. Often people will arrange to have their MOT done straight after their annual service, so most things should be fixed in that anyway. Once a car has no valid certificate, it can only legally be driven to a garage for a pre-booked appointment to either have it fixed, or retested.
The MOT has a fixed price (about £30 at the start of 2005) and for certain minor faults, the garage has to offer a free retest. It takes about 20-45 minutes to perform. All testing stations I've seen have an "MOT Viewing area", which leads me to deduce they have to provide this by law!
The test includes such things as
A valid MOT certificate is required when applying for road tax.
SharQ says two things.
what, exactly, *is* a MOT viewing area? - it's a place where you can stand or sit and watch the MOT being performed on your car. I've seen them both behind glass (ie in a "booth") and also just behind a railing. But always directly overlooking the area where they do the MOT. And always present.
Also, there are silly things that are not included. I had a car that didn't have a 1st gear, that passed its MOT just fine. - this isn't surprising. The MOT test is a very basic test to prove the car has a certain minimum level of road-worthiness. And for all intents and purposes, a car without a 1st gear is 100% drivable and safe.