More cars than ever failing NCT test

Major variations in pass rates among test centres

More cars than ever are failing the National Car Test (NCT) new figures show.

A total of 52 per cent of cars – or more than 650,000 – did not pass the test last year, including 4,500 unroadworthy cars that had to be towed away from test centres.

The ageing national fleet – now 8.5 years, on average – and the cost of maintenance are likely to be key factors behind the increase, according to experts.

The NCT test is mandatory for cars more than three years old.


Cars aged between four and 10 years must undergo the test every two years, while older cars are required to undergo the test annually.

Levies from the test have risen sharply over recent years, with motorists paying more than €19 million in testing fees during 2013. The fee for a full test is €55 and a re-test costs €28.

Latest figures show a variation of almost 30 per cent in pass and fail rates across the 47 test centres nationally.

The average pass rate per centre was 48 per cent. One of the highest pass rates was recorded in Cahirciveen, Co Kerry (67 per cent), while one of the lowest was in Carrick-on-Shannon, Co Leitrim (39 per cent).

Data blog

The full results are available at Irish Times Data, a new data journalism blog at

The private operators of the NCT, Applus+, did not respond to numerous requests for a comment on the reasons behind the gap in outcomes.

The Road Safety Authority, which oversees the testing regime, points to a range of factors such as the average age of vehicles tested at individual centres, their mileage, maintenance and the condition of local roads which can lead to a variation in the figures.

In addition, it said the testing system and vehicle inspectors are subject to independent audits carried out by the AA.

“All test centres receive frequent unannounced visits, during which independent re-inspections of vehicles are carried out and vehicles inspectors are observed undertaking tests. These show that over 98 per cent of tests are correctly assessed,” it said in a statement.

Suspension failure

The biggest reason for failing was an issue with the front suspension (83,833), followed by tyre condition (71,525), brake lines/hoses (65,704), stop lamps (56,715) and steering linkage (54,001).

An Irish Times analysis of the 1.2 million cars tests in 2013 also show significant variations in outcome among different vehicle makes and models.

Among the 20 most-tested car brands, Toyota had the highest pass rate (51 per cent), while Renault has the lowest (39 per cent).

The study also examined the performance of the top 10 selling car models in 2009, which were due for their first tests in 2013.

They were: Toyota Yaris, Corolla and Avensis; Ford Focus, Mondeo and Fiesta; VW Golf and Passat; Opel Insignia; and Nissan Qashqai.

The Toyota Yaris came out on top (87 per cent pass rate), followed by the Golf (86 per cent), Corolla (83 per cent), Fiesta (82 per cent) and Avensis (81 per cent).

When 10-year-old versions of the same models were tested, the Toyota Yaris came out on top again (64 per cent), followed by the Corolla and Mondeo (both 63 per cent).

Carl O'Brien

Carl O'Brien

Carl O'Brien is Education Editor of The Irish Times. He was previously chief reporter and social affairs correspondent

Paul Scott

Paul Scott

Paul Scott is a graphic designer at The Irish Times