Can You Drive a Damaged Car?


author image - crispin

By Crispin Bateman

on Tuesday 19 March 2019


Damaged BMW 1 series

Chances are your car is going to sustain several minor injuries in its lifetime between that first drive off the forecourt to the final moments where it is crushed into a small cube.

While some of those are an immediate reason to go to the garage and get it repaired, others are little more than minor scratches that can be ignored for all but cosmetic reasons, but which are which?

Driving your car when it’s damaged – what’s legal and what’s not?

Driving a damaged car in the UK can be completely fine provided the damage doesn’t harm the roadworthiness of the vehicle. After all, you shouldn’t need to shell out for a cosmetic repair after a minor disagreement with a low wall or a low-speed confrontation with a tree stump!

Simply ask yourself a few questions to see if your car is still roadworthy:

Question 1 – Would it pass an MOT?

If you know that the damage would make the car fail an MOT, then you need to get it fixed right away. Situations where the brakes have stopped working, lights are coming on on the dashboard, or the tyres have become bald in places are all examples that require immediate attention.

Question 2 – Does it worry you?

Chances are that if it worries you to drive it, then it should probably see a mechanic, if only for your peace of mind! Realistically, if it worries you then it probably would worry someone else too!

Question 3 – Does it impede your driving?

Anything that gets in the way of you driving safely must be immediately repaired. A crack in the windscreen, for example, may be illegal if it hinders your ability to fully see the road, but if it is in a non-visual part of the window, could be considered irrelevant. Assess if the damage is affecting your ability to properly drive – and do it from the perspective of a law enforcement official, and don’t brush off issues because you are willing to work around them!

If the damage doesn’t stop you from driving effectively, isn’t a worry and would fly past an MOT, you are probably good to go.

Some specific common questions regarding light car damage

Is it illegal to drive without a wing mirror?

The law states that you must have two mirrors providing a view of the rear of the car. As the vast majority of cars come with three mirrors (two wing mirrors and one internal rear-view mirror), then you can suffer damage to one and still be legal – though damage to two would put you out of action.

Be aware that being heavily laden inside the vehicle can often cut off the full use of the rear-view mirror and that having a damaged wing mirror on top of that would make for illegal driving.

Is it illegal to drive with a broken bumper?

The level of damage to your bumper is a key factor here. Small dents and scratches on paintwork are nothing to worry about, but if the section of the car has come loose and is moving when you drive then it definitely needs repairing (and firmly attaching on to the car to get it to a garage). Properly assess the damage and make a decision accordingly.

Is it illegal to drive a car with body damage?

Like a damaged bumper, if the body damage is minor then you are fine. Lightly damaged cars are frequently seen on the roads and many people will wait indefinitely before repairing dents to the bodywork. You can drive a dented car without a problem, but if anything is hanging off or in danger of detaching while driving, then it must be secured properly before continuing.

Also take note of whether the bodywork damage is having an effect on another part of the car – for example, if a piece of damaged wheel arch is rubbing on the tyre. If this is the case then you will need to get that fixed right away in order to protect the wheel.

Is it illegal to drive a car with wheel damage?

If something has happened that is causing a tyre to deflate, or any sections of the tyre have become bald or caused the tyre to drop below the legal limit for tread, then that wheel or tyre must be fixed immediately or replaced with the spare.

In the UK it is not a legal requirement to carry a spare tyre, but it is recommended. If you do have a spare in the vehicle then it should be kept in a good condition and regularly checked to make sure it is available for use should anything happen to one of the main wheels.

Is it illegal to drive a car with windscreen damage?

As long as the windscreen damage doesn’t impair your ability to fully see the road and your surroundings then it is perfectly legal to continue with it. Remember, however, that windscreen cracks are likely to spread quickly, and what was legal at the beginning of your journey may change as the drive puts it under pressure.

Minor chips and scratches to the windscreen should be seen to as soon as possible, and major issues that include anything which might impede your vision should be resolved immediately.

What to do after a car accident in the UK?

After a minor car accident, you are perfectly able to drive away once you have taken the time to properly check on anyone else involved and (if necessary) exchange insurance details. See our article on what to do after a car accident for more information.

Assuming that there has been no extensive damage that threatens the car roadworthiness then you can drive your car after a crash.

Make sure you keep a close eye on the drive, however, in case there has been damage that wasn’t apparent from your initial check. If anything feels off or there’s a sudden change in the dashboard lights, then stop, assess the situation and only continue if you are perfectly happy with the results. If you are unsure of the risk to yourself, your passengers and other road users, then do not drive the car. Contact your breakdown service and return to your home or a garage.

How can Non-Fault Claims help?

If you have been in a car accident that was not your fault, then we are here to make sure you receive any financial compensation that is due to you – for vehicle damage and/or personal injuries sustained. Even minor damage should be paid for – after all, there’s no reason for your car to lose some of its value due to the carelessness of others.

We also provide the service of arranging a replacement car for you (credit hire rather than a courtesy car) in the event of a non-fault accident.

Give us a call today to see what we can do to help you or fill in our contact form to have one of our specialist advisors to contact you at a time that’s more convenient.

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Non Fault Claims can help you begin your potential claim, get in touch today!


non-fault car accident road traffic accident injuries personal injuries personal injury claim vehicle damage car repairs car replacement credit hire passengers mot