Don't leave it until the last minute! This sounds simple but it's the biggest factor in having to pay horrendous repair bills because your MOT expires the day after the test and you can't afford to have the car off the road. This is the situation the unscrupulous MOT test centre wants you to be in, you'll be treated as if you should be thanking them for keeping you on the road and only asking for £936 for replacing your brake discs and a shock absorber.
We'd recommend booking in at least 10 days before your MOT expires so that you've got options if the car fails, as long as it doesn't fail on a serious point you can drive it away and weigh up your options.
Remember you can renew your MOT up to a month before the expiry date and still maintain the same renewal date, have it done any earlier than that and the renewal date will be the date of the MOT. You'll effectively lose a month of MOT you've already paid for so we'd recommend keeping it within the 30 day limit of the expiry date.
The first thing you need to consider is which MOT test centre is best suited to your car. They may all seem like they do the same job but there are factors that need to be considered if you're looking to get your car MOT'd at the cheapest cost, ideally just the cost the of MOT itself.
If yes drop it in to the main dealer and get them to MOT it whilst it's being serviced. It's still worth scanning over our list of things to check before your MOT to make sure you don't get any surprises about your brake pads/discs or tyre tread depths. But in general a warrantied car carries the option to pressure the main dealer to fix things that should not be failing MOTs early in a car's life.
By consumable parts we mean things like brake pads, tyres and wiper blades. If the car is otherwise in good condition and relatively new it should be fine to take it to any of the high-street MOT/servicing garages. If you're confident your car isn't suffering from any potential major issues there shouldn't be much that these test centres could use to get you to book in with them for expensive repairs. If you've followed rule #1 and booked in early you'll have plenty of time to look into anything they find.
If this description fits your car then your best bet is to either take it to a friendly local garage who can MOT it and possibly give you a call to let you know if it's likely to fail and whether a repair is even cost-effective. Or you can try one of the local council-run MOT test centres, these are an excellent option if you don't want any pressure tactics around repairs that may not even need doing, these test centres don't offer repairs so have nothing to gain if your car needs repairs to pass the MOT test.
You'll need to bear in mind when using council-run MOT test centres that if your car fails on a serious point you can't drive it away and will need to have it towed to an off-road location or a garage who can repair it.