Over 50% of the cars in Greece are old (and big polluters), and a staggering 20% of them circulates free without MOT certification!

Today I brought my car to take a MOT (Maintenance of Traffic) certificate. Greek law requires all vehicles to take a MOT certificate every two years from the moment your vehicle gets 4 years old. Needless to say, the car was in perfect condition since I always service it properly and take good care of it. But what about other drivers in Greece? Well that’s another story…

I have always been curious to check out how many cars actually take the MOT certificate here in Greece, but I have never really done it before. Every foreigner that wanders on Greek streets soon realizes that car exhausts really stink, with those big plumes of black or grey smoke. And logically people wonder how this can be possible in a EU country in 2021…

Well, today I finally decided to check this out.

I went around the block by my home today and checked the MOT date of 111 parked cars. (I like the 111 number…). A car that has passed a MOT test gets a colored sticker that writes the date and year of the next due MOT. This means that all the cars that right now have a sticker with a date older than that of today are circulating illegally.

Well, of the 111 cars I checked, only 10 were less than 4 years old (they didn’t have the sticker on the license plate, meaning that they are newer cars). 59 cars were old and had several to many damages on the body, and of these as many as 22 hadn’t taken their MOT certificate! This means that ONE IN FIVE cars circulating right now in Athens has not taken its MOT certificate. See some pics of the MOT stickers here below as proof; all pics were taken today. One of the MOT stickers was even from 2011, meaning that the car passed its last MOT in 2009 and it’s been illegally circulating on the roads of Athens for over 10 years!… And I know that the car is actually driven daily because it belongs to a guy working nearby…

I can’t say the exact age of the old cars I saw, but many were from the 2000’s and even from before that. Meaning that among the cars circulating right now in Athens there are at least a third of them that are close or more than 20 years of age.

It turns out that so many cars never get the MOT certificate and circulate free on the roads, with their owners happily unbothered and the authorities closing the eyes instead of fining the owners or removing them from the streets. And if drivers can get away without a MOT certificate, they can also get away with driving pieces of junk that get never properly serviced. Not only, but most of these don’t even have a catalytic converter! And I wonder how many of them are insured… Surely not all of them.

As a result of the presence of so many old vehicles on the roads, traffic Air Pollution in Greece is one of the worst in Europe. If you add also the pollution from trucks and motorcycles, which can be in even worse mechanical conditions, you understand why walking on a road in Athens reminds you of being more in an Indian or Middle East city. The smell is so different from the typical smell of EU cities, where there is mostly a smell of NO2 but not so much of Particulate Matter (PM10 and PM2,5). In Athens you have the same smell of NO2 combined with high concentrations of soot (black smoke, made of PM10 and PM2,5) coming from the incomplete combustion in old, poorly maintained diesel engines plus the smell of car oil and incomplete gasoline combustion from old cars and motorcycles. And in summer you must add to the cocktail also a high concentration of Ozone (O3)… Not to be forgotten: in winter you must add also the wood smoke smell from thousands and thousands of wood stoves and fireplaces, and the smoke from oil heaters that they too are poorly if ever serviced.

Does this disturb people or the authorities? You bet not…


Table with the results of today’s car counting:

Cars Total111100%
Less than 4 years old109%
From before 20105952%
From between 2010 and 20214238%
Without MOT2220%

If you look closely at the pictures, you can see that even a Mercedes is overdue on the MOT test since 2020. This shows that it is not only the poorer part of the population that illegally drives cars in Greece and can’t afford to maintain the car properly, but also the middle/upper class.

Today there is still a tendency of excusing all sorts of illegalities in Greece due to the fact that people had to endure over 10 years of harsh austerity measures, but the fact is that this mentality is not helping the country to go forward and finally become a proper EU country. Traffic Air Pollution is harming everyone in Greece and must be curbed ASAP. But judging from the huge amount of older, illegal cars that are still circulating on the roads, this is going to be a difficult task. Only a government with a realistic scheme with serious incentives to remove all these older cars from the streets can do that, because most Greeks will never have the money to buy new cars, especially the expensive electric ones.


Pictures of some old MOT stickers on the license plates and pictures of the typical old cars circulating in Greece today.

Published by cleanairingreece

CleanAir in Greece is an independent site meant to inform the public about the day to day Air Quality in Greece, with advice on how to protect ourselves from the dangers of Air Pollution

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: