Update: Dealerships have now been given the green light to open on June 1. Sites need to display certificate which shows they comply with government guidance on managing the risk of coronavirus. Social distancing will also be rigorously enforced. However, online and click-and-collect services will remain open to those that would rather order their car via the internet or over the phone – 9:30am, 26th May 2020
If you do need to purchase a vehicle during the outbreak you can but there are some steps you need to follow in order to do this safely and in-line with the government’s clear message to stay at home. Please note, this official guidance is being updated frequently and the advice below may change depending upon what measures are either introduced or eased over the next days, weeks and months.
The coronavirus outbreak has drastically affected life as we know it. Government advice currently states that you should be staying in the house and only going out for essential items such as shopping or medicine, once a day for exercise or if your job means you cannot work from home.
However, if you absolutely need a way of getting around is it still possible to buy a car and what do you need to look out for to ensure your safety and the safety of others? We look at some of the key aspects you should know. All of the information we’re looking at here was correct at the time of publishing and could be subject to change.
Is it possible to visit a dealership?
Only shops which sell basic necessities such as food and medicine, or key services like petrol stations and car service centres, are allowed to stay open. It means that car dealerships have been closed for the foreseeable future. However, dealers have recently been given the green-light to both sell cars and deliver them.
It means that in the same way we’re currently being advised to buy goods online as the first port of call rather than venturing out of the door, the same could be done for a car.
So can I actually buy a car if I need to?
Absolutely. As we’ve already mentioned, many dealerships and manufacturers are offering the ability to buy a car completely remotely. Simply browse the internet for a used car that you like, and then get in touch with the dealer to see if contactless purchasing is available. You may be able to do everything – get an around-car video, see potential finance deals and sign necessary paperwork – all without having to leave the house.
It can then be delivered to your home at a time that suits you. Delivery companies are also disinfecting cars by cleaning key surfaces to ensure to lower the possible chance of contamination.
It must be stressed, however, that unless you absolutely need a new car, then we’d advise postponing your car buying process for a later date and when social distancing measures have been relaxed.
Remember, if you’re self-isolating or have shown symptoms of COVID-19, it’s best that you leave the entire car buying process until later.
Of course, it’s not possible to go and see a car in the metal just yet, but what if you’ve seen a vehicle you like and want to know more? That’s where virtual viewings come in.
Essentially a dealer can provide a video walk-around of a new or used car, giving you a better idea about the ins and outs of a new car. Plus, because many are live-streamed, you can ask questions as the dealer walks around the car. It provides an extra level of interaction to those who are currently in the market for a new car.
If I order a car, will my delivery be delayed because of coronavirus?
With most manufacturers across the globe shutting down production for the time being, the likelihood is that if you’ve ordered a new car that it’ll be delayed.
Even if your new car is already built, with manufacturers locking down logistics to ensure staff safety, even these vehicles are likely to suffer from delayed delivery.
That said, if you’re after a car a little quicker, then it could be a better option to purchase a car which is in stock at a dealership.
Is it still possible to part exchange my vehicle?
In the same way that many manufacturers and dealers offer contactless deliveries and sales, the same can be done for part exchanges.
Dealers will be able to calculate an estimated price for your car based on key data you supply and the vehicle’s mileage. Again, it would be worth getting in touch with the dealer offering the new car you’re interested in to see if this facility is available.
However, given that many dealers require you to take the car into the physical dealership to be evaluated, this process may need to be put on hold until government restrictions are lifted. And, always, if you’re self-isolating or have experienced symptoms of coronavirus, then we’d wait until later to part exchange your car.
Will I still be able to get a good deal on a car?
If you’re planning on getting a car via monthly payments – using HP or PCP deals – the Bank of England’s cut in interest rates to an all-time low of 0.1% means that you may find some dealerships are able to do some good deals on new cars at the moment.
It is important that you take the right financial advice before committing to any arrangement and that you are confident that you will be able to make any payments committed to.
I’ve just bought a car on finance but I’m worried about making the payments, what can I do?
Many people are facing financial uncertainty because of the coronavirus outbreak, and one of the largest monthly outgoings that many have is for a car. Because of this, it’s worth tightly managing your finances if you’re worried about the future to ensure that you meet any upcoming payments.
However, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) has recently announced that those people who are struggling to deal with finance payments will be able to apply for a three-month suspension, giving breathing space to those who are having a tricky time.
It’s important to remember that this extension won’t happen automatically, though. You still need to contact your finance provider to request the extension. They might even be able to free payments for longer periods, too.
I’m coming to the end of my PCP agreement, does the coronavirus outbreak mean I have to keep hold of my car?
Not at all. Though the spread of coronavirus has resulted in a UK lockdown, limiting the amount people can travel, that doesn’t mean that you have to automatically pay to keep a car once you’re at the end of your PCP agreement.
Of course, if you want to pay the optional final payment to keep hold of your car then you can, but you’re just as able to return the car too. Just get in touch with the dealership in order to work out the logistics.
Can I still buy a used car?
Used cars are still a viable purchase despite the coronavirus outbreak, but if your purchase is essential then the way you go about buying one has changed. With the current restrictions on travel, you cannot visit dealerships, but it may be worth emailing, calling or live messaging a dealer that has a car you like to see if they offer home delivery, or a collection service for purchases and part-exchange.
MOT and Servicing
What if my car needs an MOT?
The Department for Transport (DfT) announced on Wednesday 25th March that it all cars, vans and motorcycles would be exempt from an MOT for six months from March 30. It means that if your MOT runs out after that date, the vehicle will automatically be granted a six-month extension. If your MOT expires before that date, however, then you need to get it sorted.
However, vehicles need to be kept in a roadworthy condition – and officers are able to prosecute those who they find behind the wheel of unsafe vehicles.
Can I still get my car repaired if it needs it?
As a key service provider, garages and service centres are permitted to stay open despite recent measures. It means that if your car needs vital repairs, then you can still have them sorted by a mechanic.
As we’ve already mentioned, travel should be limited – so unless you’re a key worker, it’s probably best to hold off on any repairs you need until restrictions are lifted.
However, there are some safety steps you need to take if you do need to go to a garage. If you’re experiencing any of the symptoms related to coronavirus – such as consistent dry cough or a temperature – then you need to stay at home and self-isolate for at least seven days if you’re on your own, or 14 days if you’re part of a family. Any garage is likely to ask you whether you’ve had symptoms too.
Renting a Car
Is it still possible to hire a car?
Again, you shouldn’t be leaving the house unless you absolutely have to. However, if you have a drastic need to travel somewhere but don’t have ready access to a car, then hiring a vehicle could be an option.
Companies like Zipcar and Europcar are still operating their fleets and incorporating even more stringent cleanliness measures. But, as we already stated, you really shouldn’t be hiring a car unless you absolutely need to.
For information on how to look after your car whilst not using it, check out our guide.