Updated: 06/11/2020

The coronavirus pandemic has had a significant impact on the way people buy cars. It’s safe to say that the crisis – and resulting lockdown measures – has radically changed how dealerships operate.

A secondary lockdown in England has resulted in all car dealerships closing their doors once again. However, many have used the previous lockdown as a real catalyst for change, meaning that they’re far better prepared for online trading than they were in the spring.

Buyers in Wales, meanwhile, are likely to be able to visit dealerships from November 9 when the country’s firebreak period is due to comes to an end. However, the country’s full set of rules for non-essential retail haven’t been set out yet, so this could change.

Dealerships in Scotland are allowed to stay open too, though those located in areas under ‘Tier 4’ measures are only able to operate as ‘outdoor car lots’.

Though many physical dealerships might be closed, the vast majority are still operating in a virtual sense. It means that if you do need to buy a car then you are able to. Here we explain what you need to know.

Online buying

The coronavirus crisis has forced dealers and manufacturers to adapt, which is why many of them now operate online buying services. It allows you to order, pay for, and even organise finance online before the car is delivered directly to your house in a completely contactless process.

Click-and-collect services are another area of the buying experience which have been affected. Since dealerships are closed, there’s nowhere for dealers to ‘hand over’ their car to the customer. It’s more likely that dealers will advocate a ‘click and deliver’ process.

In this instance, you’ll be able to order a car online, pay for it via the website and have it delivered directly to your door.

If you don’t fancy ordering online, give your nearest dealership a call – it’s more than likely that they’ll be able to help, and even place an order should you want to do so.

Remember, stay vigilant when ordering and buying cars online. Just as with other areas of internet shopping, it pays to take extra precautions. Check out our guide on buying cars safely here.

If you’d like to find out more information about buying cars online and through click-and-collect, then please check out our other article here.

Can I take a test drive?

Test drives aren’t allowed. Given that dealerships have been forced to close, they can no longer operate test drives, while the government’s advice to stay at home doesn’t include taking vehicle test drives as a reason to go out.

In Scotland, test drives can be conducted but they must be done solo. Dealers aren’t allowed to accompany a potential buyer on their test drive so that social distancing measures are kept intact. It does mean, however, that in Scotland if you want to see what a car is like before you buy it, you can.

As always, phone ahead to the dealerships to check what measures they have in place with regards to test driving – some dealers might not be offering drives if they’re located in higher tier areas.

What about servicing?

The servicing department is an area of a dealership which is allowed to remain open during the second lockdown, allowing owners to get their cars repaired and serviced should they need to.

If your car is due a service, there’s no need to put off having the vehicle checked over – but give your dealership plenty of notice as many will be experiencing increased demand.

Service centres in Scotland are still operational, so if your car requires urgent attention then it’s best to book it in at your nearest garage – and the same goes for an MOT. Particularly if you’re a key worker, then it’s paramount that you keep your car in good working order. Of course, phone ahead to see whether or not the garage you’re looking to use has stayed open – some might have closed if it’s located in a higher tier area.


Jack Evans


After completing his university studies in English and Creative Writing in Cardiff, Jack is now a full time motoring writer at Blackball Media. His love of cars stems from his childhood years when he began to live and breathe all-things automotive.

November 6, 2020

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