Buying a car during the coronavirus outbreak

The coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak is a difficult and challenging time, but there are many people out there in need of a new car. This guide will give you what you need to consider if you are planning on buying or selling a car now.

Coronavirus – skip to what you need to know
Remote buying and contactless delivery
Can I test drive a car?
Will my new car be delayed by coronavirus?
Is it safe to buy a used car?
Will there be better deals on new cars?
I’ve bought a car on finance – what happens if I don’t get paid?
Coronavirus and your car
Coronavirus and car payments
New car delivery times
How to buy a car online and consumer protections
PCP optional final payments – what are my options?

Are car dealerships allowed to open in areas under Tier 1, 2 or 3 lockdown?

Yes, car dealerships are open for business under the new tiered lockdown system, introduced by the UK government on 12 October. The system allows the government to impose greater restrictions on specific areas for a limited period of time, based on local COVID infection rates.

Only under the most severe Tier 3 lockdown do some pubs, all betting shops, adult gaming centres, casinos, gyms and soft play centres have to close. Other commercial establishments, including car dealerships, are allowed to remain open so long as they continue to follow to the current guidance on maintaining a COVID safe environment.

The Welsh Government has introduced a stricter ‘Firebreak’ lockdown, which will start at 6pm on Friday 23rd October and last until Monday 9th November. Under these rules, all ‘leisure and non-essential retail will be closed’, including car dealerships. Garages will still be open, but the Welsh Government has asked people to avoid having their car serviced or MOT-tested until after this temporary lockdown.

If dealerships are open in your area, they should have put procedures in place to ensure social distancing rules are respected. If you plan to visit a dealership, you should call ahead just to be safe. This applies to both car sales and car servicing operations.

Remote buying and contactless delivery

carwow has launched remote-buying features to help you buy a car without leaving your home. When looking at offers from dealers, you can see which dealerships are offering the ability to purchase 100% remotely and keep an eye out for the banners showing you which dealers are offering disinfected delivery and ‘click and collect’ type handovers.

Can I test drive a car?

Many dealers are offering unaccompanied test drives in order to maintain social distancing rules. This means you can test drive a car without having the sales advisor come along with you.

It follows clarification from the DVLA (Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency) that “a prospective purchaser may test drive a vehicle on trade plates, without the trader licence holder being present.”

Unaccompanied test drives are likely to be subject to specific insurance conditions, so speak to your dealer about what measures they have in place and what these insurance conditions are.

Dealerships that are offering unaccompanied test drives will have extra cleaning measures in place too, so all test cars will be disinfected before being loaned out for drives.

However, many customers are choosing to buy a new car without ever testing driving it. If that sounds like you, here are our recommendations.

1) Watch our video reviews
Mat Watson really gets under the skin of a car to show what’s good, what’s not so good, and offers his opinion on whether you should avoid it, consider it, shortlist it or go ahead and buy it. Just find the car review you’re interested in to watch the video.

2) Compare cars side by side
Our compare cars tool shows you all the data and spec info you need to see whether the cars you are interested in have all the kit you’re after.

3) See who offers video calls
When you receive offers from our trusted dealers you will be able to see which offer a ‘Video Calls’ service, and some of these dealers will be able to offer video ‘walkarounds’ of the car you are interested in. This is a virtual tour where the dealer will take a live video around the car, and be able to answer any questions you may have – all while you watch from the comfort of your home.

Will my new car be delayed by coronavirus?

There is the possibility that new car deliveries will be delayed because of the coronavirus pandemic. If you are concerned about the delivery of your new car, talk to your dealer to get the latest information. We have estimates of delivery times – ie how long a new car could take from being ordered to being delivered. Click the link below for our guide.

Even if your new car has been built, there may be delays in delivering it to your chosen dealership as logistics companies take extra precautions to protect their staff.

If you’re looking for a car that can be delivered sooner, check out the latest in-stock cars available from carwow dealers. These cars might not come in the exact specification you’re after (they may be painted a different colour or come with a few extra options) but they’re in-stock and ready for delivery now. Configure your chosen car now to see which in-stock cars are available.

Is it safe to buy a used car?

The trusted dealers on carwow will ensure that all their stock – new and used cars – will undergo a thorough cleaning process before they’re delivered. They have the resource and staff to do this properly. This might not be the case if you’re buying a used car from a private seller, especially if the car’s still in regular use. Tap the button below to see used cars from these trusted dealers. 

Will there be better deals on new cars? 

If you’re planning on paying for your new car monthly (using HP or PCP finance deals), the amount you pay is affected by interest rates – including the Bank of England Base Rate. This is extremely low at the moment, so you may find some dealerships are offering slightly cheaper deals on new cars as a result. 

I’ve bought a car on finance – what happens if I don’t get paid?

You may find your financial situation changes as the coronavirus situation continues to develop. It’s advisable to keep a close eye on your outgoings, including car finance payments, to make sure you don’t fall behind. If you’re concerned about upcoming payments, don’t ignore it – contact your finance provider immediately.

These firms are often separate from the dealership that sold you your car, but you’ll find their contact details on the documents outlining your finance agreement.

The Finance and Leasing Association advises customers to “contact their lender as soon as possible if they anticipate problems – they’re there to help. The type of assistance will likely vary depending on the customer’s circumstances, but starting the conversation is key”.

READ THIS: Coronavirus and car payments

I have a PCP agreement – what are my final payment options?

If you’ve financed your new car using a PCP (Personal Contract Purchase) agreement, you’ll be given the choice of returning your car when your agreement ends or making an optional final payment if you’d prefer to keep it. Even if you live somewhere at risk of local lockdown restrictions, this doesn’t mean you’ll have to choose the option to pay to keep your car by default. You’re still entitled to choose from the two options outlined in your original finance agreement.

The Finance and Leasing Association states that “the abiding principle has to be that customers are able to choose the option that best suits their circumstances”. They advise that you should contact your finance provider to discuss your options if you’re unsure about any aspect of your agreement.

Some finance companies are offering to extend personal finance agreements, allowing you to continue to pay the original monthly amount even after the initial contract period has expired, to allow you to retain your car during the coronavirus outbreak. In these instances, should you wish to pay the optional final payment to keep your car indefinitely, this amount would be reduced to account for the additional payments you’ve already made.

You should contact your finance company and ask for more details if you’re interested in doing this. It’s worth noting that not all finance companies are offering this extended agreement option, however.