Buying a car during the coronavirus outbreak

December 13, 2021 by

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, including all the information you need to know about how car-buying is slowly returning to normal following the latest ease in lockdown restrictions. 


Are car dealerships allowed to open? Updated December 13

Yes. Car dealerships have been allowed to open since early April and can continue to welcome customers despite the latest tightening of restrictions in a bid to combat the Omicron variant of the coronavirus.

Currently, it’s a requirement in England to wear a face mask or covering when entering shops — including car dealerships. You can still test-drive new cars, though some dealerships may not require a member of staff to come with you.

Car dealerships in Scotland re-opened to the public on 5 April (by appointment only), but many will now welcome walk-in customers, too. You must wear a face covering and practice social distancing if you plan to visit a dealership. The latter also applies to dealerships in Wales.

Dealerships in Northern Ireland have also re-opened. You’re encouraged to make an appointment before visiting, although this isn’t a requirement. As with the rest of the UK, you are required to wear a face covering while indoors.

Service departments across the UK can offer MOT tests, car servicing and repairs as usual. These were classed as essential services and have been allowed to continue throughout the most recent lockdowns.

The 2020 MoT test extension (offered for cars that required an MoT test between March 30th 2020 and July 31st 2020) expired on January 31st 2021. Your car must have a valid MoT test certificate if you plan to drive it on the road.

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?

You can now test-drive new cars at dealerships across the UK. You don’t need to make an appointment to test-drive a car, but dealerships may have test-drive waiting lists in place, so it’s advisable to call ahead.

Unlike traditional test drives, a dealer representative may not come with you and the car must be sanitised before you arrive and after you leave.

Even if you can’t test-drive a car at your chose dealership, many are currently offering online-only car buying and contactless delivery. This means you’ll still be able to buy a car, just not test drive it first. 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 and watch the video.

2) Compare cars side by side
Our compare cars tool shows you all the information on the car’s spec and performance to help you decide if it’s right for you.

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 complications resulting from the coronavirus pandemic, including the ongoing microchip shortage. 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 you’ve already ordered a new car, 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?

Most dealerships will offer the same click and collect and contactless delivery for used cars that they do for brand-new models.

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. 

As the latest lockdown measures are eased, you can now travel to buy a car privately (i.e. from an individual rather than a dealership), even if travelling by car isn’t an essential part of your work.

You should still aim to stay close to your home address, where possible, and you should still follow social-distancing guidelines at all times when buying a car privately.

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. You’re still entitled to choose from the two options outlined in your original finance agreement, even if your finance term ends while the country’s in lockdown.

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.

Can I still sell my existing car?

You can still sell your current car under current government guidelines across the UK. If you wish to do so without having to leave home, why not sell through carwow?

It’s haggle- and hassle-free, all you need to do is enter a few details about your car, submit some pictures and wait for the offers to roll in from carwow’s network of trusted dealers.

Once you’re offered a price you’re happy with, you just need to accept and the buying dealership will arrange a final inspection and collection from your address.