Can I buy a car during the coronavirus lockdown? Car dealers to reopen on 1 June
The coronavirus lockdown put a lot of things on hold, car sales included. In April, new car registrations were down by a staggering 97 per cent so there’s no doubt that significantly fewer new and used cars are being sold. Now the restrictions are slowly being eased off and Prime Minister Boris Johnson has announced that car dealerships in England will be allowed to reopen from June 1, with appropriate social distancing measures in place.
Of course, some people have been buying cars in the UK for weeks using the various online options available – not least key workers who have no choice but to keep using the roads.
With all this in mind, below is the key information on how car-buying is different from normal at the moment and what options there are for those who need to make a car purchase and still get a great deal.
The government plans to allow car dealers in England to reopen on Monday June 1 and further details of how companies will have to maintain social distancing in car showrooms and on forecourts when they do reopen are set to be released in the coming days. All easing of the lockdown restrictions does hinge, however, on the UK continuing to make good progress in the fight against the coronavirus and any dealer that is unable to meet the social distancing guidelines will not be permitted to open.
The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) and National Franchised Dealers Association (NFDA) have already issued advice to dealers in this area as they prepare to reopen. The advice covers appointment bookings, showroom interactions, test drives, click and collect services, part exchanges and aftersales, while also advising dealers on how social distancing measures and personal protective equipment should be implemented.
Mike Hawes, chief executive of the SMMT, said that “now is the time to allow showrooms to re-open their doors”, adding that his organisation welcomed the news that dealers can operate click and collect services in the meantime.
Car showrooms in the UK are closed until June 1, so you can't just walk in and buy a new or used car in the way you normally would for a few more days.
Dealerships are allowed to offer a click and collect service and remote car sales are also still an option. Online motor retailers, such as our sister site Buyacar.co.uk, are still operating and some manufacturers are offering a fully remote new car buying service.
With car showrooms across the UK closed, you’ll struggle to get a close look at any prospective purchases in person. Thankfully, we live in an online age where images, specification data and prices of both new and used cars can be viewed on dealer websites and other online buying platforms.
Many dealers have videos accompanying their car listings, often with a voiceover or captions explaining some of the features of the vehicle. Meanwhile, Tesla is looking at introducing contactless test drives in the UK to move the digital car buying experience on to another level.
In addition, brands such as SEAT and Skoda are having their dealer product experts conduct video livestreams of their cars from their driveways, answering questions from prospective customers about the models they might be interested in and providing other help and advice live.
Further to simply looking at a car online, some platforms allow the entire car-buying and delivery process to take place remotely.
One example is Auto Express’ sister site, Buyacar. Customers can find cars on this site, make their purchase either outright or via a finance package, and then have the car delivered to their home.
Different measures are being taken by manufacturers, meanwhile. Ford is offering a six-month payment holiday to all new customers who place an order in April or May, with cars being delivered to customers’ homes. It means that concerns and uncertainties over what the future holds regarding the coronavirus lockdown can be eased to an extent, making it easier for people who need a car to get one.
There are also a number of brands – such as Peugeot, Tesla and Vauxhall – with online or app-based sales platforms already in place so buying a car from the comfort of your own home was perfectly possible before the coronavirus struck.
One type of car buying that has been affected particularly adversely is the private purchase of used cars. Although online listings are still live on the internet, going to view a car at someone else’s address isn’t classed as essential travel.
What’s more, if you were to pay someone for a car and pick up the keys from the seller, you could risk breaking social distancing rules by coming into close proximity with them. Plus, as they’re not a professional dealer, the car would be unlikely to have been cleaned to as high a standard, so contamination from surfaces such as the steering wheel and gear stick could be a risk.
At this difficult time, our advice would be to focus on the dealers who have the facilities in place to make online car buying possible. If anything does go wrong, these companies will also give you the protection and peace of mind you need.
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