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Tips for buying a car during the COVID-19 pandemic

Buying a car during the COVID-19 pandemic: Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Car showrooms are open and implementing social distancing measures to ensure buyers can shop safely. For those who would rather not look at a car in person, dealerships have staff available to chat over the phone or answer queries online. CarGurus has launched a range of search filters to make it easy to find dealerships that are offering these and other contactless services.
Yes. While you’ll need to adhere to social distancing measures when visiting a car showroom, it is still perfectly possible to buy a car during the COVID-19 crisis.
Yes, as of 1 June, car showrooms in England have been allowed to open. A decision on when to open showrooms in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland will be made independently.
If you’re concerned your car might have come into contact with the novel coronavirus – for example, if a person with COVID-19 symptoms has travelled in it – you should disinfect it. This is important not only for your own well-being, but also to help prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus. For more information on how to disinfect a car, CarGurus has published a guide to cleaning your car to help prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus.
Assuming you’re happy to buy online and accept that there might be a wait until you can collect or accept delivery of your car, there are some potential upsides to buying a car during the COVID-19 crisis. For example, interest rates are at the lowest level in history, which might mean you can find more compelling finance deals than would usually be offered.

Similarly, with people being on lockdown, demand for cars is also lower than usual. This might mean that there’s more flexibility in prices.
Options range from virtual appointments where you can speak to a sales representative over the phone or via a video call, right through to home deliveries or test drives from home. If you need to buy a car during the COVID-19 crisis, carry out your initial search online and then contact the dealers of the cars you are interested in to confirm what services they offer. To facilitate this process, CarGurus provides a series of search filters that allow you to see only cars from dealerships offering safer shopping measures.
If your car finance is coming to an end during the COVID-19 crisis, you should contact your lender to find out what your options are. Have your contract details to hand to save time. It is also worth contacting the dealership that supplied the car in the first place – although showrooms are closed, many dealerships can still be contacted by phone or online. Depending on the type of finance agreement you have for your car, the options are likely to be similar to what they would be without the COVID-19 crisis. For a PCP (personal contract purchase), this means you can either return the car, buy it outright or swap it for a new one. If you want to buy the car outright, it is likely you’ll be able to do that without needing to visit the dealership.

Returning the car, or swapping it for a new one, will be more challenging during the lockdown. However, a dealership or your finance lender will be able to help you find a solution, such as extending your current contract until current restrictions are eased. Whatever option you settle on, bear in mind that it’ll need to be carried out online or over the phone.
If your car lease is coming to an end while COVID-19 lockdowns are in place, you should contact the lease provider to discuss what your options are. It is unlikely that you will be able to physically return the car. However, it might be that the lease provider will extend the contract until lockdown restrictions ease – this might be a formal extension for a set amount of time or an informal rolling extension.
If you are worried about making a payment on your car loan or lease during the COVID-19 crisis, you should contact your lender at the earliest opportunity. A lender can’t offer help if it isn’t aware that a problem exists. Make sure you have your loan or lease contract available for reference when you contact your lender to save time.
Car showrooms are open, along with service and MOT centres, which can carry out essential repairs or service. That said, if your car is simply due a routine service, it is worth contacting your regular garage or service provider to see if it can wait. If you’re worried that not having your car serviced on schedule will affect its warranty, contact your dealer or the manufacturer itself for information on the changes it has implemented regarding this.
Yes, your car does still need to be taxed during the COVID-19 crisis – you can renew your car tax online. If you’re not using your car at all and it is kept off the road you might consider making a Statutory Off Road Notification (SORN). You’ll get a refund for any full months of remaining tax, but you won’t be able to drive the car until you tax it again.
Letting any car sit still for a long time can lead to issues with the batteries, brakes and tyres.
  • Batteries can be drained even when the car is switched off if electrical items remain active (alarms, for example). At worst, this could mean your car will fail to start just at the moment you need it. If your car is parked on property you own, you can overcome this danger by plugging in to a “trickle charger”, which keeps the battery charged via a conventional wall socket. Failing that, you should start your car and run it for 15 to 20 minutes once a week or so. That will top off the battery as well as circulate fluids around the engine. Running the air conditioning at the same time will help prevent mould from developing within your system.
  • When a car’s brakes aren’t used for a prolonged period, they can begin to rust on the surface. This in turn can make them noisy and cause them to seize. To prevent this from happening, roll the car backward and forward a few times. If you’re parked on private land and it’s flat, you can also leave the emergency brake off to prevent it from seizing. Be sure to leave the car in gear to prevent it from moving.
  • By rolling your car a few metres, you can help prevent the tyres from developing flat spots.
Breakdown cover services such as the AA and RAC are continuing to operate during the COVID-19 lockdown. Contact them either via their respective app or by phone in order to have your car recovered, bearing in mind that you’ll need to observe social distancing measures when they arrive. Garages and service workshops are also allowed to remain open, primarily in order to keep key workers moving. It should therefore still be possible to have your car repaired, assuming any necessary parts are available.
If you carry a spare wheel in the car and you can stop in a safe place, this guide explains how to change a wheel yourself. You can then take the damaged tyre to a garage or service centre for repair or replacement. If you don’t have the option of changing the wheel yourself, breakdown cover services are still operating during the COVID-19 lockdown and will be able to help.
The most important point is to ensure that your car remains in roadworthy condition. Check to make sure the lights (including indicators), seatbelts and brakes all work, and look out for any warning lights on the dashboard after you’ve started the engine. You should also keep an eye on the oil and coolant levels and ensure the tyres haven’t developed any flat spots.
In theory, you can sell your car during the COVID-19 crisis. However, in practice, the rules around staying at home and social distancing will make it very difficult. Even if you advertise your car for sale in order to gauge interest, it won’t be possible for somebody to come and collect it until the lockdown restrictions have been eased. When this happens and if you do sell your car, it is important to clean it to help minimise the spread of the novel coronavirus.
If you’re using your car to carry out essential journeys, it is inevitable that you will need to fill it with fuel at some point. Petrol stations do remain open to facilitate this, but while visiting it’s important to follow guidance around social distancing and washing your hands (or using hand sanitiser). If available, use disposable gloves when picking up the petrol pump. Throw the gloves in the bin when you’re finished. Using a self-service payment pump can also help you comply with guidance around social distancing.
If you’re charging your car using an electric charger, it’s important to follow the same rules you would when filling up with petrol or diesel. So, wash your hands or use hand sanitiser before and after touching the car charging equipment, and wear a pair of disposable gloves if you have them, putting them in the bin when you’re finished.
No-contact car service, also known as contactless or concierge car service, is when a garage or shop collects and returns your car as part of its service or maintenance regime. Depending on where you live, the door-to-door nature of no-contact car service could mean you can still get your car maintained during the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s important to clean your car before it gets collected and when it is returned in order to help limit the spread of the novel coronavirus.
Many dealerships are offering new car delivery during the COVID-19 crisis. Any dealers offering this service should also clean the car at the point of handover and offer a full digital service for payment and signing of documents.
Many, but not all, dealerships are offering home test drives during the COVID-19 crisis. In this scenario, a sales representative would bring the car to a customer’s house (within a set distance from the dealership), disinfect it and then allow a solo test drive to take place. On completion of the test drive, the car is disinfected once again and taken back to the dealership. If the customer decides to go ahead with the purchase, all signing of paperwork and exchanging of funds can be carried out online. CarGurus makes it easy for car shoppers to find dealerships offering home test drives – simply select the relevant search filter when carrying out your search.
This will depend on the brand and model. Vehicles that are getting refreshed and are key to automotive companies’ profits are likely to hit the market. These include vehicles like the Fiat 500 Electric, the Alfa Romeo Tonale, the new Nissan Qashqai and the BMW 4 Series.

Vehicles that will get a minor update, such as the Audi Q5, may get pushed back to 2022. While there may be a model year 2021 vehicle, the timing cycle for minor product updates may get pushed back as both automotive companies and suppliers stop production. Automotive companies will do what they can to avoid delays. However, when plants shut down for 3–5 weeks, they can still stay on track for most model launches. However, if production delays extend for months, it may be harder to stay on track.