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Coronavirus: Buying a car during and after lockdown

Georgia Petrie

Written by

Georgia Petrie

dealer customer service car buying
  • What to expect when showrooms re-open in April
  • Test drives are back but they will be by appointment only
  • Contactless deliveries and collection set to continue

Thinking of buying a car, but don’t quite know how to go about it right now? Our guide covers everything you’ll need to know to feel confident in finding your next set of wheels when dealerships reopen.

Find your dream car from the comfort of your living room

It's never been easier to find your perfect car and even though dealers and showrooms are reopening, you won't have to go in to buy a car if you don't want to.

Dealers are reopening. If your local showroom is shut then you can still view cars, ask questions and make offers without leaving the comfort of your home.

The majority of our listings include a video, meaning you can get an in-depth look at the cars that catch your eye without having to step foot into a showroom. Most dealers are also happy to provide a personalised video, too, or a virtual walk-around if you’d like.

>>> What the latest COVID-19 measures mean for buying a car 

New measures at dealerships

When showrooms reopen, they’ll look a little different. Social distancing measures will probably be the new normal in all dealerships. This means there’ll be a two-metre social distancing gap between you and the team at all times, with a one-way system. It’ll feel just like being in a big Tesco - but with a few more cars inside.

There will probably be a limit on how many people can enter a showroom at any one time, but many dealers are also extending opening hours to make more appointments available to customers. That does mean you’ll have to call them rather than just dropping in if you want to have a browse.

In-store signage, floor stickers, desk screens and hand sanitiser stations will also probably be the new normal for a while yet.

Unsurprisingly, customers will be asked to wear a face mask and potentially gloves too if they do want to enter one of the demonstration cars. 

Test drives

Test drives will still take place at some dealers, but safety comes first - so dealers might no longer be able to go on a test drive with you. You’ll likely be given the car, a set of trade plates and a recommended test drive route. A bit like your driving test, but with less anxiety (hopefully).

For dealers who do allow test drives, it's highly likely that you'll be required to pay a deposit in order to take a test drive.

So, you’ll get to push all the buttons and try out the speakers to your heart’s content, but remember to ask the dealer any questions that might crop up after your drive.

The staff should disinfect the car before and after the test drive. Plus, disposable protective seat covers may be fitted, along with a cover for the gear stick and steering wheel. The steering wheel, gear lever, and handbrake should also be wiped over and cleaned. In fact, you can probably expect anything you’ll be given to be wiped over with a disinfectant wipe first.

Haggling

The world is made up of those who haggle and those who don’t. Luckily for you, if you’re the former - you can still try to negotiate online, over the phone or at a two-metre distance. Your goal should be to buy your perfect car at the best price for you.

Given that many car factories have been shut, there may be a temporary shortage of certain new cars, so prices of used cars could go up and down in the near future. This could mean, the dealer may take particular interest in the car you plan to part-exchange. They may even ask you to send photos and a walk-around camera phone video. If they do, take the time to make sure the car is clean (inside and out) and fix any minor mechanical or cosmetic faults. So, no punctured tyres or the like. And, it's always a good idea to find that spare key, too.

Spending a small amount now will help you get a better price in the end.

Contactless deliveries and collection

Many car dealers are already offering contactless deliveries and it could soon become the norm. This means your new set of wheels will be delivered to your front door with the keys cleaned and posted through your letterbox.

Digital signatures and paperwork could be sent via email, along with digital payments to issue the deposit or opening balance of your car’s finance. The dealer may also ask for a 'virtual meeting' before they hand over the car so you can ask any questions you may have or confirm the delivery details.

Your rights

This is the boring bit, we get it - but it’s important and it won’t take long. If you bought a used car without setting foot on the dealer’s premises, the Consumer Contracts Regulations of 2013 – more widely known as ‘distance selling regulations’ – will apply. This means that if you aren't happy with the vehicle, you have 14 days to reject the car and return it to the dealer.

Take note, though, the ‘distance selling regulations’ don’t apply if you visit the dealer's physical premises to collect the vehicle or sign the paperwork for the car.

The 2015 Consumer Rights Act theoretically gives you the right to reject a used car from a dealer within 30 days of purchase if you find any faults.