Are car dealers, garages and MOT centres open for business during the second lockdown?

Time 9:28 am, November 4, 2020

MPs were voting today (Nov 4) to bring in the government’s proposed second national lockdown for England to try to stem the rising tide of coronavirus cases.

It’s pretty much a given that it’ll come into force, despite some dissent from Tory backbenchers amid fears for the economy.

Once approved, the lockdown will come into effect at one minute past midnight tonight and last until at least December 2, after which the three-tier system will come back into play.

But what does it mean for the car industry? Here we explain it all…

Will car dealers be open for business?

No – and yes. As of November 5, showrooms must be closed to the public to December 2, as they’re classed as non-essential retail. However, aftersales and repair/servicing departments can remain open as they’re essential to keep vehicles in a safe condition.

Can I buy a car during lockdown?

You may be stuck indoors but there’s nothing to stop you going down the digital road and buying a car via a dealer’s website. Essentially, if you’re interested in buying a car then contact the dealer – don’t let lockdown put you off. And if the internet isn’t your thing, you can buy over the phone.

How are dealers operating during the second lockdown?

They’ve learnt a lot from the last lockdown and are in a much better position to adapt and cope. Their physical doors may not be open but thanks to the internet their digital showroom is permanently open.

Depending on what other systems they’ve got in place, they should be able to deal with sales and other inquiries within normal operating hours, even though staff will be working remotely.

The first lockdown acted as a catalyst for new and used car dealers of all sizes as well as manufacturers to fast-track their online sales tools.

Some dealers offer a fully end-to-end online sales operation.

Dealers may also offer live chat, where you can speak to a sales person or product expert.

Video viewings are one way of seeing a car safely, where a sales person will take you on a live walk round the car via a video call.

Some manufacturers such as Peugeot and Mercedes-Benz also offer a fully end-to-end online sales operation.

How else can dealers make it easy for customers who want to buy?

Initially, it was believed that dealers and customers would simply be able to use click-and-collect, with dealers taking a refundable holding deposit.

However, new legislation brought out yesterday (Nov 3) says dealers can only hand over a car that has been sold, and they can’t just take a holding deposit.

Nor can a handover take place inside the dealership. It’s also debatable whether or not it’d be allowed on the forecourt either.

Instead, dealers are being advised to hand over cars in their service and repair areas, as these can stay open.

Click-and-deliver is being allowed, too, so long as Covid-secure measures are followed.

Can I take a test drive during lockdown?

Strictly speaking, no. The government wants to stop people turning up at showrooms, so that effectively puts the kibosh on test drives until December 2.

Could a car be delivered for a test drive? That’s debatable and depends on one’s interpretation of the law. However, we wouldn’t recommend it, nor are we sure that it’d be worth the hassle and expense for any dealer.

Can I sell my car privately during lockdown?

We’ve seen nothing to say that people can’t sell their car privately. This could be via digital and print media or auction houses, which will continue to hold online sales.

However, the caveat (and possible stumbling block) is that it all has to be done under the regulations to keep people free from Covid-19.

Those rules mean people shouldn’t be leaving their homes except for reasons such as buying food and medicine, going to work where they can’t work from home, education, exercise, caring for someone, a funeral (or similar) or to escape domestic abuse.

Can I get my car serviced or repaired?

Absolutely. Garages are deemed to be an essential business, so they’ll be staying open during the lockdown to keep vehicles safe and the country running as best as possible.

Garages, MOT centres and the service departments of car dealerships are covered by this decision.

Can I get my car MOTed?

Again yes, for the same reasons as above.

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Will there be an MOT extension like there was during the first lockdown?

It’s highly unlikely. Garages and MOT centres still have a massive backlog from then, so another extension would only make matters worse.

The DVSA confirmed to Car Dealer on November 3 that a memo had gone out to MOT testers that day advising them that they should stay open and that vehicles should have a valid test certificate.

However, it also warned that another extension could be brought in if deemed necessary because of the lockdown.

John Bowman's avatar

John has been with Car Dealer since 2013 after spending 25 years in the newspaper industry as a reporter then a sub-editor/assistant chief sub-editor on regional and national titles. John is chief sub-editor in the editorial department, working on Car Dealer, as well as handling social media.

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