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Can I buy a new or used car in Tier 1, 2 and 3? Are car dealers open from December 2? How has the government decided which areas go into what tier?

Time 10 months ago

Today the government has announced the regions of England that will fall into tiers 1, 2 and 3 from December 2. 

These new rules will give some people more freedom and allow many businesses to reopen, but in other areas tight restrictions will remain in place. 

This time around, more regions have fallen into higher tiers, and with travelling between tiers discouraged unless necessary it may affect car dealers in other ways.


Only three places are in tier 1, which is the lowest: the Isle of Wight, Cornwall, and the Isles of Scilly.

Greater Manchester, Birmingham, Bristol, Newcastle upon Tyne and Kent are among the regions that have been put into tier 3 – the level with the tightest restrictions.

London and Liverpool have fallen into tier 2.

Click here for the full list of local restriction tiers by area 


What can and can’t you do in each tier?

Although England is returning to a three-tier system, the rules for what you are allowed to do in each are different from the ones we had in October. 

  • Tier 1 or ‘medium’ means that a maximum of six people can meet indoors or out. Bars, pubs and restaurants are allowed to open, as well as all shops, hairdressers and beauty salons. Indoor entertainment, such as bowling alleys and cinemas, will also be allowed to reopen. 
  • Tier 2 or ‘high’ restricts mixing inside to just support bubbles, while up to six people can meet outside. Pubs and bars won’t be allowed to open unless they’re offering ‘substantial food’ alongside alcohol. 
  • Tier 3 or ‘very high’ only allows groups of six to meet in public outdoor places, not private gardens. Hospitality will close except for takeaways, indoor entertainment will close, sporting events are banned but drive-ins are still allowed. People will be told to avoid travelling out of the area apart from to work. 

How has the government decided which areas go into what tier?

There are five factors the government has taken into consideration. 

These include case detection rates in all age groups, case detection rates in the over-60s and the rate at which cases are rising or falling.

The two other measures are the positivity rate – the number of positive cases detected as a percentage of tests taken – and pressure on the NHS, including current and projected occupancy.

Downing Street has declined to give any further details on the indicators, or any estimate of the thresholds.

Where will car dealers be allowed to reopen?

Car dealers fall into retail and will therefore be allowed to reopen in all tiers. 

However, all dealerships will still need to follow the Covid-secure guidelines set out for reopening earlier in the year. 

This means that all business owners must carry out a Covid-19 risk assessment, set out social distancing in their place of work, and keep employees and customers safe.


Can I visit a car dealership again?

Yes. In all regions, regardless of which tier they’re in, you’ll be able to go to a car dealership.

While dealers will be allowed to welcome customers into showrooms once more, they’ll still need to follow social distancing and make sure their site meets the Covid-secure guidelines.

Can I take a test drive under the new tier system?

Test drives will be allowed again as long as car dealers follow the same rules set out before.

Face masks will need to be worn by all inside the car and some dealers will be offering unaccompanied test drives if their insurance allows it.

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How else will these restrictions affect car dealers?

With moving between tiers being discouraged unless for work, car buyers may be likely to shop local or require home delivery to buy a car from further afield. 

That said, there are no rules to stop people moving if it ‘is necessary’ and shoppers may consider collecting a car just that, depending on their circumstances. 

The movement restrictions and asking people to continue working from home where possible may see some car buyers put off their purchase, but with public transport still warned against, there may still be some demand. 

Rebecca Chaplin's avatar

Rebecca has been a motoring and business journalist since 2014, previously writing and presenting for titles such as the Press Association, Auto Express and Car Buyer. She has worked in many roles for Car Dealer Magazine’s publisher Blackball Media including head of editorial.

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