Q&A: Can I still buy a new or used car during the second lockdown? Are car dealers still open for business? And can I take a test drive?

Time 1 year ago

Car dealers have been working hard since they were allowed to reopen on June 1 to make their dealerships Covid Secure.

The motor trade has spent thousands on ensuring dealerships could open again in a safe and secure way.

But with the second lockdown now upon us, what are the rules when it comes to buying a new or used car during this period of shutdown? 

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Most of the topics below were discussed in a special Car Dealer Live broadcast with motor trade legal experts which you can watch above.

Below, we answer the questions for dealers looking to trade and for customers looking to buy.

Are car dealers open for business?

Yes, yes they are. While the way car dealers are operating may be very different the majority are still very much open for business.

The main difference is you are not allowed to go into a dealership. Car dealerships and their forecourts have been told they must close by the government.

How can I buy a car during the second lockdown?

It must be bought remotely. The deal has to be concluded in advance either online or via the phone. 

This doesn’t mean you can leave a deposit and then go and have a look around – the deal has to be completed fully remotely.

The only way dealers can sell cars is either via click and collect or home delivery – and none of the deal can be done at home or in the dealership. This includes taking payment or signing paperwork.

How do you buy a car via click and collect?

Think of it like buying your Tesco shopping. You order online, complete the purchase and then go to the store to pick it up.

It’s the same with a car. None of the deal is allowed to be facilitated at the car dealership so you are simply visiting to pick it up.

Are there any rules around click and collect at a car dealership?

The regulations that were issued this week by the government were pretty strict on click and collect services. They are designed to stop firms getting around the rules and letting customers come in to browse.

The car cannot even be collected from the showroom during the second lockdown as they have been forced to close by the government and even handing them over on the forecourt is questionable.

Car Dealer advice to the trade – following consultation from legal professionals – is to hand over the car in a service and repair area which is allowed to stay open or somewhere else so they don’t fall foul of the law.

Can anyone buy a car during the second lockdown?

Yes. The government is encouraging the country to keep moving and work where it can and that means people need to buy cars to get around.

You don’t have to be a key worker to buy a new or used car during lockdown – the sales are not restricted.

Can I go and look around a car dealership?

No you can’t. Car showrooms and their forecourts must be closed during the second lockdown so that means browsing is off limits. 

One of our legal experts even suggested that dealers may even want to rope off their cars to ensure people don’t wander on and browse. 

While that may sound extreme, if you’re not allowed to be open it’s not worth falling foul of the law.

Can I look around a used car during lockdown?

No. The deal has to be fully transacted online or over the phone before you go to pick it up. This means you can’t go and look around a car before buying it and have to do so using remote means.

Many dealers are well set up for this and will have countless pictures of the cars you’re looking to buy on their websites.

Dealers will also produce personalised videos for you and will likely show you around the car via FaceTime or video calling so you are comfortable with what you are buying.

Are test drives allowed during the second lockdown?

No. Car showrooms and forecourts have to be closed and our legal experts cannot see any way that means test drives will be allowed to take place.

Our advisers even said they don’t think delivering a car to someone’s home during the second lockdown to test drive is allowed.

They say a remote sale is exactly that and means click and collect only – you don’t test drive your carrots from Tesco before click and collecting them do you?

Can I sell my car privately during the second lockdown?

Yes you can, but it won’t be easy. People shouldn’t be mixing and you’d need to sanitise the car very carefully in advance of the visit and afterwards.

Test drives would be out of the question as you’d be sharing a car when you shouldn’t be.

While we’d say you are technically allowed to sell a car privately during lockdown, the mechanics of doing it – and importantly the morality of it – probably means you should wait until December.

Can I buy a car now and collect it after the second lockdown?

Absolutely. This is probably the best way to do it. The new and used car market has been pretty buoyant since the first lockdown eased and allowed dealers to reopen so there’s a good chance they’ll be busy again when restrictions ease.

This ‘pent-up demand’ led to used car prices rising and dealers struggling to get hold of the cars they wanted to sell.

Our advice would be if you’ve seen the car you want at a price you’re willing to pay, do a deal on it.

Car dealers will be able to facilitate the delivery now if you want it, or you can wait until after lockdown to go and see it – a non refundable deposit will be expected to reserve the car though.

Do people want to buy a car during the second lockdown?

Yes. There are a large number of reasons the car market is pretty strong at present.

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The main one is the fact that people are simply treating themselves because they can’t buy much else. No one can go on holiday, eating out isn’t possible and for those people who have remained in work, buying a new car has been a way to cheer themselves up.

Add in the fact public transport should still largely be avoided, and the many people looking to downsize to cheaper cars to save money and the wheels of the used car market are turning especially quickly.

It’s likely that while some will continue to buy during the second lockdown most will wait and another period of satisfying pent up demand will begin in December.

James Baggott's avatar

James is the founder and editor-in-chief of Car Dealer Magazine, and CEO of parent company Baize Group. James has been a motoring journalist for more than 20 years writing about cars and the car industry.

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