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Q&A: Can I buy a new car in lockdown 2021? Can I visit a car dealership? Can I take my car to a garage for repair work?

Time 3 months ago

Buying a car during the third national has meant consumers have needed to change their buying habits but it is by no means impossible. 

In the last 11 months car dealers have been drastically changing their sales practices to make sure they can continue to get their customers in new cars. 

We’ve been living with these restrictions since January 5, and in some regions that were put into Tier 4 before Christmas it’s been an even longer shutdown period.


Are car dealers allowed to sell cars at the moment?

Yes, car dealers can sell cars at the moment but there are plenty of other things they’re not allowed to do. 

Car dealerships were classed as non-essential retail but they are allowed to continue offering click-and-collect. 

They’re also allowed to continue going into work as they are unable to do their work from home.

However, as they have done since June 2020, car dealers need to have social distancing measures in place.


What aren’t car dealers allowed to do?

This is a slightly longer and more confusing list. Car dealers shouldn’t be letting customers in their showroom and they shouldn’t be letting customers look around cars there either.

Customers aren’t allowed to buy cars from them unless it’s been paid for in full, or they’ve put down a deposit or reservation payment.

Car owners CAN go into the showroom if that’s where the service desk is, and they’ve booked in a car for work. 

However, as above, even if a customer is in the showroom for a service they shouldn’t be shopping for new cars there.

It’s been up for debate, but many firms have also decided test drives are off the table.

When a customer comes to collect a car, they also shouldn’t be doing this inside the showroom or on site where possible – unless the dealership can do it from a workshop bay.

Can I buy a new car in lockdown 2021?

Consumers have been allowed to buy cars from dealers since showrooms were allowed to first reopen in June 2020.

While franchised dealers shouldn’t be letting you into the showroom to shop for new cars now, you can buy from them online, over the phone or email. 

Can I buy a used car in lockdown 2021?

Yes, the same things go for used car dealers. They’re still allowed to sell their stock but keeping to the same restrictions mentioned above.

You’ll need to buy or pay a reservation for the car before you arrive to collect it or choose to have it delivered to your home.

Am I allowed to buy a car from a private seller?

While there aren’t specific rules about not doing this, there are a lot of restrictions that mean you shouldn’t be doing this unless a car is an essential purchase for you. 

Unlike businesses, private sellers don’t have to put in the same Covid-secure protocols and there have been some cases of police pulling over people for driving further than they should be in lockdown.

Can I get my car repaired or serviced at a garage?

Yes, you can. Car repairs and maintenance are deemed essential and these businesses have been able to continue working almost as normal. 

However, expect social distancing guidelines to be in place and consider your mechanic when taking your car in. As much as you’d expect them to sanitise your car after fixing it, they’d probably appreciate the same!

Is there an MOT extension?

As with previous tier restrictions and lockdowns, service and repair centres have been able to continue operating.

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Therefore it is unlikely there will be another MOT exemption – particularly as there is still a backlog of cars to be tested.

The government guidance on the new lockdown says that vehicle repair and MOT services can remain open and you are allowed to leave home to get an MOT ‘if you need to drive when lawfully leaving home’.

Last updated: February 19, 2021

Rebecca Chaplin

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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