Advice

Q&A: When will car dealers be open again? Are car dealers non-essential retail? When can I test-drive a car?

Time 3 months ago

It’s official – car dealers in England have to remain physically closed until April 12.

They’re not being allowed to reopen their doors for another seven weeks – until a week after Easter Monday – as part of Boris Johnson’s roadmap out of the pandemic, announced today (Feb 22).

He said a ‘wretched year would give way to a spring and a summer that will be very different and incomparably better’.

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But that doesn’t mean their hands are completely tied before April 12.

They’ve been adapting and changing their sales methods since the first lockdown was announced last March, so this is just a continuation of what they’ve been used to for quite a while.

Here’s what is and isn’t allowed…

Are car dealers non-essential retail?

Yes, dealers are classified as non-essential retail, which means their showrooms and forecourts have to continue to remain shut to buyers until April 12.

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Can car dealers still sell cars during lockdown three?

Yes, even though they’re deemed non-essential retail, they can continue to offer click-and-collect plus home delivery.

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

Social distancing protocols must still be in place.

What can’t car dealers do in lockdown three?

Car dealers shouldn’t be letting customers in their showroom and they shouldn’t be letting them look around cars there either.

People can’t 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.

Dealers should also rope off any areas where cars are on display to discourage any viewings – accidental or otherwise.

Can you take a test drive during lockdown three?

It’s been up for debate but many firms have decided test drives are off the table while showrooms are closed.

Following the spirit of the rules means test dives are not allowed during the third lockdown.

Can I buy a new or used car during lockdown three?

Consumers have been allowed to buy cars from dealers since showrooms were first allowed to 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 by email.

The same goes for used car dealers. They’re still allowed to sell their stock but must keep 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 so 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 in lockdown three?

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

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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 for third lockdown?

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

Unlike during the first lockdown, though, there is no MOT extension – especially as there is still a backlog of cars that need to be tested.

Easing the lockdown in England. PA graphic, 22 Feb 2021.

The general roadmap for easing England’s third 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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