There’s no reason why you can’t buy a car during this time of COVID restrictions, although you will need to take as few risks as possible; if you do decide to go for it, you should be able to fulfill this important task without incurring risks to others and to yourself.
While taking sensible precautions, you might be able to find more bargains as dealers and private sellers both become a little more desperate than usual to shift their cars on, in a time of minimum mobility and scarce to no customer interaction.
- Comparison sites are invaluable; you can adjust dozens of things from price to age, to trim, and instantly select half a dozen cars of interest, which could later be narrowed down to just two or three.
- Used car checks are easy and inexpensive; you can check MOT history, a number of owners, modifications and guard yourself against possible fraud and ignorance about recalls or claims, even before viewing pictures or visiting in person.
- With the wonders of technology, you don’t even have to test-drive the vehicle in question but view the dealer test-driving it for you, live or via recorded video file. Test-drives are fairly limited, in any case, and you don’t always know what you’re getting after a quick 10-minute drive.
- Pay for a pre-purchase vehicle inspection; an expert will do either a 5 or 10 mile test drive, either 155-point or 206-point check, and supply you with a written and photographic report so that you know exactly what it is you’re getting into. It is certainly worth the investment and you could re-coup the cost of it when it comes to ‘haggle’ time.
There’s nothing wrong with actually asking what the dealer is going to do for you, should you actually decide to (and be allowed to) see the car in person. You have every right to ask about the presence of masks, antibacterial gels and wet-wipes, whether you will be sitting a safe distance away during a test-drive, and what the show-room’s policy is on social distancing during regular working hours. You could even request to meet outside of normal working hours, seeing as so many workers are working odd shifts, irregular times of day etc. You could also ask if the car’s steering wheel and gear stick have been wiped clean of potential viruses and insist that a paper sheath is placed over the head-rest.
Given the constantly changing emergency rules and regulation, not to mention the considerable amount of money involved, you can request that the dealer permits you to do a test-drive from home. This may involve him or her driving it to your house, waiting outside while you conduct the test-drive yourself. The relevant legal paperwork can be done online; an e-signature can be administered in order to minimise actual physical contact. After this has all been signed and sealed, consider the following:
- Wearing latex gloves at all times.
- Wiping down the interior (steering wheel, indicators, gear stick, dashboard, mirrors) with an antibacterial wet wipe.
- Keeping the windows open and your mask on to minimise the threat of any airborne particles from getting into your lungs (it will also help you hear the engine as clearly as possible).
- Ensuring that the dealer stands well away from you when engaging in post test drive conversation; such distancing won’t come naturally.
- Insisting that s/he takes the same steps when getting back into the vehicle, so as to protect him/her and reduce the risk of the virus spreading.
It is very tempting for either seller or buyer or both to engage in a post-deal handshake; it’s an age-old aspect of British culture. Don’t do it! This simple act of abstaining could spare you from possibly transmitting a life-threatening virus. Equally, avoid pens at all costs; bring your own, keeping your latex gloves on if you have to actually sign the paperwork in the dealership itself. Don’t stroke your chin or rub or nose if you haven’t just sanitized your hands. It could be the death of you!
Remember the national guidance on how to stay safe and reduce the spread of COVID. This applies everywhere, at all times:
- Cleanse and disinfect hands whenever you can; definitely after touching items that are in reach of others.
- Never touch your face with your hands; they’re the main appendages on your body that make contact with viruses and bacteria, so it’s good practice anyway, not just in a time of pandemic and lockdown.
- Keep a healthy two meter (minimum) distance from all other people outside of your personal ‘bubble’.
- Elbows should be used to conceal a sneeze, not hands.
- Do everything you possibly can to avoid physical proximity to an actual dealer. Ideally, it will just be the test-drive which involves any interaction, and this can be done in such a way as to completely avoid close personal involvement.
Even getting a finance deal or discussing insurance can be done over the phone or via e-mail. Don’t allow yourself to undo all your good work by forgetting those various measures during that final step.
After you’ve sealed the deal, a whole team of mechanics and service professionals will attend to your newly purchased car; cleaning, checking, getting everything in tip-top condition. The best dealerships will ensure that everything inside the vehicle, even the engine, has been deep cleaned, ridding it of 99.9% of the potential bacteria and viruses. Special ozone gases are used, giving your car that special show-room aroma. They may well ensure that protective covers are applied to the gearstick, door handles and front seat.
During these COVID months, the relevant parties should be wearing PPE when doing all of these tasks, and you should never get within two meters of any of them, no matter how tempted you might be to make small talk and chew the cud.
If your dealership doesn’t offer this, it’s important to know. Any trace of the virus should be gone within 72 hours, so arrange with the dealer to pick it up after it’s been left alone for three days. That way, you can drive away with peace of mind and enjoy your new car.