With the second national lockdown likely coming into effect across England on Thursday (5 November), would-be car buyers will be considering whether to put their purchase on hold, and motorists may be unsure of the restrictions affecting vehicle usage.
Although the proposed restrictions on leaving the house and entering retail premises currently seem to be less severe than in the previous lockdown, the government is taking drastic action to prevent social gathering and unnecessary contact.To that end, there will be a number of new rules coming into force that dictate what you can do with your car, how you can maintain it and whether you can buy a new model.
Here is a rundown of the measures affecting motorists across Britain:
Can I still buy a new car?
Unlike last lockdown, some non-essential retailers in England will be allowed to remain open as of 0001 on 5 November, though only to operate a click-and-collect service.
As it stands, it appears that car dealers can once again continue to offer a click-and-collect service, while operating a contactless delivery service. Showrooms, however, must close their doors, and there will be heavy restrictions imposed upon test drives, meaning prospective buyers will have to go out alone.
When it comes to collecting a pre-purchased car, the dealer will have to sanitise the entire vehicle – including the keys – and will likely offer walk-through videos rather than in-person demonstrations.
The National Franchised Dealers Association (NFDA) is campaigning for English dealerships to be exempt from the restrictions, with many having invested heavily in operating to a Covid-secure model since reopening in June. The trade body is urging the government to follow the example set by Germany, where national lockdown rules do not mean dealerships have to close.
The national lockdown is currently scheduled to run until 2 December, though cabinet minister Michael Gove has said it could be extended if coronavirus infection rates do not significantly decline.
In Scotland, a five-tier lockdown system is in place, with showrooms allowed to remain open in Tiers 1, 2 and 3, while only outdoor forecourts can open in Tier 4 and all businesses must close in Tier 5 locations.
Wales is currently in a state of national lockdown until 9 November, and all non-essential businesses have had to completely close, including car dealerships.
Can I buy a used car?
Used car dealers in England are subject to the same rules as their new car counterparts, meaning they can remain open if they trade according to a contact-free, closed-showroom model.
Buying privately is not advisable during the lockdown, as the rules state you should only leave home for essential purposes or to work if you cannot work from home. If you must buy a car so that you can work, shop or care for a vulnerable person, social distancing rules must be adhered to at all times, and you should not share a car with anyone from outside your household.
Can I visit a garage?
During the last lockdown, the government granted drivers a six-month MOT extension to avoid unnecessary driving and people coming into close social contact at garages. This measure is not likely to come into effect again, because garages are not being asked to close and are mostly likely to remain open – not least because there’s still a lengthy backlog of MOTs from the previous lockdown.
If you have to use your car during lockdown, it must be roadworthy, so book in for an MOT test before the date of expiry, and have your car serviced if it’s due. The rules on what constitutes essential travel are yet to be officially outlined, but a trip to a local garage for an essential repair is likely to be permissible.
Garages remain open in Wales, though only for essential repairs and MOTs, and in Scotland the rules vary according to region, with the highest-level tiers advising against all but essential travel.