Coronavirus COVID-19: Advice on buying, owning and running a car during the outbreak | No thanks

Coronavirus: What it means for car buyers and owners

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Last updated: 30 March 2020

Latest: All MoT tests in the UK suspended for six months

Everyone in the UK is being advised to stay at home and only go outside or use their car for food, health or essential reasons. These measures are initially in place for  three weeks and will be reviewed by the Government on 13 April.

Many lives have been turned upside down due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. Our lives have changed in unimaginable ways. But, as people try to carry on with life as 'normally' as they can, we outline your options for car buying during the Coronavirus outbreak and keeping it going on your own. And, in true Honest John style, we'll answer your questions, too. Just drop us a line here.

If you're in the market for buying a new car during the outbreak, we at HonestJohn.co.uk will be doing exactly what we have done for car buyers for 20 years: helping you find the right car for the right price. Start with our car reviews for details on whether it's right for you and which spec you should opt for and then check out what deals you can get through a broker. Brokers speak to dealers daily and may be able to source a particularly good deal. Alternatively, there's often big discounts to be had on a pre-reg car.

It's a similar story if it's a used car that you're buying. Our reviews will tell you what could go wrong (and how to protect yourself), what other car buyers and owners think with our owner car reviews, what MPG you should expect with your next car and even which child car seat will fit - if you're in the market for one. 

We will continue to update our car buying information on a daily basis, including what you tell us about what goes wrong - so please continue to send in your experiences via Ask Honest John, so that we can continue to help other car buyers as ususal.

If you have a question: Ask one of our Honest John experts for help. We'll do everything we can to answer your coronavirus query quickly, accurately and - where needed - get answers on your behalf.

We've put together the following advice about what the COVID-19 outbreak means for you and your car, based on conversations with outside experts, including Public Health England, the DVSA and others. We will update this coronavirus page as new information becomes available.

If you're not already, now is a good time for you to sign up to our newsletter, not only to stay on top of the Coronavirus situation as it develops for car owners, but to stay on top of any offers as they appear if you're still interested in buying a car. Sign up to the Honest John Newsletter here.

Should I be put off buying a new car during the Coronavirus outbreak? What are my car buying options?

If you're in the market for a new or used car, this could be a good time to get a good deal and dealers will be keen to get every sale that they can. Some people will be cancelling orders, others putting off car buying because of their personal circumstances, so demand will be low. If your local dealer has been good to you in the past (we hear a lot about bad dealers at HonestJohn.o.uk, but there's plenty of good ones out there too), now might be the time to show your support. This is a time to support the good guys. Alternatively, if you're looking for a good deal and have no dealer or brand loyalty, a broker may be able to secure you a really good deal

But, be careful. All dealerships are closed until 13 April and it will not be possible to visit your local showroom. Speak on the phone or send an enquiry - our Cars For Sale section allows car buyers to either find a phone number or send a message, with options on every listing. This means you can continue to get details of cars and speak to dealers and salespeople remotely. 

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What are dealers doing to ensure car buying can remain safe?

Most dealers are now putting into place measures to ensure that you can buy a car without having to come into contact with others. This includes increasing the amount of cars that have video 'walkarounds', so that you can have a good look at a car without having to view it in person, encouraging video calls (via Skype or similar), phone calls and emails and making sure all cars are disinfected. This, of course, is in addition to all the measures recommended by the government, from not shaking hands to washing hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and water as much as posisble.

Some dealers will be offering car buyers the option of test drives to your door.

The car supermarket Motorpoint announced on 20 March 2020 that it will deliver cars to customers for free, seven days a week, up to a 100 mile radius, something that other car retailers are adopting, too. 

Will a delayed service invalidate my car's warranty?

Under normal circumstances, a delayed service would be bad news for your car's warranty. However, HonestJohn.co.uk has contacted every manufacturer in the UK and been told that most will not invalidate any warranties due to a late or delayed service that’s been caused by the coronavirus lockdown. 

If you are worried about your car's warranty (or you are unable to contact your local dealer) click here for the latest advice and guide 

Ask HJ

Coronavirus means that I may need to cancel the car that I've just ordered - where do I stand?

I ordered an expensive Range Rover to my specification a few weeks ago, which the dealer advises is now ready. I paid a deposit at the time of order. Due to the Coronavirus situation and the economic impact that is having on my personal situation I may need to cancel. If I lose the deposit that's fine, but is there any chance that the dealer could force me legally to complete the purchase?
First of all, speak to the dealer. If you're polite and explain the situation, they'll be more understanding. You'll have entered into a contract to buy that car. Look into the terms and conditions of the paperwork you were given when you placed your order. You'll probably lose the deposit and, technically, the dealer might be able to pursue you for losses from the cancelled order. These should be minimal, though, as the dealer should be able to sell the car to someone else. Coronavirus: Advice on buying, running and owning a car during the outbreak https://www.honestjohn.co.uk/coronavirus/coronavirus-what-it-means-for-car-buyers-and-owners/
Answered by Andrew Brady
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Car buying, car owning and running your car during coronavirus: Your questions answered

Below we answer the questions that you've been asking. A word of caution, this is an ongoing situation and the official advice that we have sourced from bodies like the DVSA and Public Health England is subject to change.

1Used car prices

I'm buying a car now, what is coronavirus going to do to used car prices?

Experts are predicting a spike in used car prices, fuelled by the global slow down in new car production as factories close their doors and delays hit key elements in the supply chain.

Neil King, senior data journalist at the Autovista group, says that new car supply issues of any kind often lead to increased demand for used models.

Speaking to HonestJohn.co.uk, King said: “The outbreak will particularly reinforce the attractiveness of models that are subject to long delays and deliveries, with a positive impact on their values.

“Delays to new-car deliveries would result in fewer tactical, short-term registrations as dealers would only be able to sell the cars they have available. This would also increase or at least stabilise residual values of younger used cars because their volumes are reduced.”

At this stage, King doesn’t expect the new car market in the UK to suffer in the same way as China. “Many of the most important model launches in 2019-20 are all produced in Europe. They are therefore less likely to be harmed by a lack of personnel or shutdowns in Asia, but could still be derailed by components shortages and/or if similar measures are imposed in Europe.”

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Read more: Used car prices set to soar as coronavirus hits new car production

2Which dealers are currently closed?

Car dealers across the country are closing following Government advice that people should practise 'social distancing' in a bid to stem the coronavirus pandemic.

While buyers are advised to stay away from showrooms, many dealers are still open to online enquiries. Workshops also continue to carry out work - particularly on important jobs including those cars owned by key workers.

These are the dealer groups that have announced closures so far:

Arnold Clark

With 200 dealerships across the UK, Arnold Clark is one of the country's biggest car dealers. It's announced that showroom sales will stop from Monday 23 March, with the entire business closed by Wednesday 25 March. It plans to reopen on Monday 13 April at the earliest. Anyone in the process of purchasing a car will be contacted by a member of the sales team, while anyone with a car booked into the workshop will be contacted with a rescheduled date.

Sytner

Dealer group Sytner has announced that its showrooms will be closed from the end of Tuesday 24 March. Workshops will remain open until work already booked in has been completed.

It plans to support customers who wish to purchase cars by launching a buy online option on its website. This will be in the next few days and allow potential buyers to obtain a part-exchange valuation, apply for finance and have the car delivered without leaving their home.

JCT600

JCT600 is closing its 52 dealers across the north of England from the end of Monday 23 March. Despite showrooms being closed, its staff will be on hand to respond to phone calls and online chats.

"Our top priority is everyone’s safety both on and off the road. With this in mind, we will be prioritising safety-related issues and technical faults; any routine appointments will be reviewed and re-appointed at a later date. Please expect a call from our member of our team."

Lookers

Lookers - which trades as Taggarts in Scotland and Charles Hurst in Northerm Ireland - has announced that it is closing all of its dealerships with immediate effect in responsise to COVID-19 coronavirus.

“The board is incredibly grateful to our brilliant employees who have been working hard to continue to serve our customers and the community safely in difficult circumstances.

“However, the board has carefully considered the impact of COVID-19 and the current advice of the UK Government. The board’s priority is to support the welfare of our colleagues and customers and to play our part in the national effort to reduce the further spread of the virus.

“Over the past 48 hours it has become clear that maintaining safe social distancing measures whilst continuing to operate car dealerships has become increasingly difficult.
3What has coronavirus done to petrol and diesel prices?

What has coronavirus done to petrol and diesel prices?

Both Asda and Morrisons have cut 12p-per-litre off the cost of petrol and 8p per litre off diesel. The cuts by the two supermarkets represent the largest ever single fuel price cut by a retailer. The cuts have come in response to falling demand because of coronavirus and a global oil price now at an 18 year low.

Driver's could see the cost of filling up a family sized car, like a Ford Focus, drop by about £9 with current fuel reductions at Morrisons. These stats are based on the current average cost of unleaded (120.3p), according to the RAC Foundation's fuel price tracker.

More on this story here

4Should I wear gloves when refuelling my car?

Should I wear gloves when refuelling my car? 

Yes, all drivers are being urged to wear gloves when using fuel pumps in a bid to slow down the spread of coronavirus.

The Petrol Retailers Association says it's important for fuel stations to remain open and provide a service to the public - but joins Public Health England in encouraging drivers to use gloves when refuelling.

"Petrol pumps are no worse than other surfaces, although we do recommend people use gloves and wash their hands after using them," said a Public Health England spokesperson.

Although many drivers might be tempted to use pay-at-pump rather than stepping into the shop, the PIN pads on these machines could be carrying germs. To get around this, many big fuel companies allow payments via mobile phone apps.

5I'm over 70 years old, can I still use my car?

I'm over 70 years old, can I still use my car?

Everyone in the UK is being advised to stay at home and only go outside for food, health reasons or essential work. These measures are in place for a total of three weeks and will be reviewed on 13 April.

People with serious underlying health conditions, however, must stay home for a minimum of 12 weeks and not use their vehicle in any circumstances. The Government and local health authorities are in the process of contacting 1.5 million people who are affected by this advice. 

Those with an underlying health condition are being urged to ask family, friends and neighbours to support them by supplying food and everyday essentials. If this is not possible, the public sector, business, charities, and the general public are gearing up to help those advised to stay at home by delivering groceries.

In all cases, it is important to speak to others and ask them to help to make arrangements for the delivery of food, medicines and essential services and supplies.

 

6Where do I stand with car loans, finance and borrowing?

Where do I stand with car loans, finance and borrowing?

The coronavirus pandemic is going to have serious financial consequences in the UK - the sort of which will see people out of work and struggling to keep their money on track. If you’re worried about repaying a loan or finding the money for a monthly car finance payment, it’s important to take action now to prevent negative consequences further down the line.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Chancellor Rishi Sunak have announced plans to help people facing difficulties as a result of the coronavirus outbreak - including business loans and mortgage breaks - but nothing specific has been outlined for personal loans or car finance.

However, a number of banks have said they’re willing to provide assistance if required, depending on your personal circumstances. The key message is, if it becomes clear that you’re not going to be able to make a payment on a loan or finance agreement, you should contact the provider as soon as possible.

"We understand that there may be circumstances where a personal customer may fall into financial difficulty as a result of the impacts of coronavirus, for instance, loss of income," a spokesman for RBS said.

"We will look to understand each customer's situation on a case-by-case basis and can offer a number of options to help them manage their finances."

The Finance & Leasing Association echoes this sentiment: “Supporting customers over the next few months will be absolutely vital – especially for those whose income is severely affected by the coronavirus disruption,” said Stephen Haddrill, Director General of the Finance & Leasing Association.

“FLA members are there to help, so it’s important to keep talking to your lender.”

In the worst case scenario, you might wish to sell your vehicle to pay off the loan or hand it back to the leasing company.

If you took out a bank loan to buy the vehicle then the solution is relatively simple - sell the car and use the money to clear some or all of the remaining loan. Some providers will charge an early repayment charge; ask for a settlement figure to find out exactly how much is required to pay off the loan in one go.

If you have a hire purchase or PCP agreement on your car it is a little more complicated. If you have paid 50 per cent or more of the total amount owed when you first bought the vehicle (this total will be in your documentation) then you have the right to return the vehicle under voluntary termination. You can do this and owe nothing more and without damaging your credit rating, although this option may make it more difficult to obtain finance in the future. The vehicle must be in good condition for you to take advantage of this option.

If voluntary termination is not an option you should contact the company and explain that you are experiencing financial difficulties. Depending on your circumstances and how they may change in the future they may be able to help with a payment plan or even rearrange your finance with a new agreement over a longer term to reduce the monthly payment. Another alternative is to take out a loan to settle the agreement so you will own the vehicle outright; this may give you the breathing space so that you can keep your vehicle.

7Can I still get an MoT or my car serviced?

Can I still get an MoT or my car serviced?

UPDATE 25 MARCH 2020

The Government has announced a six-month extension for all car and van MoTs in the UK. 

Cars and vans that are due an MoT from 30 March will automatically get a six-month extension, which means people will not have to visit their local garage if they are experiencing symptoms of the coronavirus or living with someone who is vulnerable to the disease.

The move comes after car dealers called for a three-month moratorium on MoT testing in a bid to reduce social contact. The Government has already suspended the annual roadworthiness test for heavy goods vehicles, buses and trailers. More on this story here.

UPDATE 21 MARCH 2020

MoT testing for cars is to be reviewed in the wake of the coronavirus crisis. The Government has already suspended the annual roadworthiness test for heavy goods vehicles, buses and trailers.

Now the Department for Transport could issue similar guidance for cars, motorcycles and light vans over the coming weeks if MoT test centres are forced to close by the COVID-19 outbreak.

A statement released on Friday said: “The Department for Transport continues to keep MOT testing under review and will provide an update in due course.” More on this story here

19 MARCH 2020

The Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) has told HonestJohn.co.uk that it’s currently “business as normal” for the MoT test, but the situation "has the potential to change if the coronavirus pandemic worsens."

This means, for now, all car owners will need to ensure their vehicle has a valid MoT if it's over three-years-old. As before, as in all cases, the MoT lasts for 12 months and the expiry date is found printed on the pass certificate. 

You can get an MoT up to a month (minus a day) before it runs out and keep the same renewal date. For example, if your MoT expires on 20 May, you will be able to have the MoT carried out on 19 April and keep the same renewal date. If the MoT is carried out earlier then the one month (minus a day) the renewal date will be changed. 

Check your car's MOT history

If the MoT expires then the vehicle must be removed from the public road and declared SORN (Statutory Off Road Notification). Owners should also inform their insurer of the SORN notification and the location where the vehicle will be stored. Vehicles on SORN can only be driven to a pre-booked MoT appointment and must have valid insurance.

Approved dealers will continue to offer servicing and maintenance for their customers and booked appointments are still being honoured. Halfords and Kwik Fit are also operating as normal.

Speaking to HonestJohn.co.uk, a spokesperson for Halfords said: "The health and safety of all our customers is a top priority and we’re closely following all government and Public Health England guidelines.

"All of our stores and garages remain open, and we are working hard to ensure our motoring services, MoTs and mobile servicing teams continue to keep our customers moving.

"In the event of any closures we have put contingencies in place to contact any customers who are affected and, if convenient, will rebook them into an alternative centre for the work to be done.”

A Kwik Fit spokesman said: “Currently all our centres are open and operating as normal, as is our mobile fleet. Our number one priority remains the safety and wellbeing of our people and customers, providing a safe and clean environment for everyone. 

“We are staying well informed of the developing situation and following the advice and recommendations from the Government, Public Health England and the World Health Organisation. We have introduced additional hygiene measures both in our centres and for our mobile fitting fleet, and we are practising social distancing to reduce any close contact between staff and customers. 

“We will update our operations in accordance with Government advice and provide information via our website.” 

Can't use your usual garage? Search The Good Garage Guide for a trustworthy garage close to you

8What does the Coronavirus mean for the London Conestion Charge and the London Ultra Low Emission Zone

What does the coronavirus mean for the London Conestion Charge and the London Ultra Low Emission Zone

On 20 March, Mayor of London Sadiq Kahn announced that both the London Congestion Charge and the London Low Emission Zone would be suspended from Monday 23 March, 2020. More on this story here.

9I'm planning to self-isolate for three months, how do I store my car?

I'm planning to self-isolate for three months, how do I store my car?

Car owners who are self-isolating may wish to put their vehicle into storage on their driveway or in their garage. 

To avoid potential battery draindown, it’s important to switch off the vehicle’s interior light and radio before switching off the ignition. 

Also, check that the boot light and the glovebox light go out when they are closed. You can do this with a smartphone by setting it to the video record setting and shutting it in the boot or the glovebox. If the light does not go out you may need to remove the bulb or switch it off- the vehicle’s owner’s manual will show you how to do this. 

Clean and polish the car. Leave it to dry outside and thoroughly heat through all systems to evaporate off any condensation. 

Overpressure the tyres to 40 PSI - this will help prevent flatspotting - then put it in the garage still hot from the run. Connect up to a trickle charger which monitors the car battery and keeps it to a constant 13.5 volts without damaging the electronics. If storing in a garage, leave one window open slightly to keep the interior ventilated, but not open enough to allow mice to get in, and cover with a cotton sheet.

If storing outside, consider using a car cover. Most will allow some breathing, but condensation will also occur under them. They need to be tied down with a washing line wrapped under the car to stay on in a high wind. 

If the car has an automatic transmission, make sure you can get access to the battery because if it's flat when you return you may be unable to access the engine bay if you have parked next to a wall or object.

10Can I take my car abroad?

Can I take my car abroad?

The Foreign Office advised British people not to travel outside of the UK, on Tuesday, March 17. Initially, it’s for a 30-day period – but this could change.

Eurotunnel has confirmed that while travel between France and the UK is still permitted, it is strictly limited to essential travel.

This is defined as if your main residence is in France, if you work outside of the UK, or if you work in the medical services. Strict filtering is being implemented at border control.

For those drivers who are permitted to use the Eurotunnel, the Government guidance is that you must remain in your car at all times.

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But while the news has left many travellers upset, a Eurotunnel spokeswoman said that it was possible to use a ticket up to 12 months after purchase.

Like many businesses, Eurotunnel has implemented additional cleaning produces on services.

France is already on lockdown as it tries to fight the spread of the COVID-19 outbreak.

So far, France has not closed its roads or transports links but this could be subject to change as the government enters the next phase in its battle to contain the coronavirus.

11What are companies doing to help NHS workers?

What are companies doing to help NHS and other key workers?

103298 Your Parking Space (1)

Halfords is offering a free 10-point car check, available from 20 March 2020 for NHS workers, including tyre inflation, screen wash and oil level, headlight and brake light inspections. The service is available to all NHS frontline staff at most Halfords retail stores or Autocentres from today. The NHS is being pushed to breaking point as the number of coronavirus cases in hospitals increases.

JustPark, the parking app, is urging the public and businesses located close to hospitals to offer their car parking spaces for free. The app enables unused parking spaces to be listed for others to reserve and pay for in advance, but is allowing free parking for healthcare workers and patients.

Also, UK-based Formula One teams and car manufacturers are set to build life-saving medical equipment to fight the coronavirus pandemic.

If you know of any companies helping NHS staff and key workers to stay mobile or making their lives easier please let us know.

Ask HJ

If people begin storing their cars for self isolation - will all the alarms go off as the batteries degrade?

If a car battery slowly degrades because of lack of use during the Covid-19 four months' isolation period, will the alarm go off at some point and continue to do so? I'm thinking of many people in my area who may be in that position.
This situation varies from make and model of car. I would recommend fitting a trickle charger to the battery, like the C-TEK MXS 5.0: https://kit.honestjohn.co.uk/reviews/review-ctek-battery-charger-mxs-50/ For more advice for buying, running and storing a vehicle during the coronavirus outbreak see: https://www.honestjohn.co.uk/coronavirus/coronavirus-what-it-means-for-car-buyers-and-owners/#storing-a-car
Answered by Dan Powell
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