CORONAVIRUS is affecting all aspects of daily life across the globe, and it seems the outbreak in the UK is gathering pace. The government introduced severe measures to try and combat the spread of COVID-19, essentially putting the country into lockdown.
There’s nothing more important than our health and well-being, but many people will also be worried about the effects of the virus on their personal circumstances. The government has introduced unprecedented loans and grants to pay employees of businesses that have been forced to close, and has taken measures to prevent millions of citizens falling behind on rent and mortgage payments.
Running a car will be a concern for plenty of people. In this guide we will tell you everything you need to know; we’ll go through MoTs and servicing, charges for low-emission zones, fuel availability and what it means if you’re looking to buy a car now.
Buying a car online
Car showrooms are no longer open, but many manufacturers such as Ford, Kia and Dacia allow you to buy online. You simply configure a car on the manufacturer’s website and arrange the finance agreement and, if approved, your new car can be delivered to your door once it’s been built. Many companies will even let you part-exchange your old car during the process. Buying a car online is becoming more popular, as you don’t have to deal with salesmen and trawl around different dealerships.
However, it’s worth noting that car production in Europe has stopped for the foreseeable future. Peugeot and Citroen, the Volkswagen Group, Ford, Nissan and Toyota have all stopped making cars, so it’s likely that you’ll need to wait a few months for your new car to arrive.
Our sister site BuyaCar has thousands of nearly new and used cars for sale, all of which can be bought online.
MoT tests and servicing
All MoT tests from Monday 30 March will be cancelled. Cars needing an MoT will be granted a six-month extension, so you will be allowed to drive your car even if the MoT has run out. Transport Secretary Grant Shapps confirmed the changes on Twitter, but added that cars must be kept ‘in a roadworthy condition.’ Heavy goods vehicles and public service vehicles were given a three-month MoT exemption last week. At present, repair garages remain open so you can get your car fixed if necessary.
Many new cars come with variable servicing intervals that depend on mileage, rather than a set period of time. If you’re in lockdown, obviously you won’t be driving your car very often so the mileage won’t increase by much and your warranty won’t be affected. For drivers with fixed service intervals and specific scheduled maintenance, we recommend contacting your car’s manufacturer if your car’s service will be overdue by more than a month or 1,000 miles.
Fuel shortages and petrol station hygiene
There’s no need to worry about fuel shortages – fewer people will be out driving their cars on a regular basis. In Italy, fuel stations have reported sales being down by up to 60 per cent. With less demand, you may even see lower prices at the pumps in the coming weeks.
It’s worth being extra careful at petrol pumps and when paying because the virus can survive on surfaces. Having protective equipment, such as disposable gloves, for refuelling is a good idea, and we’d recommend using contactless payments where possible as chip-and-pin buttons may harbour germs.
Cleaning your car, driving during lockdown and storage
For those using their cars for essential journeys, we’d also recommend cleaning your car’s interior as often as possible, preferably with anti-bacterial products. You may need to use household cleaners, but make sure they’re suitable for plastics, leather and/or upholstery before use. It’s particularly important to clean the areas that you or your passengers most regularly touch: door handles, the steering wheel, gearlever, handbrake, radio controls and seatbelts.
The government’s guidelines state that you must only drive when it’s essential, such as going to work if you can’t work from home, shopping for food or medicine, or attending a medical appointment. The police now have the power to issue fines for non-essential travel. If you want to read more about driving your car during the pandemic, we have a helpful guide.
Motorists no longer driving their cars may find helpful advice in our article on storing a carfor an extended period. If you aren’t likely to need your car for any essential journeys at all, you may want to consider getting a SORN for your car.
Congestion charge and ULEZ exemptions
You no longer need to pay the £11.50 Congestion Charge or the £12.50 ULEZ charges if you are driving into London but the roads should only be used for essential journeys. Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, suspended the charges so that ‘London’s critical workers, particularly those in the NHS, are able to travel round London as easily as possible during this national emergency.’ Lifting the charges should also make it easier for supermarkets to restock.
Driving tests cancelled
Almost all driving tests have been cancelled for at least three months. There are exemptions for those with a ‘critical need’ to take their test, such as NHS workers and soon-to-be delivery drivers.
Impact on car finance and leasing
There’s no specific advice for the impact of coronavirus on car finance and leasing payments as yet, but you should contact your lender as soon as possible if you experience financial difficulty, as assistance or payment holidays may be available.
What it means for the car industry
The pandemic presents a significant threat to the car industry, as all UK car factories have been closed. The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) released an impact analysis, suggesting that as many as 200,000 vehicles could be wiped off the UK’s 2020 output.
During the present lockdown, you can’t visit dealerships or buy and sell cars privately because the UK government has instructed the public not to leave their homes unless it’s essential. You can, however, browse the web at home and draft a shortlist of the cars you’re interested in buying when the lockdown has ended. Some retailers may offer home delivery of new cars to existing and prospective customers.
UK-based car manufacturers are also helping the government by producing medical equipment. British car makers such as Vauxhall and Rolls-Royce have offered to help the government meet the need for hospital ventilators. A consortium has also been formed by Nissan, the McLaren F1 team and aerospace company Meggitt. It has already produced a ventilator design that has reached the prototype stage.