Coronavirus advice: is now a good time to get a deal on a new car?
Coronavirus has complicated our everyday lives, but this could actually be a great time to research and even buy your next car...
The coronavirus (Covid-19) outbreak has thrown many aspects of our lives into turmoil, but there are ways you can continue to plan for your next car, many of them from the safety of your own home.
How What Car? can help
Our website continues to be updated daily, so you can research and shop for your next car and read up on our latest consumer advice as normal.
While we have suspended testing of new cars at present, there are a number of ways we can help you research your next car, including offering online access to dealers willing to answer any questions you may have.
Our reviews continue to be the most thorough and comprehensive in the industry, with our verdicts the result of thousands of miles of testing on public and private roads by a team of experts, as well as in-depth crunching of all the numbers, including ownership and running costs.
Getting you as close to a test drive experience as we can during this difficult time, we have more than 400 video reviews of cars online, covering all of the best-selling models.
Our mystery shopping team is continuing to talk to retailers every single day, adapting our Target Price – the most we think you should pay, and a guaranteed discount for all shoppers through our New Car Buying service – and the latest insights are updated constantly in our news section.
If you want to stay abreast of all the latest news, reviews, advice and insider information on the latest discount intelligence, then sign up to receive our regular email newsletter here.
Finally, while retailers are still adapting to the latest social distancing regulations, meaning replies may take longer than normal, many are determined to interact with customers and ensure that they have a pipeline of orders ready for when restrictions are lifted.
You can use our online chat function from the comfort of your own home, requesting information on any car through our New Car Buying service – you don’t have to give them your name or details until you are ready to do so, so you can shop among our dealers without any sales pressure.
All of the dealers in our system have committed to sell you their cars at Target Price or below.
Should I buy a car during the coronavirus crisis?
There are signs that many car retailers are ready to do great deals if you are ready to buy a car. Demand is currently extremely low and many still have a large amount of stock that they are keen to sell.
Our advice would therefore to be to talk to car dealers and negotiate, either on the phone or via our online New Car Buying chat platform, which allows you to talk to dealers from the comfort of your home.
The best way to track savings is to look at What Car?’s Target Price for each car – it is the most our mystery shoppers believe you should pay, and is guaranteed if you buy through one of our dealers.
Furthermore, What Car? will continue to highlight the best Target Price savings every week, giving you a strong guide to the hottest deals. You can sign up for our newsletter here if you wish to receive the latest updates.
It’s also worth bearing in mind that interest rates are at a historic low, and if you are planning on using hire purchase (HP) or personal contract purchase (PCP) to fund your car then these are typically affected by interest rates.
Can I get a car delivered to me during the coronavirus crisis?
While car dealerships are now shut – except for essential servicing work – all the indications are that car retailers are still willing to do everything they can to help you.
Like many businesses they are expecting a tough time in the coming weeks, with severe disruption to their workforces and how they operate, but there are numerous stories of them already going the extra mile to ensure customers get great service.
This includes delivering cars that have been bought direct to customers if they wish to accept them at this time. Paperwork can also be signed electronically in many cases, too, so there is no need to breach social distancing rules. Some are advertising that they will ensure the car is sanitised prior to the keys being handed over – an extra precaution that we would advise on you insisting upon.
Many car retailers are also well versed in offering video tours of cars you may be interested in. While bespoke video sessions are now unlikely to be possible, it is possible for retailers to point you towards videos they have previously made.
In all cases, social distancing is advised at all times at present, particularly for those over 70, with an underlying health condition or who are pregnant.
Many car factories are closing. Will I actually get my car during the coronavirus crisis?
Almost all car factories have been shut down to limit the spread of coronavirus, and this will undoubtedly mean that there are longer waiting times on factory order cars. Retailers will be able to advise you on waiting times.
However, many car companies also hold a large stock of cars, specced to the most frequently bought combinations. They will typically be able to access national databases and find out where the cars are located and transport them to you – although it is also worth bearing in mind that logistics companies will be restricted in moving around the country so you may have to settle for reserving your chosen car until the curbs on movement are relaxed.
Typically, you may be asked to put a small refundable deposit down before the retailer does this, but you will not be obligated to buy the car if it is not to your satisfaction when it arrives.
With retailers expecting demand to considerably outstrip supply in the aftermath of the crisis, it is strongly suggested that anyone who needs to change cars quickly begins discussions, and potentially places a non-binding deposit, to ensure they aren't left waiting longer than necessary.
Will a car dealer or private buyer take my current car in part-exchange?
Physical retail outlets are now shut for new and used car sales, although many dealers are still available online or on the phone. However, giving accurate part-exchange valuations is hard for them, as there is no clear indication when the crisis will end – and therefore how old your part-exchange car will be, affecting its value.
The rules around private sales are less clear, because it is possible to sell a car without breaking the rules of social isolation, which currently dictate that meetings should not be of more than two people at a time, with both parties staying an appropriate distance apart and not spending long together.
For the vast majority, buying or selling a used car will be hard to define as essential if you are challenged by authorities. However, if you do go ahead with a car sale or purchase, you should discuss the protocol of your meeting on email or on the phone before you arrive and then follow the agreed processes, including wiping down commonly touched surfaces. However, you should seriously consider the risks of spreading coronavirus.
In all cases you can get your car valued by What Car? for free prior to sale, to ensure that you are getting a fair price for it.
Could a new or used car be infected by coronavirus?
Coronavirus survives on different surfaces for different lengths of time. While research is ongoing, the suggestion is that it will survive longest – up to 72 hours – on plastic and steel, so it is worth taking extra precautions if you are looking at a car that anyone else has been near or in.
Areas to take extra care cleaning include the door handles, steering wheel, gearstick and radio controls – the surfaces that are most commonly handled.
If you are swapping between cars, taking delivery of a car from a car retailer, or test driving a car, ask for it to be cleaned thoroughly before getting in.
For all the latest reviews, advice and new car deals, sign up to the What Car? newsletter here
Best plug-in hybrid cars 2023
Plug-in hybrid cars can reduce fuel consumption to an absolute minimum, but which models are the best all-rounders and which ones should you avoid?
Citroën C5 X long-term test
The C5 X channels the style and comfort of Citroëns of old, but how does it stack up against its estate-car rivals? We're running one to find out