How to sell your car safely during the coronavirus pandemic

Here's how to sell your car and stay safe from Covid-19, including tips on how to deal with test drives...

Using computer to shop for cars online

Selling your car during the coronavirus pandemic can be a worrying and stressful prospect, particularly if you're in one of the groups of people classed as vulnerable to the virus. 

However, whether you’re selling it to a trader or a private buyer, much of the selling process can be done online. You can upload the car’s details and a set of photos, and possibly also a video, to a car selling website or email them to a dealership, so that people can take a good look at the car remotely. 

Include images of the inside and outside of the car, and details such as wheels, including the spare if your car has one, as well as any scratches and other blemishes. Use our online guide to help you write the perfect car advert

You can also check out how much your car is worth online using the What Car? Valuation tool. This will help you set a realistic price that will attract buyers and create enough interest for the car to sell swiftly. 

Selling to a dealer

Car showroom

When car dealerships re-opened in 2020, they introduced Covid-safe selling and buying processes that follow strict Government guidelines. So, if you’re selling to a dealer, the whole process should be done in a contactless and safe way. The car will either be collected by the dealer or dropped off by you with the keys sanitised as part of the handover process.

Selling to a private buyer

If you’re selling privately you will have to deal with potential buyers coming to view the car and wanting to take a test drive in it. 

You should vet potential buyers as much as possible by talking to them on the phone or by email prior to them viewing the car to ensure they are genuinely interested in buying it. You should also ask for contact information, including their phone number and address, in advance, so you can verify these before they come to view the car.

This will also enable you to find out how far they’re travelling to view your car. During any virus lockdown people are only allowed to travel locally, and driving to a different region of the UK to view or buy a car is likely to be deemed a non-essential journey. So a buyer will risk a £200 fine if they travel a long distance to see your car. 

How to handle test drives

Porsche Taycan reader test team - Anirudh Kapoor

Guidelines on being in an enclosed environment with people outside of your household or coronavirus bubble are also stricter during lockdowns, and this has led many car dealer groups to decide not to offer test drives while they are in place. Many dealers already had, or have introduced, short-term no-quibble returns policies, which mean a buyer can return a car and get a refund if they realise it’s not right for them once they’ve taken delivery of it. 

However, if you’re selling privately you won’t want to offer a return service, so it’s reasonable for buyers to expect to take a test drive. 

Prior to this happening, you should wipe down all the touch points on the car, such as the steering wheel, door handles and gear lever, and sanitise the car key. You could also ask the driver to wear disposable gloves and clothing that covers their arms and legs to minimise the risk of virus transmission.

If there is no lockdown in place you can sit in the car with the buyer, provided you both wear face coverings; to keep as far apart as possible you should sit in the rear seat furthest away from the driver. It’s also advisable to keep the car’s windows open and either switch the air conditioning off or set it to let in air from outside. 

If there is a lockdown in place or you’re not comfortable being in the car with another person, you could let them allow them to drive the car alone. In this instance we’d suggest you ask them to leave something with you as security. This could be a bank card, their wallet or the key for their own car, which you can hold onto (once sanitised) while they take the car out alone.

Don’t deny buyers a test drive

We don’t think it’s best to refuse potential buyers test drives because our advice to used car buyers is to take a test drive before agreeing to buy a car. This is the easiest way for a buyer to find out if there are any issues with the car, by hearing unexpected noises from particular components or by noticing things like gears not shifting up and down as quickly or smoothly as they should, for example. 

Finally, we’d recommend some advance planning regarding the paperwork. You can write or print off receipts for you and the buyer in advance so you only need them to fill in their details on the day, and you can pack all the car’s paperwork into a sealed bag three days before so these should not pose any risk of spreading the virus. The seller may also choose to spray the car’s logbook with alcohol spray prior to handling it.

Also, don't shake hands to seal the deal. Maybe try a sincere thumbs up.

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Next: Read our full guide to selling your car >>