Solo test drives approved to keep car buyers safe

Trading Standards confirms that potential car buyers can test cars alone, as long as they've paid a deposit for the car and insurance is in place...

The test drive

Potential car buyers can test drive cars they are considering purchasing, provided they have already paid a deposit for the car either online or over the phone.  

Law company Lawgistics has reported that Trading Standards and the Office of Product Safety and Standards have confirmed to them that test drives are legally permitted during the UK's third coronavirus lockdown. 

However, dealerships and buyers have been warned to ensure that the retailer has adequate insurance in place prior to each test drive. And, while showrooms remain closed until 12 April, dealers must either deliver the car to the customer's home so they can take a test drive or arrange for it to be collected from a specified location away from the dealership. Lockdown measures are starting to be eased from March, with all non-essential retail allowed to reopen in April. 

Test drives must be offered in a Covid-secure way with the driver unaccompanied, and a risk assessment must be carried out and documented prior to the drive. 

Solicitor Nona Bowkis from Lawgistics said that she had fought on behalf of dealership clients who had been pulled up by authorities on a test drive – but proof a deposit had been taken was enough to satisfy them.

Talking to Car Dealer magazine, she said: "We have always advised that we would be more than happy to defend any dealer who received a fine for test drives as offering a test drive on a vehicle ordered remotely, is not against the law. We were pleased to see in writing that local authorities, based on central government advice, are on the same page. 

"This will no doubt be why we are yet to see any evidence of a single fine being issued in regard to Click & Collect test drives," she added. 

3. Take it for a test drive

Although car dealers have been allowed to continue to sell cars remotely during the latest coronavirus lockdown, which started on 4 January, many have chosen not to offer customers test drives because it was unclear whether it was legal. 

The confirmation from Trading Standards paves the way for dealers to let buyers try out cars before completing the deal. That's important because buying a car is often the second-largest purchase a person makes, and it's vital to make sure it suits you and fits your needs before you buy.  

Car sales are critical to the UK’s economy, with the National Association of Franchised Dealers (NFDA) estimating that UK automotive retail generates turnover of around £200bn a year. Around 590,000 people are employed across all of the automotive retail sector. A further 168,000 are employed directly in the UK's car manufacturing sector.

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