What’s it like to buy a new car during the coronavirus pandemic?
Buying a new car should be fun and exciting. We find out if that’s changed since Covid-19 drastically altered all our lives...
To find out first-hand what it’s like to choose and collect a new car, and sort out all the associated paperwork while maintaining coronavirus safety guidelines, we spoke to Charlotte Kidd, who had ordered a new Ford Puma before the March lockdown. The 32-year-old from Berkshire was aiming to replace her three-door Mini with a five-door car that would have easier access for her greyhound Suzy.
“I put in an order for a Puma on 29 February, and the car was due to be delivered to the supplying dealership, Think Ford of Wokingham, Berkshire, at the end of April,” explains Charlotte.
“But then lockdown happened, and, of course, the car was delayed. Although the dealer had some other Pumas in stock, they weren’t quite right, and I started considering alternative models.
“I have a soft spot for the Ford Fiesta because I've owned that model before. The dealer found one in the perfect spec for me: 1.0 Ecoboost ST-Line Edition in Ruby Red with Comfort Pack and a spare wheel. It was already built and sitting in Ford’s new car compound in Belgium. I ordered it in early May, and it arrived around a month later.”
Was it more difficult to research the car because you couldn't visit a showroom?
“I had spent a long time researching the Puma pre-lockdown, and had looked at the Fiesta at the same time and test drove one for comparison to the Puma. Having previously owned a Fiesta made it an easy remote purchase in lockdown, because I already had a good idea of the colour and spec I wanted.
“It was helpful that I’d already built up a relationship with the dealer in advance, but it was also easy to find out all the information I needed on the Ford website. And the dealer at Think Ford was always at the end of the phone or an email to keep me regularly updated."
What about sorting out finance; was that easy to do remotely?
“The dealer staff were very up front with pricing, and because I'd done the deal in advance with the Puma, they applied a similar discount to the Fiesta. The deal involved a 0% APR and a £1000 dealer deposit, along with the option to defer payments, which I was very pleased with. The whole process felt stress-free and fair.”
How did the dealership sort out your part-exchange vehicle?
“The dealership had originally valued my car, a 2014 Mini Cooper, in February, and they honoured this price when the deal was finally done. I took the car to the dealership and left it for them to sanitise. ”
Were you concerned about collecting the new car during the pandemic?
“There was a lot of Covid-19 best practice info on the Ford website, which was reassuring. And because I live close to the dealership, I was able to walk Suzy past and see the measures they were taking ahead of reopening, such as installing screens and one-way walkways.
“Once the car arrived at Think Ford, I went there one day to sign the necessary paperwork and then picked it up the following day. There was an option to complete the forms on an iPad, but I chose to physically sign the forms. The whole process was very smooth and easy.
“The showroom had been emptied of cars apart from just two. There was more space between the desks and the chairs had been pushed back and screens installed between me and the staff.
“There was hand gel available on arrival, and the dealer had printed the forms off in advance and laid them on my side of his desk so we didn't have to pass things between us.
“When I went to collect the car, it had been sterilised and the keys were handed over in a sealed bag, so I didn't have to touch anything or get too close to the staff.
“Overall, the dealership was excellent. There was great communication throughout the buying process, and I was always made to feel safe and welcome. It clearly wasn't normal, but it still felt right.”
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