Coronavirus: Can I buy a car during lockdown? (updated)

Here's what the rules say

WITH BRITAIN’S exit from lockdown now firmly underway, people are once again turning their thoughts to driving, and some will inevitably be thinking about the possibility of buying a new or used car.

Many people will have become used to seeing their car sitting idly in the driveway for the last few months, used only for the occasional shopping trip or school run, while showrooms have only been allowed to operate click-and-collect services.

That has had a catastrophic effect on the car industry, with 2021 seeing the worst January for new car sales since 1970, according to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT).

However, the list of reasons to get behind the wheel is the longest it’s been all year, and inevitably some drivers will be looking to upgrade their wheels. So, can you still buy a car during lockdown in the UK?

Are car dealerships open during coronavirus lockdown?

As with the first Covid-19 lockdown announced in March 2020, car dealerships in England and Wales were deemed a “non-essential” service by the government (in contrast to “essential” businesses including supermarkets, pharmacies and garages), meaning forecourts have been closed since January 5.

That meant that showrooms weren’t open for the number plate change in March, which usually accounts for one in five annual new car registrations. While the month turned out better than last March, when the UK was plunged into its first lockdown, sales were still more than a third shy of the ten-year average.

However, it’s better late than never, and dealerships have been allowed to open their doors from today (April 12). As has become the norm over the last year, masks and social distancing will be required, and test drives are likely to be done without the accompaniment of a salesperson.

SMMT chief executive Mike Hawes said: “After one of the hardest years in living memory for everyone, reopening showrooms today takes the handbrake off UK Auto. With the widest and greenest choice of cars ever seen, unleashing pent up consumer demand can accelerate the industry’s recovery and that of the economy.

“As the automotive sector counts the cost of £22.2 billion lost in turnover during the pandemic, we hope today marks the start of that recovery, as well as giving consumers ever more choice for their motoring needs.”

Are new car sales rules during the lockdown the same in Scotland and Northern Ireland?

Scotland allowed car dealerships to reopen last week, and bosses reported seeing an immediate uptick in sales, which will no doubt comfort showrooms in England and Wales that have thrown open their doors today.

Northern Ireland, meanwhile, went into a six-week lockdown on December 26, under which car dealers were forced to stop operating without the option to run a click-and-collect service. The country’s “stay at home” mandate has been lifted today in favour of a “stay local” one, and outdoor businesses including forecourts have been allowed to open click-and-collect services, although it is unclear when showrooms will fully reopen.

Are private car sales permitted during coronavirus lockdown?

The government has confirmed to that private car sales are permitted, so long as all parties adhere to social distancing rules and do not meet in an indoor space (this includes cars).

– After reading if you can buy a car during lockdown, you might be wondering whether or not you can go for a drive during the coronavirus pandemic.
– You can also read our overview of how the coronavirus pandemic affected the car industry in 2020.
– If you’re a learner driver, find out whether or not you can get driving lessons during lockdown.