Car Reviews & News

Coronavirus advice for car drivers

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Update: the help prevent the spread of Covid-19 coronavirus, UK citizens are being asked to stay indoors for all but essential travel, which is limited to:

• Shopping for basic necessities, as infrequently as possible
• One form of exercise a day (a run, walk, or cycle) - alone or with members of your household
• Any medical needs, including to provide care or to help a vulnerable person
• Travelling to and from work, assuming you cannot work from home

We will keep this page updated as the situation changes and social distancing measures are relaxed.

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Can I drive my car during coronavirus lockdown?
Driving your car isn’t currently prohibited, but you should only be leaving your home for essential travel. This is currently restricted to:
• Shopping for necessities
• Any medical needs, including caring for a vulnerable person
• Travelling to and from work if you cannot work at home

You’re also allowed to leave the house for one form of exercise (such as a jog or cycle) per day.

Am I allowed to drive to exercise during the coronavirus lockdown?
The current advice is to exercise locally and not to go out in your car to do so. Start your walk, cycle or run from your home. Keeping social interactions to a minimum is essential to help slow the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19). As much as possible, you need to stay home at this time.
Can I still refuel?
You should only be travelling to and from work, the shops, or to provide care. If that involves driving, then you'll still need to refuel.

If social distancing:
Technology is your friend for social distancing. The easiest option is to use self-service pumps like the ones at many supermarket filling stations. Diesel drivers will be accustomed to doing this anyway but you’ll want to put disposable gloves on before handling the pump or using payment terminals. Other than that, go when it’s quiet and you should be able to avoid any human contact.

You’ll still need those gloves for handling the pump, but app-based payment systems like Shell’s Fill Up & Go remove one further level of interaction and let you pay for your fuel on your phone. However you do it, you’ll still want to wash or disinfect your hands afterwards, so keep some hand sanitiser in your car if you have any. The same applies to EV drivers using public charging terminals - payment will often be via phone apps but you'll want to take sensible precautions before and after handling any plugs and cables, be that using disposable gloves and/or disinfecting your hands before and afterwards..

If self-isolating:
As per NHS advice, you’ll have to stay at home for 7 days if you have symptoms of coronavirus. If you live with someone who has symptoms, then all members of the household should stay at home for 14-days after the first person shows symptoms.
My MoT or service is due - what should I do?
MoTs
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has issued a temporary extension to MoTs. If your MoT is due from 30 March 2020, you will automatically receive a six-month extension.

In his Tweet, Shapps specified that "you must still keep your car in a roadworthy condition and garages will remain open if you need repairs."

This is good news if you depend on your car for shopping or for key workers needing to get to and from their places of work, though it goes without saying it's a good idea to do basic checks like tyre pressures, fluid levels and the rest to make sure your car is fit.

For the latest information on MoTs and similar issues it's worth keeping an eye on the Gov.UK website for further updates.

Servicing
Manufacturer service intervals are obviously important, but they are not a legal requirement.

For newer cars, some dealers may be willing to collect from you and then deliver it back once the service has been done. If you’re not using it, you could just wait on the basis you won’t be adding any wear and tear in the meantime.

Just check the small print of any service contracts, warranty conditions or similar to make sure there are no obligations to have the service by a certain date and call the dealer or manufacturer if you’re uncertain.
I'm worried about my monthly finance payments, what should I do?
Most finance companies will have a team within their customer services division to assist customers experiencing financial difficulties, and will offer a variety of options such as payment plans to assist, depending on individual situations.

In this instance, you should contact the customer services department of the specific finance company your agreement is with, rather than the dealer. Most finance companies will show a number to call on their websites under the FAQ section.

Beware that not all will have the ability to offer payment holidays in the manner that large mortgage companies have the potential to, so it's worth looking at which household debts to service and which to take a break on.

For further independent advice on car finance contracts, contact Citizens Advice or, for general financial concerns, you can try the Money Advice Service, who are independent and can provide web chat services and more.
What if my car breaks down?
Remember: you should only be driving if it is essential at this time.

The AA has sought to reassure motorists that they will attend to them if they have a problem on the road and has updated its app and phone line to help identify anyone with coronavirus or in self isolation. It also has a dedicated team to help protect both members and customers to reduce risk of exposure.

“We’ve already taken a range of steps to maintain our service to you, but you may experience a longer wait than usual when contacting us on the telephone while the COVID-19 situation continues,” says AA CEO Simon Breakwell. “If that happens I apologise in advance and promise that we will return to normal telephone service as quickly as possible.”

If possible the advice is to use your smartphone where possible, rather than call in. “Our app is the quickest way to tell us if you’ve broken down and you can track your patrol to your car,” it says, advising all members to download the app now as a precaution and use it to report breakdowns where possible. “Our patrols will only work if they’re fit and well,” says the AA. “They’re also following the latest hygiene advice, using protective gloves and their vans are fully stocked with the latest cleaning products.”

It’s a similar story from other providers, including the RAC. It maintains that helping stranded customers at home and the roadside remains its “number one priority” and, like the AA, has equipped all its mobile operatives with gloves, gel and wipes to disinfect any vehicle they attend. They also ask that you let the operator know on the phone if you think you have any COVID-19 symptoms so they can take suitable precautions.
Will my car battery die if I don't drive for four months?
It's likely. And depending on the age of the car this can be a pain, especially if you have to reset or re-code alarms or in-car stereos. Alarms can also drain the battery so – assuming your car is otherwise secure – you could switch that off to maximise battery life. Most factory alarm systems have a transportation setting for flatbeds or ferries so check your manual for how to do it.

The best option, though, is to buy a cheap trickle charger and make a habit of regularly plugging it in to top the battery up and leaving it all day or overnight as required.

If you’re lucky enough to have a garage the best option is a smart charger that only draws current when required and can be left plugged in all the time, keeping the battery in tip-top condition for when you do get back on the road.

None of these options are especially helpful for those with on-street parking, but then nor is the idea of sitting in the car for prolonged periods with the engine idling in the hope the alternator will charge the battery. This won’t win you any friends and, in some areas, may even be illegal.
What if I get a puncture?
Like everyone else the tyre fitting industry is adapting fast to the new situation and the need for everyone to self-isolate as much as is practically possible. Kwik Fit says it’s had a 15% increase in calls from self-isolating customers asking for home tyre fitting and its fleet of 200 mobile operators is adopting special precautions to keep everyone safe.

Kwik Fit advises customers to dig out the locking wheelnut key from the car before the technician arrive, meaning they don’t have to go inside themselves. They’re also suggesting a ‘dead drop’ key handover by leaving the key on the doorstep when (and ONLY when!) the technician arrives to avoid hand to hand contact. It goes without saying they’ve also been provided with gloves and are cleaning their hands between every job.

“While normal life has been severely curtailed and many people are keeping travel to a minimum, it is still important for people’s peace of mind that their car is ready in case of emergency,” says Roger Griggs from Kwik Fit. “We have responded to the increased requirements with greater stock levels to meet demand, but more importantly, by introducing key precautions to help reduce the spread of the virus.”

While Kwik Fit is but one of the many tyre fitting firms operating in the UK you can be sure the others will be taking similar precautions to help keep you on the road safely and mobile fitting is one way of doing so without leaving the house.
What happens if I was due to attend a speed awareness course?
All classroom-based speed awareness courses have now been suspended for the next 12 weeks, as of 9am on Friday 20 March 2020.

The UK Road Offender Education, who operate the speed awareness schemes on behalf of the Police Service, are working on other options with police forces and course providers. They have asked individuals to contact their course providers for further details.

Check the National Driver Offender Retraining Scheme (NDORS) website for the latest information.
My driving test has been cancelled - what happens now?
The DVSA – the agency overseeing driving tests – has confirmed as of 20 March that driving theory tests have now been suspended for a month while practical tests have been halted for three months with immediate effect. More information and further updates are available on the Gov.UK website.

“A testing service will still be available to those who have a critical need, such as the NHS and drivers delivering goods across the UK,” a DVSA spokesperson told us. A specific email address for those seeking an emergency theory or practical test is available at the site linked above.

If you don't meet these criteria and your theory test has been cancelled you'll get an email and a refund, though the site advises this may take a few weeks to come through.

If your practical test has been cancelled at short notice and left you out of pocket you can apply for a refund of "out-of-pocket" expenses - see the link on the Gov.UK website above for more. Either way, you will get an email offering a new test date, likely to be around three months after your original one. Confirmation of this may take some time to come through and the DVSA advises the customer care line will not be able to help with questions relating to this. Alternatively, you can cancel your test altogether and get a full refund - to do this you'll need your licence number, your theory pass certificate number and your test booking reference.

No bookings are currently being taken for driving tests and, when they do recommence, priority will be given to those who had theirs cancelled so it may well be in your interests to accept the revised date in the first instance. Note that if your theory test expires before that you'll need to do another one so you arrive at your practical with a valid certificate.
Can I still buy or sell a car at this time?
Online-only options are available for essential purchases at this time – for example, if you’re a key worker and need a car to get to work. If you need to speak to the retailer to see what they’re currently offering, please do so by phone or email – dealerships will be closed.

All that said, now is a great time to research your next vehicle. The choice of vehicle on Auto Trader is at the highest levels, and we’ve tons of expert reviews on our site and on YouTube.

If you’ve seen a car you like, you can still call, email or live chat with a retailer to ask any questions or register your interest.

For more information, please see our guide to buying and selling cars safely during the coronavirus outbreak.
What if I was getting a new car delivered?
At this time, new car deliveries should be delayed until lockdown measures are eased – unless they are essential for you to get to medical appointments, to care for someone vulnerable, to get to work if you are classed as a key worker and to make essential purchases (as infrequently as possible).

Please be aware that, as many manufacturers are closing their factories at this time, the delivery of recent orders may be delayed and future bespoke orders may face delays.

If you’re self-isolating, you should rearrange the delivery of your new car until such a time that you no longer need to isolate.
What happens if my car lease contract is due to expire or start?
As with most business sectors, the answer is likely to vary from company to company. A spokesperson for Leasing.com said: “The best advice is to contact your lease provider, who will be able to arrange extensions or alternative delivery times, and discuss payment options with you.”

Collection or delivery drivers will be expected to observe official guidelines, wiping any contact points on the car with anti-bacterial cleaner to prevent the spread of the virus. Peter Golding, managing director of fleet logistics company FleetCheck, said: “This is an area where we need to establish some sensible ground rules very quickly, we believe. Home delivery fleets have a potentially crucial role to play but could also become a problem in themselves."

The act of signing for delivery or collection could be avoided by the driver waiting a distance away and making a visual check, suggests Golding, thereby protecting drivers from potentially infected customers and vice versa.
What if I was going to get a home charger installed?
Currently, you can only get a charging point installed or serviced if you’re a key worker.

If you’ve just bought, or are in the process of buying, an electric car and were due to get a home charger installed, then you should contact the installation company for updates.

Different companies install home chargers and, when lockdown measures start to ease, they may have different policies in place at this time.

If, at any point, you are self-isolating with a case, or suspected case, of COVID-19 then you should not have people visiting your house for the duration of your isolation. You will be able to rebook your installation.

If you can delay and rebook, avoiding contact with others can help flatten the curve of the virus’ spread and should be encouraged.
More information
These are exceptional times, but we'll still be here to support you with your car buying journey when they're over. If you're keen to get a new car, you can take advantage of this time to research and make sure the next one is perfect for you. Stay safe.

For the latest Government advice, please visit https://www.gov.uk/coronavirus.

For NHS updates, please visit their dedicated coronavirus page.