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Coronavirus advice for car drivers

What do the lockdown restrictions mean for motorists across the UK? Here's our guide to the key questions facing car owners.

UK car dealerships can remain open. Under the latest Government guidelines, issued in November 2021, masks are required in retail settings. Further measures have been introduced in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
Please confirm the rules and any exemptions to mask wearing with your local authority before visiting a dealership. To make an appointment, simply contact the dealership via the Auto Trader advert. To keep up to date with all our latest content visit our social channels – Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, Twitter and YouTube.
Categories
Buying and Selling
How can I buy a car?How can I sell my old car? Leasing and Finance • What happens if my car lease contract is due to expire or start? I'm worried about my monthly finance payments, what should I do?Can I get a new car delivered? Running your car • Can I drive my car during coronavirus lockdown? Can I refuel with minimal contact?Can my MoT or service go ahead?What if I get a puncture?What if my car breaks down? Storing your car • Will my car battery die if I don't drive for four months? Can I get a tax or insurance rebate while my car is out of use?Will my brakes seize if my car isn’t being used? More questions • Are speed awareness courses online?Will my driving test go ahead?Do I still need to pay congestion charges in London’s LEZ and ULEZ?What if I was going to get a home charger installed now?Do I have to renew my photocard driving licence?

How can I buy a car?

You now have a number of options when buying your next car.
Car dealerships in England, Scotland and Wales can now re-open. Under the latest Government guidelines, issued in November 2021, masks are required in retail settings. Please confirm the rules and any exemptions with your local authority before visiting a dealership. Contact your preferred dealer to arrange an appointment and confirm any measures being taken at this time. Where dealerships are open, social distancing and sanitisation measures may be in place. If you’d prefer to buy a car online, you can do so through Auto Trader. Both Home Delivery and Click & Collect services are now available from many dealerships on Auto Trader. Please consult local guidance for England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. With Auto Trader’s app, expert reviews, YouTube channel and new advert features, now is a great time to research your next car.

How can I sell my old car?

You can still list your old car on Auto Trader, and create and upload your ad in three steps. Our audience is the strongest it’s ever been, and we still host millions of prospective car buyers every week.
You can also get an instant cash offer from Auto Trader. Just tell us about your car, and we’ll give you an accurate value in minutes. If you’re happy to sell, we can arrange to pick up your car within 48 hours. It’s an easy way to get guaranteed cash and get your old car off the drive. We encourage everyone to follow the advice on the NHS site and gov.uk, and ask people take every measure to clean and disinfect their vehicle before listing it.

What happens if my car lease contract is due to expire or start?

As most lockdown measures have lifted, you can return your lease car in the standard manner. Your lease provider should contact you to arrange this.
If you are isolating, or want to minimise contact during handover, ask to arrange a collection or delivery. In all instances, we encourage you to speak to your lease provider directly. During lockdown, vehicle rental services were amongst those listed as an exceptionto the businesses and venues that need to close, so leasing continued and systems were put in place. The BVRLA and the FLA also issued guidance on delivering or collecting with social distancing guidelines adhered to. But, as with most business sectors, the answer is likely to vary from company to company. Learn more about car leasing during lockdown.

I'm worried about my monthly finance payments, what should I do?

Most finance companies (lenders) will have a team within their customer services division to assist customers experiencing financial difficulties. They could offer a variety of options such as payment plans to assist, depending on individual situations.
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 their FAQ section. Some finance companies offered payment holidays during furlough – the details of these varied, so contact the company directly with any questions. For 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.

Can I get a new car delivered?

Car deliveries can go ahead. 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.
Just be aware that microchip shortages are leading to delays on the delivery of some new cars. Back to top.

Can I drive my car during coronavirus lockdown?

The guidance issued England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland varies and can quickly change.
Before planning to travel, check local guidance to confirm whether your trip can go ahead. For example, travel from England to Scotland may not be permitted, or local regions may limit travel to essential or local trips only.

Can I refuel with minimal contact?

The easiest way to minimise contact 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.
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.

Can my MoT or service go ahead?

MOTs and servicing can resume as normal, and mandatory MOTs were reintroduced from 1st August 2020.
The Government previously classed MOTs and servicing centres as essential services, so they could go ahead even during lockdown – unless drivers could not make an appointment due to shielding or self-isolating. Prior to that, between 30th March and 1st August 2020, a six-month exemption was applied. This six-month period has now expired, and your car should have a full MOT. Servicing isn’t legal but is recommended. Always 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. For newer cars, some dealers may be willing to collect from you and then deliver it back once the service has been done.

What if I get a puncture?

At the start of the coronavirus outbreak, Kwik Fit said its fleet of 200 mobile operators was adopting special precautions to keep everyone safe.
They advised customers to dig out the locking wheel-nut key from the car before the technician arrives, meaning they don’t have to go inside themselves. They also suggested 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. Technicians have also been provided with gloves and are cleaning their hands between every job. 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 this while minimising contact.

What if my car breaks down?

Breakdown services remained active throughout the outbreak.
The AA updated its app and phone line to help identify anyone with coronavirus or in self-isolation, and also has a dedicated team to help protect both members and customers to reduce risk of exposure. The AA previously said the app is the quickest way to tell them if you’ve broken down and it can be used to track their patrol to your car. Back to top.

Will my car battery die if I don't drive for 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 engage it.
Modern cars will hold their charge for a week or two. So, once every couple of weeks, run the car until the engine is warm (for at least 30 minutes), which will also give the battery some charge. A regular spin will also help keep the brakes from rusting and tyres from spotting. If your car is declared SORN and off the road, the best option 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 that the alternator will charge the battery. This won’t win you any friends and, in some areas, may even be illegal. Read our guide to Keeping your car safe and in good condition during lockdown for more advice.

Can I get a tax or insurance rebate while my car is out of use?

By law, your car needs to be taxed and insured even if it is currently out of use.
The only way to stop paying car tax and avoid a hefty fine is to officially inform the DVLA that you’re taking your vehicle off public roads with a Statutory Off Road Notification (SORN). If you SORN your car, you aren’t allowed to drive it at all – not even for a quick trip down the road – so think through whether it’s worth doing. You can also only SORN your car if it’ll be parked on private property. If you’re parked on the road outside your house, it needs to be taxed. As for insurance, again, you legally must be insured. Some insurance providers are offering discounts at this time, so contact your provider to see what they’re doing at this time. Learn more about what to do with your car while it’s not in use.

Will my brakes seize if my car isn’t being used?

Short answer, yes. Leaving your parking brake on for too long can cause it to seize up, so we recommend you release it once in a while and move your car a short distance – this can help keep the battery charged too. Don’t leave the parking brake off.
Back to top.

Are speed awareness courses online?

The majority of speed awareness courses have moved to an online classroom, and are accessed via a secure video link from your laptop, tablet or phone.
The UK Road Offender Education, who operate the speed awareness schemes on behalf of the Police Service, have asked individuals to contact their course providers for further details. Check the UK ROED website for the latest information.

Will my driving test go ahead?

Theory and practical driving tests have resumed in England, Scotland and Wales. Please consult local guidance or your test centre for the latest updates.
If your practical test was cancelled at short notice and left you out of pocket, you can apply for a refund of "out-of-pocket" expenses. You should also receive 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. Priority is being given to those who had their tests cancelled, so you may have to wait for your test date. Note that if your theory test expires before that, you'll need to do another one so that you arrive at your practical test with a valid theory certificate. Alternatively, you can cancel your test altogether and get a full refund - to do this you'll need your licence number, your theory test pass certificate number and your test booking reference.

Do I still need to pay congestion charges in London’s LEZ and ULEZ?

Yes, congestion charges in London Low Emissions Zone (LEZ) and Ultra-Low Emissions Zone (ULEZ) resumed back in May 2020.
The daily fee increased from £11.50 to £15, in an effort to help fund a £1.6 billion bailout for Transport for London and, from 22 June 2020, the congestion charge has been applied until 10pm, seven days a week. For up-to-date information about TfL’s response to Coronavirus please visit the TfL website here.

Can I get a home charger installed now?

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.
Most services have resumed, though different companies install home chargers so 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 so is encouraged. Back to top.

Do I have to renew my photocard driving licence?

If your driving licence or entitlement to drive was due to expire between 1 February and 31 December 2020, it is eligible for an 11-month extension from the date of expiry.
So, if your licence was going to expire on 1 February 2020, it’ll be given an automatic extension till 1 January 2021; if it was due to expire on 15 March 2020, it’ll be extended till 15 February 2021 and so on. Any driving licence or entitlement to drive that expires in or after January 2021 will have to be renewed as normal. This extension will only be valid within Great Britain, and it’s granted to those with a full driving licence and not for a provisional driving licence. Learn more.
More information
These are exceptional times, but we're still here to support you with your car buying journey, be that now or in the future. Stay safe.
For the latest Government advice, please visit https://www.gov.uk/coronavirus. For NHS updates, please visit their dedicated coronavirus page. For our advice on buying and selling at this time, please visit this page.
This article represents Auto Trader’s opinions and interpretation of the current situation and does not necessarily reflect the latest government guidance and advice. Please always consult the latest government guidance and advice before taking any decision based on this article.

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