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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.

The latest Government advice is encouraging us all to stay alert. If you, or any of your household, are displaying any of the symptoms of coronavirus, then you must all self-isolate for 14 days.
We will keep this page updated as the situation changes and social distancing measures are relaxed. To keep up to date with all our latest content visit our social channels – Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, Twitter and YouTube.
Buying and Selling
Can I still buy a car at this time?Can I still sell my old car on Auto Trader? 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 still refuel?My MoT or service is due - what should I do?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 • What happens if I was due to attend a speed awareness course?My driving test has been cancelled - what happens now? • 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? Can I still contact the DVLA?Do I have to renew my photocard driving licence during COVID-19?
Can I still buy a car at this time?
Yes, you now have a number of options when buying your next car.
Car dealerships in England, Scotland and Wales can now re-open. Contact your preferred dealer to arrange an appointment and confirm any measures being taken at this time. 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.
Can I still sell my old car on Auto Trader?
Government guidance does not explicitly mention private car sales. We encourage everyone to follow the advice on the NHS site and, and ask people take every measure to clean and disinfect their vehicle before listing it.
Everyone is being encouraged to stay local. As such, private sales are likely to be delayed. You can still list your car now, so that you’re reaching a wide audience and ready to complete the transaction and sell when restrictions lift. Back to top.
What happens if my car lease contract is due to expire or start?
Vehicle rental services were amongst those listed as an exception to the businesses and venues that need to close during the lockdown, so leasing has continued through the last lockdown. We strongly encourage people to be socially responsible if arranging for collection or delivery.
If you, or any member of your household is displaying symptoms of coronavirus, you must all self-isolate for 10 days – in which time contact with people outside of your house should be prohibited. This means you’ll have to rearrange the collection or delivery. We encourage you to speak to your lease provider directly. Guidance has been issued by the BVRLA and the FLA on delivering or collecting, which is permitted, providing social distancing guidelines can be adhered to. But, as with most business sectors, the answer is likely to vary from company to company. Some may have furloughed staff, or be working in a reduced supply chain, so patience may be needed while working through this time. Learn more about car leasing during lockdown.
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. If the leasing company doesn’t offer a payment holiday explore other creditors you may have to see if they do offer payment holidays — but at the same time it’s important to maintain payments on priority bills. 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.
Can I get a new car delivered?
Car deliveries can currently go ahead, provided social distancing measures are in place. 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.
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Can I drive my car during coronavirus lockdown?
The guidance issued in Northern Ireland and Scotland varies so please follow the Government advice relevant to where you live.
In some regions, travel is still limited to essential or local trips only. These can include caring responsibilities, or travelling to work when you cannot work from home.
Can I still refuel?
You can still refuel. To help reduce the risks, 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 10 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 10-days after the first person shows symptoms.
My MoT or service is due - what should I do?
The Government have declared MOTs and servicing centres are now classed as essential services. Car owners have been told not to delay or miss their MOT unless they cannot make an appointment due to shielding or self-isolating. Mandatory MOTs were reintroduced from 1st August 2020 and currently remain in place. Under the current national lockdown, MOT testing centres will be allowed to stay open. Guidance for MOT managers and testers is available here. If your test was due between 30th March and 1st August 2020, the six-month exemption will still apply. However, drivers are legally obliged to make sure their vehicles are roadworthy and encouraged to book in as soon as possible. If your car has a MOT test and fails, you will lose your automatic exemption – as per the DVSA update issued on 29th May 2020. If your test due date is any time after 1st August 2020, you will have to book your test in as normal. Learn more in our guide to MOT tests. In Northern Ireland, MOTs are available for a limited number of categories at this time. 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.
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 wheel-nut key from the car before the technician arrives, 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 this without leaving the house.
What if my car breaks down?
Breakdown services have remained active throughout the outbreak.
The AA reassured motorists that they will attend to them if they have a problem on the road and 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. They have previously warned of longer waits: “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.” 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 our 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. 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.
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What happens if I was due to attend a speed awareness course?
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 the UK ROED website for the latest information.
Is my driving test going to be cancelled?
Theory and practical driving tests are currently suspended in England, Scotland and Wales. Please consult local guidance or your test centre for when these will resume in your area.
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 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 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?
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. Previously, TfL had suspended the London congestion charge from 23 March 2020. For up to date information about TfL’s response to Coronavirus please visit the TfL website here.
What if I was going to get a home charger installed?
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.
Can I still contact the DVLA?
As of 21 April 2020, the DVLA are not processing paper applications until further notice. As they have limited number of staff available at this time, they can only deal with applications from those dealing directly with the coronavirus outbreak.
You can still use the DVLA’s online services. Back to top.
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 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.
Do I have to renew my photocard driving licence during COVID-19?
If your driving licence or entitlement to drive is due to expire between 1 February and 31 December 2020, then it will automatically be 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.

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