Here James Fairclough, CEO of AA Cars, provides a list of dos and don’ts when visiting car dealerships in the current environment.
The first thing to say is you don’t have to visit the car dealership if you don’t want to. If you’re in an at-risk category or are anxious about buying in person, many dealers will allow you to buy a car online or over the phone, and will then deliver it to your door.
Clearly you shouldn’t buy a car without checking its condition. So before you part with your money, consider booking a pre-purchase inspection and have the vehicle inspected by a qualified engineer. Doing so will not only save you from having to go to the dealership in person, it will also minimise the likelihood of unexpected repair costs down the line. The AA’s vehicle inspectors can carry out an extensive mechanical inspection that tests up to 206 elements of the car.
If you’re going in person, plan ahead
Many dealerships are operating an appointment system in order to limit how many people are on-site at any one time, so it is best to book ahead. Make sure you also set aside plenty of time for your visit. Keeping everyone safe may involve fewer people being allowed inside dealers’ offices to fill in the relevant paperwork, so signing on the dotted line may take longer than you are used to.
Don’t visit if you feel unwell
We all have a responsibility to look out for others, so do not visit the dealership if you feel unwell and especially if you have fever-like symptoms. If you are in any doubt, call the dealer to arrange another appointment.
Do sanitise your hands
Staff will be working hard to keep the site, and frequently touched items such as keys and pens, clean. If you can, sanitise your hands when you arrive. Many dealerships are providing hand sanitiser and gloves for customers who do not have their own. Try not to touch the cars unless you have to.
Don’t stand too close to the dealer
Sometimes it is easy to slip back into old habits, but try to remember to keep a two-metre distance between yourself and the salesperson. Social distancing guidelines mean you won’t seal a deal with a handshake anymore, but don’t be embarrassed if you forget and try to shake their hand. This is new territory for everyone.
Do remember social distancing
Take care to keep your distance from other customers and staff. Most forecourts are large spaces, so this shouldn’t be too difficult, but it may require a bit of patience if someone is interested in a car next to the one you want to look at.
Do check the dealer’s PPE requests
While masks are not currently required at car dealerships in England, many members of staff are likely to be wearing them. The UK Government recommends that you wear a face covering in enclosed public spaces where social distancing isn’t possible and where you will come into contact with people you do not normally meet. Given this advice, it would be wise to carry a mask and gloves with you, just in case. Check with the dealer what their policy is if you’re in any doubt.
Do take a test drive
It is always wise to take a car for a test drive before you commit to a purchase, and these are still going ahead. Dealerships with the correct insurance and official trade plates are able to offer unaccompanied test drives, but check with them beforehand to ensure you will be able to do this, and ask what ID and paperwork you will need to take with you.
Always check the vehicle’s history
There are a number of ways you can research the vehicles you are considering before you leave the house. It is essential to carry out a history check before you buy a used car, as this will confirm that the mileage and number of previous owners is accurate. It will also flag up if a car has been stolen, been in an accident or written off, or if there is any outstanding finance associated with the vehicle.
You can carry out a vehicle history check yourself and it is very inexpensive; for example the AA offers this service from as little as £6. If you are buying from a reputable site like AA Cars, history checks are displayed as standard on all vehicles, so you can be certain that none of them have ever been written off or stolen.