Car buying and COVID-19

Thinking of shopping for a car? Here are the answers to some of the questions we’re being asked at carsales HQ…

The impact of COVID-19 (Coronavirus) is widespread and rapidly evolving. And it’s tending to throw up more questions than answers. Here is an example of some of the questions we are being asked at carsales.com.au regarding the impact of COVID-19 on car buying.

Make sure you check back in as we’ll add more to these as they crop up – and we can proffer decent information…

Are car dealerships open for business?

Absolutely, as this FAQ is being written, Australian new and used car dealerships are still open for business… And it seems Aussies are still keen on parking a new-to-them car in their driveway.

Research conducted on carsales.com.au this week saw 19% of 1600 respondents say they are ready to buy now and 50% say they are planning to buy within the next month.

Most car dealerships have responded well to the COVID-19 precautions suggested by government and many are able to provide electronic opportunities via carsales and other vendors to discuss car purchasing. There are, of course, tens of thousands of new and used cars for sale right now on carsales.com.au

Does visiting a car yard or showroom expose me to coronavirus?

It’s common sense to take precautions (more so if you are in an at risk group) but there are no reasons why a visit to a car yard or dealership should expose you to any more risk of contracting COVID-19 than a trip to the shops – and car dealers still have stock on the ‘shelves’.

If you have any doubts, check with the dealership via telephone or email regarding the COVID-19 precautions it has taken. And if you’re concerned about a long say away from home, perhaps ask for a fixed appointment time.

Remember too, that you can do the majority of your car research and shopping online at home via carsales.com.au.

Read our independent expert new car reviews or our used-car buying guides for information.

In addition, carsales has a suite of research products such as New Car Showroom and you can also watch our detailed car video reviews on site or at Youtube. While there, subscribe for the latest car video reviews in your inbox.

Consider also that many brands and new car configurators at their own websites. Here you can ‘build’ and price a car. To buy or just for fun if you feel that way inclined.

Am I safe test driving a car

At the risk of being flippant, you’re arguably more likely to get hurt in a traffic accident when test driving than via contracting COVID-19… That aside, it’s important to take proper precautions before driving a ‘strange’ car.

Ask the dealer what precautions they have taken to ensure the car is safe and clean. Failing that, here are some measures you can take to minimise the risk.

1. Consider cleaning the vehicle with an alcohol-based disinfectant or wipes before you drive it.

2. Ideally wear gloves while cleaning it and test the cleaner on an out of the way area of the interior before you launch into the main dash. Avoid overly harsh cleaners (ie: bleach).

3. The touch points you should target in the vehicle include the key fob, steering wheel, transmission shifter, door handles and other places you’d normally touch such as the volume knob or heating controls. Don’t forget the indicator and wiper stalks!

4. Don’t be afraid to ask the salesperson to stay at the dealership or failing that get them to sit in the back. You’re not being rude, just observing the social distancing recommendations (do so also in the dealership).

5. Consider the normal safety steps we advise for buyers test driving cars. And don’t forget, you actually need to work out whether the vehicle suits you -- so watch our guide to test driving.

Should I buy a car sight unseen

Thanks to third-party inspection services like RedBook Inspect (RBI) and the protections offered by dealers under consumer law, this is very much an option.

The key is to do your research first. Make sure you look hard at the pictures that accompany the carsales ad and if you need more, then ask the dealer. Many carsales dealers are also posting video of their cars for sale, so look at that too.

Compare the market to make sure the price is in the ballpark and start negotiating… And if you’re serious, book an RBI inspection. Many dealers will agree to refund the price of the inspection as part of the purchase if you are a serious buyer.

Dealers also have the ability to have third-parties appraise and value your trade-in… It’s a brave new world…

Will a dealer bring a car to me to test drive or for delivery?

The good ones will bring a car to you to test drive – as long as you present as a serious buyer.

Ask the question, politely, and make a time that’s reasonable for both parties… Remember, dealership staff are facing the same personal challenges as you.

If you’re buying a car, new or used, it’s fair a reasonable to expect it to be delivered. That is unless, you live in Melbourne and are buying the car in Perth – on that occasion, you may be asked to foot the bill.

Will COVID-19 effect waiting lists and delivery times for new cars?

This is a hard question to answer briefly. Because, well… Frankly, it varies across make, model badge, country of manufacture, and so on…

There are no shortage of new cars for sale at Australian dealerships, right here and right now – in some cases, an embarrassment of riches. In other cases there are long and growing waiting lists.

Most, if not all European and North American plants/manufacturers have announced some form of production line stoppages or go slows. These will inevitable affect availability on popular models and will affect delivery times.

COVID-19 (coronavirus) measures have also slowed the official launch of new cars, which in some cases will also delay on sale dates. In short, ask you dealer – and if the date matters, make the purchase conditional upon a delivery date.

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