Covid guidance: Car dealers can offer test drives during lockdown

Britain has been under full national lockdown since 5 January 2021, joining much of Europe. So what does this mean for motorists and car buyers?

Up to now, car drivers may have been unsure of the restrictions affecting vehicle usage, while would-be car purchasers had to decide whether or not to put their commitment on hold until restrictions ease. The government took drastic action to prevent social gathering and unnecessary contact, so the rules in place are comparable with those we saw in March 2020 and stricter than those imposed in the second lockdown. 

Now that Covid-19 case numbers are showing signs of decline and the Prime Minister has outlined a plan for the country to exit lockdown restrictions, we now have a possible end date in sight for the number of rules in force that dictate what you an do with your car, how you can maintain it and whether you can buy a new model.

Here is a rundown of the measures affecting motorists across the UK.

Can I still buy a new car?

Some non-essential retailers in England have been allowed to remain open, although only to operate a click-and-collect and delivery service. That is set to change on April 12, when non-essential retail is permitted to reopen its doors.

Until then, car dealers can once again continue to offer a click-and-collect service, while operating a contactless delivery service. Showrooms, however, must close their doors, and tightened travel rules mean test drives won’t be allowed. 

However, it has now been confirmed by Car Dealer magazine that English dealerships can offer customers a test drive, provided a deposit has been taken online or over the phone, according to guidance from Trading Standards and the Office of Public Safety.

Cars can be delivered to a prospective customer’s home, or to a location near to the showroom (which must remain closed) for the test drive to take place. 

When it comes to collecting a pre-purchased car, the dealer will have to sanitise the entire vehicle – including the keys – and will take measures such as offering walk-through videos rather than in-person demonstrations.

In Scotland, click-and-collect services can only be offered by essential retailers, and even then with strict social-distancing measures in place. Car dealerships can continue to operate according to these terms, meaning purchased cars can be collected from outdoor lots and vehicles can still be dropped off for repairs, servicing or an MOT test. 

Wales has been under a national lockdown since 19 December and is likely to remain in this state until at least the end of February. All non-essential businesses have had to close completely, including car dealerships, but cars can still be ordered and collected. 


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