What does the new lockdown mean for UK motorists?

Nissan dealership with click-and-collect, 2021

Recently imposed lockdown measures have an impact on car buying, servicing and driving

England has gone into a full national lockdown as of 5 January 2021, joining the rest of the UK and much of Europe. So what does this mean for motorists and car buyers?

Car drivers may be unsure of the restrictions affecting vehicle usage, while would-be car purchasers will be deciding whether or not to put their commitment on hold until spring, when it’s said restrictions could ease if Covid-19 case numbers sufficiently decline. 

The government is taking drastic action to prevent social gathering and unnecessary contact, so the rules coming into place are comparable with those we saw in March 2020 and stricter than those imposed in the second lockdown two months ago. 

To that end, there are a number of new rules coming into force that dictate what you can 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. 

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. 

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.

The rules in Scotland are similar, with that country’s lockdown forcing all non-essential businesses to close their doors but allowing them to trade on a click-and-collect basis. 

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

Can I buy a used car?

Used car dealers in England are subject to the same rules as their new car counterparts, meaning they can remain open if they trade according to a contact-free, closed-showroom model. 

Buying privately isn’t advisable during the lockdown, as the rules state you should leave home only for essential purposes or to work if you can’t work from home. There’s no official guidance with regard to inspecting or collecting a car from another household, but social distancing rules must be adhered to at all times, meaning you shouldn’t share a car with anyone from outside your own household.

One used car buyer has been taken to court for breach of Covid-19 restrictions after travelling 100 miles to purchase a used Volkswagen Golf GTI from a private seller. The Central Motorways Policing Group said “a private car swap deal isn’t a good or lawful reason to be out at 10pm”, but there remains little official clarification as to the specific legality of private trades. 

Can I visit a garage?

During the first lockdown, the government granted drivers a six-month MOT extension to avoid unnecessary driving and people coming into close social contact at garages. It’s unlikely that this measure will come into effect again, with garages allowed to remain open – not least because there’s still a backlog of MOTs from 2020.

If you have to use your car during lockdown, it must be roadworthy, so book in for an MOT test before the date of expiry, and have your car serviced if it’s due. Non-essential repairs are best left until the lockdown is eased, because you should leave home only for essential purposes. 

Similarly, garages remain open in Wales and Scotland, although only for essential repairs and MOTs. 

Can I go for a drive?

As with previous lockdowns, motorists should not go for a drive just to get out of the house. There are a number of key exceptions that allow driving, including to travel to a place of work if you can’t work from home. 

Driving is allowed if you need to shop for essentials, while key workers can drive for childcare purposes and to take their kids to school. You can also drive to take care of vulnerable relatives or to attend a medical appointment. Automated car washes (mostly based on petrol station forecourts) remain open, but hand car washes have been closed nationwide. 

As before, there are questions being asked regarding the police’s ability to enforce these driving rules. There are currently no plans to close any roads. 

Are driving lessons and tests allowed?

Social distancing and travel rules mean driving lessons and tests – both theory and practical – are cancelled until further notice. This includes motorcycle (CBT), driving instructor (ADI parts two and three) and standards examinations. 

The Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) will contact all affected candidates to let them know the test has been rescheduled. 

Driving lessons must only be given if the vehicle occupants are from the same household and the journey is of an essential nature. You should not leave home for the sole purpose of practising or teaching. 


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Source: Autocar

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