Lifting lockdown and what it means for motorists
England is in its third national Covid-19 lockdown, with a phased lifting of restrictions beginning 8 March and lasting until 21 June at the earliest. Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland have their own similar restrictions in place.
How does this impact drivers?
You will have seen the headlines about motorists fined for visiting beauty spots or driving out of their area for shopping. You’re still allowed to use your car if you’re leaving home for one of the approved reasons, including shopping for essentials, going to a public outdoor location to take daily exercise, childcare or education reasons, medical reasons, assisting an elderly or vulnerable person, or travelling to or from work.
Anyone who is stopped by the police and found to be flouting the rules could be subject to a fine.
This means that driving your car for any reason other than those listed above - including just going for a drive on your own - is not allowed at the present time. Anyone caught doing so by the police could face a fine.
Although the first lockdown saw an MOT extension implemented, garages nevertheless remained open due to their classification as essential businesses. This third lockdown sees garages remain open for repairs, servicing and MOTs. No MOT extension has been introduced.
Driving lessons and tests suspended
The Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) confirmed driving lessons and tests would be suspended during the third lockdown in England. The same applies to Wales and Scotland, where national lockdowns are also in place.
Buying a new car
Car dealers can officially open on 12 April, although cars are available to purchase online. A slick click-and-collect, or home delivery service is in operation.
Guidance from Trading Standards and the Office of Public Safety suggests that dealerships in England may be able to offer customers a test drive, provided a deposit has been taken online or over the phone.
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. The same is true of Wales, where they may not open, and Scotland, where click-and-collect services are being drastically restricted.
Car dealerships are thought to be one of the easiest types of retailer to make Covid-secure, due to the fact they’re generally based in large, open spaces where social distancing can be maintained without any difficulty. Garden centres have been allowed to stay open on this premise, but vehicle showrooms have not been afforded the same exemption.
Mike Hawes, chief executive of the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), said: “The automotive industry understands the priority must be to get the virus under control, relieving pressure on hospitals and protecting society at large. Nevertheless, the fact that retail showrooms must remain closed until April at least is deeply disappointing given these facilities are Covid-secure, large premises with low footfall and able to operate on an appointment-only basis.”