What to Expect When Going to a Car Dealership During Covid-19

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View of the inside of a car showroom

As the nation continues to adapt to the new normal of social distancing and states slowly start to reduce shelter in place orders, many people who may have been putting off buying a new car are going to find themselves visiting a car dealership soon. This could be due to an impending lease return, a necessary replacement of an older vehicle, or to capitalize on aggressive pricing automakers are using to encourage sales. Depending on where you are, the car buying process is going to be significantly different than it would have six months ago.

If you do need to get a car. Dealerships are greatly expanding their online operations. If you know exactly what car and options that you are looking for you can work with an Internet Salesperson or Manager to do the deal entirely remotely. Some dealerships will even accommodate test drives by bringing a car to your house for you to see. When the price and financing specifics have been agreed on a finance manager will prepare the paperwork and have the car and contract brought to your house. If you have already made a decision about what specific model you want it’s completely possible to buy a new car without ever setting foot inside a car dealership. 

However, if you are still comparing models or are unsure how certain color combinations or the size of a specific model will suit your needs you may still need to go to a dealership in person. Here’s what you can expect when going to a car dealership.

Many dealerships are now requiring people who enter showrooms or service departments to sign a waiver saying that they have not tested positive for Covid-19 or come into contact with anyone displaying symptoms. Masks will be required for anyone inside showrooms and social distancing policies are in place. Meaning that people must stay at least six feet away from each other when inside the building. 

Since Covid-19 best practices can vary from state to state, or even county to county each dealership may handle the logistics of test drives differently to account for social distancing. Some dealerships will simply scan your driver’s license and collect your contact information and will let you take a car unsupervised. Don’t anticipate this if you are shopping for a high end luxury car. Some Southern California dealerships are requiring people to fill out a borrowed car agreement, which reduces their liability if you were to get into an accident or get pulled over while test driving. In addition to the borrowed car agreement, they will also need to make copies of your driver’s license, car insurance, and have a credit card on file. Then on your test drive a dealership employee will follow you in another car. 

Policies regarding test drives could differ not only based on location, but also whether or not the dealership is privately owned or part of a larger auto group. Dealerships that are next door to each other may have drastically different policies based on the rules that ownership has put into place. 

medical face mask

After you’ve chosen the car and agreed upon price and financing terms the finance manager will prepare the contracts and paperwork. Unlike before the social distancing orders though, you will not go into the finance office to sign. The dealership will have a designated desk in the open that has been disinfected where you will sit. The finance manager will bring you the contract and while staying at least 6 feet away talk you through the different forms. Most dealerships will use a brand new pen that is fresh out of the box and all surfaces are disinfected between deals. 

Another major departure is that you will likely not receive as thorough of a “delivery” as you normally would have. Typically, with high end vehicles after you purchase, a product specialist or the sales person will sit with you and give you an explanation of the features and functionality of everything. Since dealership personnel cannot get into the car with you this will either be a much shorter process or won’t happen at all. Meaning that as a new car owner you will be on your own when it comes to figuring out how to use everything. 

Before Covid-19 the dealership model was already changing and moving towards a greater percentage of online sales. In a world where shopping online is now the norm, the Covid-19 pandemic may have moved us more quickly towards a completely online car buying process. It is yet to be seen how this will affect the number and business practices of dealerships in the coming years. 

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