How to buy a car online during the coronavirus lockdown
The traditional method of buying a car – visiting a showroom, taking a test drive and signing some forms – feels like a thing of the past since the coronavirus pandemic swept the globe in early 2020.
However, in recent times a number of car manufacturers have started offering the entire purchasing process online – from configuration and options, right through to finance deals and home delivery. And as restrictions to control the pandemic continue, more methods are being introduced to allow car buying to go ahead.
With the sales process having already made its way online – and coronavirus-related remote purchases now all the rage – our guide to buying a car online is here to help.
There are three main methods of buying a brand-new car remotely. The first is more established than the second: car brokers. Brokers are online retailers with access to large pools of cars from a wide range of brands, with many offering competitive discounts and other incentives. Most, including DrivingElectric’s sister website Buyacar, will even deliver the car to your door within a few days.
The second, more recent, development in the online sales world is manufacturers selling cars directly, with no involvement from dealers. Here, you can build your car exactly as you’d like and with a few clicks have it sent straight to your door.
The third – one that has cropped up as a result of the pandemic – involves car companies offering a combination of online ordering, remote contact with dealers and contactless delivery.
As social-distancing and lockdown measures continue in the UK, a number of car companies have announced details of their measures to keep sales going during the pandemic.
Here’s a rundown of the manufacturers selling electrified cars that are currently facilitating car sales while sticking to Government guidelines, while we've also included a section on how to return a car if you're not satisfied. This information can be found at the bottom of the page.
While you're here, make sure to let us know how the coronavirus situation has affected your car buying plans by filling in our survey – every participant is in with a chance to win one of five £25 Amazon vouchers.
Citroen in the UK announced in early May the launch of an online sales offering, incorporating a stock locator to find cars already in stock with dealerships around the country as well as an enhanced online reservations process.
The stock locator allows cars and vans in stock with Citroen UK dealers to be reserved for up to five days without a fee. A '1-2-3' offer available on these stock vehicles only includes a £1,000 additional deposit contribution, two years' free servicing for new vehicles and deferred finance payments for three months.
The reservation platform, meanwhile, allows customers to configure their car in its final specification and reserve it. Vehicles available on the platform are the C1, C3, C3 Aircross SUV, C4 Cactus and C5 Aircross SUV – including the C5 Aircross Hybrid (above). The chosen car is reserved with payment of a £99 refundable reservation deposit.
A safe home delivery policy incorproates the use of protective covers for the steering wheel, gearstick, driver’s seat and floor mat. The controls and steering wheel are disinfected prior to handover, while the delivery driver wears gloves, a face mask and safety glasses. Customers are informed to wait three hours before entering their vehicle.
As part of the wider Renault Group, Dacia is taking similar steps to its French parent company when it comes to sales during the coronavirus period. The same 'Select and Collect' service will be implemented as of May 2020; customers can selected their car online from dealer stock before arranging to collect it from a dealership in a safe and controlled manner.
Finance documents can be completed remotely, while cars will be thoroughly cleaned ahead of customer collection in designated neutral zones that don't require entry into a showroom. Home delivery is also offered.
In a conversation with DrivingElectric's sister title Auto Express, Ford has revealed that it plans to start selling its cars online in the UK in the third quarter of 2020. Exact details have not been revealed but the online service is expected to encompass car specification, trade-in valuations, finance agreements and eventual home delivery or contactless handover at a dealer.
Hyundai’s Click to Buy online tool was updated in April 2020 to take the coronavirus pandemic into account. The firm says it now offers the “greatest ever selection of available stock” to its customers, including the in-demand Kona Electric.
While Hyundai dealers remain closed at the time of writing, select service centres are still open to help keep emergency and essential service vehicles running. For everyone else, Hyundai has extended warranties and service intervals to help its customers until the lockdown eases.
The brand has also deployed a number of its cars to help the NHS, along with 10,000 disposable seat covers.
Jaguar Land Rover
Following a trial period and staggered roll-out, Jaguar Land Rover has improved its existing online sales platform as of May 2020. Customers can now configure their Jaguar or Land Rover model and purchase using cash, hire purchase or PCP finance; JLR says it’s the first manufacturer to offer a system that shows customers how finance plans can change as options and features are added or removed from the car.
JLR dealer stock is also available to browse and buy online, while a virtual showroom has been added to help give potential buyers a better look at their potential purchase. Phone and video call appointments can also be made with the brand’s sales staff.
Jaguar Land Rover has also added what it calls ‘tailored services’ for vehicle delivery during the pandemic: dealership handover bays that stick to government social-distancing rules are available, along with delivery options on ‘parts of the network’.
In May 2020, Kia announced that its dealers had been given the 'green light' to take remote orders, albeit according to the discretion of individual dealerships. Showrooms are still closed for now, but customers can still contact dealers to place orders. Dealers can now deliver cars to customers too.
Some dealers are to reopen their workshops for servicing, repairs and MoTs, with particular attention given to maintaining high standards of cleanliness. Kia will also honour warranty claims for repairs that were unable to take place before the end of a warranty period due to the coronavirus lockdown.
Mitsubishi was an early adopter of online sales and has made further steps to help its customers during the Coronavirus pandemic. In April 2020, it was announced that cars ordered through Mitsubishi’s Buy Online portal will be eligible for a reduced reservation deposit of £99 (down from £350) and free delivery (usually £100) until 30 June. Trade-ins and finance agreements can also be arranged online.
Mitsubishi states that “deliveries and collections are facilitated by participating Mitsubishi Motors dealers, where staff have been instructed to follow all hygiene and social-distancing guidelines.” The whole Mitsubishi range is available to buy online, including the Outlander PHEV.
Peugeot has had an online sales system since 2017, called 'Peugeot Buy Online'. It allows buyers to configure a car to their chosen specification and set up their finance deal online, as well as getting a part-exchange valuation and completing the order. Cars can be delivered to your home for free, or picked up from a dealership on a 'click and collect' basis.
In anticipation of dealers potentially being allowed to re-open in early June, Peugeot UK has introduced a number of hygiene and social-distancing measures to dealerships. These include: hand sanitiser stations to be used by all staff and visitors, two-metre distance markings on the floor, the use of steering wheel, gearstick, floor and seat covers during test drives and protective desk screens.
In May 2020, Renault announced that its digital sales service now includes an online stock reservation tool, whereby customers can reserve any dealer-stock car online by following a set of straightforward steps.
The system is simple to search and ends with a form once you’ve picked out your car; from here, a nominated local Renault dealer will complete the purchase and organise home delivery. Financial documents can be signed remotely using a dedicated Remote eSign portal.
In May 2020, Renault announced that it would reopen its showrooms as lockdown measures ease, but in the meantime a 'Select and Collect' service would allow for safe pick-up of purchased vehicles without the need to enter the showroom. Renault says all cars will be prepared with particular attention paid to the disinfection of surfaces and the use of seat covers, PPE and 'neutral zones' for customer collection.
One of the pioneers of online start-to-finish car buying, Tesla is continuing in earnest during the Covid-19 lockdown. You can choose from a number of in-stock models, fill out a form and buy outright or on a hire-purchase deal, or on finance with a ‘preferred partner’. There’s still the option to configure your own car, too.
Tesla describes its deliveries as ‘touchless’, so you shouldn’t have to worry about needless contact when receiving your car.
At the end of May 2020, Toyota announced its online purchasing service. Customers can buy Toyota cars using an online service that runs in parallel with the traditional dealer network; the 'end-to-end' setup goes from specification right though to finance deals and contactless collection at a dealership, complete with free three-day drive-home insurance.
Toyota says that its retailer network will still be available for advice and help, and to answer any question during the ordering process. It's also worth noting that the scheme includes all of Toyota's current models; as an added incentive, the Yaris and Aygo models will come with two years' free servicing up until September 2020.
Vauxhall’s coronavirus-era online sales setup includes the completion of new and used car sales, from start to finish, entirely online and over the phone with its sales staff. Financing and lease deals can also be arranged remotely while the brand’s showrooms are closed during the Covid-19 pandemic.
It's also possible to reserve a car using this process, paying a fee over the phone and then continuing with a normal dealership delivery once lockdown restrictions ease.
As with most on this list, Vauxhall is still keeping many of its workshops open to cater for the emergency services and key worker customers.
Volvo’s online sales platform allows for a fully remote buying process, including contactless home delivery. As of May 2020, Volvo’s system includes a live chat function, so customers have quick access to advice and assistance.
As with other firms, Volvo is keeping some of its service outlets open to cater for emergency services and essential workers, all taking into account social-distancing guidelines. Volvo has extended its warranties, servicing intervals and roadside assistance packages by three months, too.
Returning a car bought online
A common concern with the online purchase process is the return process. However, there’s not too much to worry about – especially given online purchases are technically more comprehensively covered than those made in person.
One of the main benefits of online shopping – for cars or otherwise – comes thanks to the Government’s Consumer Contracts Regulations (2013). Under these rules, all consumers are entitled to a 14-day 'cooling-off' period. So, if you’re not happy, you're allowed to return a product for any reason.
This extends to cars bought online, but it’s worth reading the terms and conditions carefully. As with a pair of shoes or a TV, you're still required to return the car in as-new condition – and with cars this tends to entail a mileage limit, usually of around 100 miles. It’s worth noting that you can exceed this mileage and still return a car, but you'll most likely have to pay additional fees.
You should be made aware of the details of the above before you sign on the dotted line – if you haven’t been made aware of your rights, those 14 days could be extended to 12 months.