We're answering a number of frequently asked questions regarding buying, leasing and owning a car during the coronavirus pandemic. Also known as COVID-19, the coronavirus requires us to approach everything from getting groceries to buying a car in new and different ways. Whether you're concerned about buying online, making your next payment, or taking special care of your vehicle, this article offers advice on what to do during this unusual time. We'll also link to other resources that go more in depth on a number of topics.
Coronavirus FAQs for Car Shoppers and Owners
Advice, Resources and Answers to Common Questions
How to reduce the risk of coronavirus in your vehicle: These steps can help reduce the spread of the coronavirus in your personal car, a ride-hailing vehicle or public transportation.
How do I buy a car during the coronavirus?
It is a little more challenging to buy a car in this current climate. Many states have enacted strict stay-at-home or shelter-in-place measures, limiting the sorts of businesses that are allowed to remain open. The sales departments at many dealerships have been closed as a result. That said, it isn't impossible and, in some ways, has become more convenient than ever.
Though the showroom floor might be closed, we have received reports that a number of salespeople are still working and are more willing than ever to complete a car deal from your home. In keeping with social distancing guidelines, they will bring vehicles to you for a test drive and complete much of the paperwork via email or over the phone. You can read our Online Car Shopping During Social Distancing article for more information.
Much of the research can be done here on Edmunds and from the comfort of your own home. Read our expert reviews and browse through thousands of new and used inventory. You can also search for vehicles listed in dealer inventory that are eligible for the Edmunds Deal. Starting with what we recommend as a fair price (including currently available incentives), shoppers can build their ideal loan or lease and send this information to a dealer. If the terms are approved, a salesperson will contact you to move forward with the transaction.
A number of dealership websites will allow you to apply for credit online. This step not only removes any uncertainty about whether you'll be approved but also reduces the amount of in-person paperwork. Talk to your salesperson to fill out as much information as possible over the phone to make the contract signing as quick and smooth as possible.
What do I do if dealers in my area are closed?
While most shoppers prefer to shop within 25 miles of their home, about 5% of buyers in the top car-buying states are willing to drive over 100 miles for a car they want, according to Edmunds data. We're not suggesting you buy an out-of-state car, since that can come with its own headaches, but be willing to cast a wider net in these times. Use our dealer locator to help find open locations near you.
I want to limit my exposure to people and skip the test drive. Is this a bad idea?
While we typically recommend a test drive to make sure the vehicle is a good fit, there are some times that one might not be required. There are a number of loyal buyers who love their car and essentially buy the latest version when it's time to replace the old one. According to Edmunds data, this loyal audience makes up about 23% of new-car shoppers. Read Edmunds reviews to learn what changes to expect from the new model, which would most likely have been refreshed or redesigned since you last bought.
When it comes to used cars, it is even more important to drive the car and judge its condition before buying. You can buy a certified pre-owned vehicle to avoid some interaction with a mechanic since these cars come pre-inspected. You might also consider shopping at CarMax, which offers a seven-day money back guarantee.
What should I do if my lease is up?
Get in touch with your lender to see what your lease-end options are at this time. Some dealers may offer to pick up the vehicle from your home, while others are offering lease extensions for up to six months. Keep in mind that these lease extensions are not free, and make sure you ask about whether the extension comes with any extra miles.
Are lease deals better right now?
It's too early to tell at this point since many of the incentives for March date back to before the coronavirus was declared a global pandemic. The average lease payment in the past few months was about $472. For reference, this was about 8%, or $36, higher than in 2017. We expect better deals in April and the subsequent months as automakers look to make up for the business lost from closed dealerships and lack of foot traffic. If the lease deals feel a bit beyond your budget, consider shopping for a used vehicle.
How do I get the most trade-in value for the car I have, or for an extra car I may not need right now?
Selling a car on your own is the best way to get the most out of it, but given that you'd have to deal with strangers, this probably isn't the best time. Instead, we recommend trading it in, which will be safer and more convenient. Edmunds data shows that in general the newer the vehicle, the more value it holds regardless of the number of miles on it. In other words, if you have a late-model vehicle, the sooner you trade it in, the more you'll get.
If you have an extra car on your hands, now is likely the time to sell that as well. In these troubled economic times, dealerships know that there will be a demand for inexpensive vehicles so that older extra car you own may still have some value in it. You can read our guide on the best time to trade-in a car to help get the most for your vehicle.
Can I get a good deal on a car right now?
Automakers are starting to offer incentives, and this will likely continue in the coming months. If your lease is ending or you need a vehicle now, there are some solid incentives available at this time. Currently, automakers are offering incentives such as zero-interest loans, and deferring loan payments for the first three to four months.
Are interest rates favorable right now?
Though the Federal Reserve sharply cut interest rates in mid-March, we've yet to see that manifest in car loans. And while there isn't enough data on current rates, our analysts are expecting them to fall in the coming months. The reemergence of 0% loans from the automakers is one of the signs that rates will become more favorable. Keep an eye on the Edmunds incentives page to keep up with the latest promotional interest rates from the automakers.
I can’t find the car I want right now. Should I wait or consider alternatives?
Now may not be the best time to get picky about certain color choices or options. Factories are closed, and when they resume it may take a while to get to a custom order. And while inventory remains high overall, not every dealership is open and trading between dealers may be limited.
Is now a better time to consider a used vehicle?
This is a good time to consider a used vehicle. Not only will a used car be less expensive overall, but you'll have more options to choose from. If the economy continues at this pace, expect people to turn more to used cars, which means they will be in higher demand and prices will go up.
What should I do if I can’t afford my car payment?
This is a difficult situation to be in, but the good news is that you have some options. The most important thing to do is to reach out to your lender and explain your specific circumstances. Don't just stop paying. In some cases, your lender may be willing to give you a break from your payments for a few months. Other times you may be asked to make a partial payment. The partial payment keeps your account in good standing and shows that you are committed to paying off the loan even in tough times. Read this article to find out what the major automakers are offering in the form of payment relief programs.
If you're buying a new car but want some space between your first payment, a number of automakers are offering incentives to delay the payment by a few months. Read this article to find out more about these incentives.