Coronavirus: lockdown advice for drivers

Published: 07 May 2020

► How to stay safe driving during the coronavirus pandemic
► Your motoring questions answered
► Should you be driving at all?

The coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic throws up some interesting questions for the UK’s 30 million-plus drivers. The good news is most can be answered with a combination of government advice and straightforward common sense.

We’ve got the answers to all your motoring questions below, but the first question you should really be asking is to yourself:

UK car sales fall 97% in coronavirus pandemic

Is this journey really necessary?

Before you even think about going out for a drive, you should bear in mind that government regulations limit you to essential travel only.

That means that you can only drive if it’s for a few, very specific purposes:

  • Buying food
  • Attending a medical appointment
  • Taking goods to a vulnerable or self-isolating person
  • Commuting – if you’re a key worker

That unfortunately means that driving for pleasure is out, no matter what you have sitting in the garage begging to be driven. The issue isn’t that you’ll infect anybody – there’s very low risk of that happening from an enclosed car – but that any collisions or accidents would tie up desperately needed NHS resources.

Put simply, staying at home wherever possible will slow the spread of the virus – in doing so, the chances of the lockdown ending sooner are increased.

If you're self-isolating or showing any symptoms of the virus, you should not leave your home at all.

Further reading: coronavirus and the car world

Cleaning tips

You shouldn’t be sharing your car with anybody but your immediate family at this stage – however it’s still good practice to ensure your car is as clean as it can be.

Coronavirus - advice for drivers cleaning

That means, of course, cleaning your hands well before you drive with soap and hot water or an alcohol-based hand sanitiser.

You should also clean the touch points in your car – everywhere your hands go before, during or after you drive. That’s more surfaces than you may think:

  • Door handles (interior and exterior)
  • Steering wheel
  • Gear lever
  • Column stalks
  • Dashboard surface
  • Infotainment screen
  • Armrests
  • Fuel filler flap and cap
  • Seat controls
  • Window switches
  • Air vents

Most surfaces can easily be sanitised with antibacterial wipes – these are gentle enough for most plastic and leather, though fabric seats or Alcantara might require specialist cleaners.

What if I break down?

Most major breakdown recovery services are continuing to operate, although they may take longer to get to you than normal.

What do I do if my car needs servicing or is due an MOT?

The DVSA and car manufacturers have both introduced measures to ensure this shouldn’t be an issue. The first, and most useful, is a six-month extension to MOTs. If your car’s MOT was due to run out from March 30, you will now have an additional six months to get it tested.

MOT tests for buses, trailers and HGVs have also been suspended for three months.

> Coronavirus - how the car industry is reacting

The car in question must have had a valid MOT before the extension – so there’s no buying and running a banger during this period – and you are expected to keep the vehicle in a roadworthy condition. That means checking tyre pressures and tread depths, lights and wipers, and all other safety-critical areas, otherwise you’ll be in line for a fine.

Coronavirus - advice for drivers servicing

What about servicing? Well, most car manufacturers have relaxed their servicing guidelines, meaning that services due to maintain service history and warranty can be left until lockdown is over and businesses re-open. This has the added benefit of keeping servicing bays free for key workers to have their cars maintained and fixed with the minimum of hassle.

Different manufacturers have different policies on these extensions, so check with your manufacturer what the policy is on your car.

> More information on suspended MOTs here 

What about road tax and insurance?

Road tax and insurance have not been relaxed. This means that, as ever, if your car is on a public highway it needs to be taxed and insured.

Insurance companies have warned those due for renewal that their cover should be based on their normal mileage, not their lockdown-induced essential mileage.

Of course, if you’re able to park your vehicle off-road and you know you won’t be using it, you can declare it SORN on the DVLA website.

I’m having financial trouble and can’t make my car finance payments

First of all, you’re not alone. Car finance companies are well geared up to assist people during these times – with many people on reduced pay or awaiting bailout payments, there are plenty struggling.

Your specific circumstances may vary but you’re likely to find your finance company is willing to discuss various options, including payment holidays.

> Get more info on car finance payment holidays here

By Tom Wiltshire

Bauer Automotive staff writer; Cotswoldian, Peugeot enthusiast, SsangYong Turismo apologist