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Roadshow: What it's like to buy a car during COVID-19

By Bridget Carey, Roadshow on

Published in Automotive News

I wouldn't recommend buying a car in a pandemic. It's incredibly stressful, especially if you want to test drive before buying. But maybe you're like me and have no choice - I had to buy a car to move my family out of New York City in the middle of this coronavirus mess.

Dealerships are closed or have limited resources. Touching anything makes you nervous. There is no haggling. There is no, "Let's get a coffee and sit and talk and come back tomorrow." This is: Mask and gloves and, "Can you leave the keys on the hood of the car?" This is: "Can you just email me the Carfax?" This is: Wait five hours to process a sale because only two guys are working today.

After lots of research, phone calls, emails and two dealership visits, my husband and I successfully bought a used Toyota 4Runner in a week. We did it without having a car already (because New York City) and while bringing our young kids along for the hunt (because no babysitter).

If you're looking to buy a car right now, I want to share what I've learned from my experience so you can be best prepared.

Make lots of calls and cross your fingers.

Start with online research to find the type of car you want. Many dealerships post their inventory online. But just because a car is listed doesn't mean the dealership is open to make a sale - or willing to let you do a test drive.

 

We found some dealerships near us in New York were completely closed. Other dealerships had reduced hours and furloughed staff. It can take a day or two for some to get back to you.

Find a dealership that will get creative.

Many dealerships were pushing to sell us a car online, like it's a pair of shoes. But I don't buy shoes online. And I wasn't about to buy a used car online without driving it first.

When we started our hunt, one model that caught our interest was a Toyota Tacoma. We found a dealership in New Jersey that would let us do a test drive with just one of us in the car to maintain social distancing. I would wait with my kids in our rental car while my husband took it for a short drive. And then we would switch and I would take it out.

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