The near-constant change in guidance and rules around Covid-19 restrictions is causing confusion for many people. With Holyrood and Westminster confirming that Scotland and England are returning to full lockdowns there are still questions around what businesses can stay open and when people are allowed to leave the house, including whether drivers can still have scheduled maintenance, MOTs and urgent repairs carried out on their vehicles.
Are garages open?
During the previous UK-wide lockdown garages were classified as an essential service and were therefore allowed to remain open throughout to carry out “essential repairs or services”.
This remains the case around the country during the latest lockdowns.
That means that should your car need urgent attention from a mechanic there are still garages open that can carry out the work.
However, individual garages are not obliged to stay open and some may choose to close in order to protect their staff and customers from the virus.
Most garages that are still open have introduced simple measures to protect staff and customers. These include staff wearing gloves and regularly washing their hands; having hand sanitiser in public and staff areas; wiping down cars before and after carrying out work; implementing social distancing on site; minimising interaction and reducing staff numbers.
Some have also introduced online booking systems and zero-contact handovers, and others offer collection and delivery services to minimise the number of people visiting their premises.
Should I still take my car to a garage?
With full lockdowns in place across the UK, the message is that you must stay at home unless your journey is essential.
Under the previous lockdown, taking your car to a garage for emergency repairs was permitted. So if your car has developed a serious or dangerous problem and you need to use if for essential journeys – such as getting to work or grocery shopping – then you can, and should, arrange to have a garage assess and repair it.
Garages will continue to provide MOTs as normal and your car must have a valid MOT to be driven. So, if you must travel for work, you can still take your car for a pre-booked MOT test. There has been no indication of another MOT extension like that offered in March.
For minor problems or basic maintenance you should use your judgement about whether it is “essential” or whether it can wait until restrictions have eased. There is plenty of advice on basic checks you can carry out at home to ensure your car remains roadworthy and the Government has issued this checklist of areas to check to stay safe.
While garages remain open, if you or anyone in your household has Covid-19 or displays any of the symptoms you should not leave the house, even to take your car for urgent repairs.
Are petrol stations still open?
Like garages, petrol stations are regarded as essential retailers and permitted to remain open during the various lockdowns to provide fuel for those who need to use their cars.
As at other businesses that remain open, most are taking precautions to try to limit the spread of the disease. These include closing some forecourt kiosks, employing distancing measures in forecourt stores that remain open, and asking customers to only use contactless payments or pay-at-pump options.
What about car dealerships?
Once again, differing restrictions around the UK mean car dealerships face different rules.
In Northern Ireland, car dealers are closed completely. In England and Wales, showrooms are closed but dealers can continue to operate a click and collect service for vehicle ordered and paid for online or over the phone. In Scotland the situation is unclear. Under Tier 4 restrictions showrooms were closed but dealers could operate click and collect services and outdoor car lots can remain open. It is still unclear whether this is still the case.
The previous closure of car dealerships and the broader impact of the lockdown on people’s lives saw a devastating drop in car sales, with new registrations falling by 97 per cent at the peak of lockdown.