Buying a Car in an Uncertain World: What’s the Outlook for Prospective Owners?

steering wheel of a car

The direct effects of the pandemic are taking up the headlines. But for the millions who have been fortunate enough to avoid the worst consequences, such as getting sick or losing their jobs, the indirect impact has been just as significant.

Owning a car might be one of those things that seem insignificant in light of our current situation. Yet the weight of such a purchase remains as massive as ever for most households. With many of us operating under tighter financial constraints during this recession, what factors have shifted when it comes to vehicle ownership? And how will this affect your decision to buy a new car?

Changes to vehicle cleaning routines

Even though lockdown restrictions have eased in many areas since March, we might not be saying farewell to face masks and social distancing anytime soon. Leading epidemiologists believe that COVID-19 is here to stay. In the long term, our collective emphasis will have to be on continued safe practices.

For vehicle owners, disinfection and overall cleanliness will become more critical than ever. Many people turn out to be asymptomatic carriers of the coronavirus; it’s impossible to know if your passengers might be putting you at risk. Maintaining a clean vehicle is now a non-negotiable part of responsible car ownership.

Car cleaning routines have to change. A ceramic coating for cars can keep a lot of dirt and grime off your vehicle, but you have to wash and sanitize the interior regularly. The most frequently used touchpoints, such as door handles, seat belts, steering wheels and instrument panels, gear shifts, and hand brakes, should be disinfected after every trip.

However, with the demand for quality disinfectant, you’ll have to be careful using standard household cleaning solutions. These can have undesirable effects on leather or plastic surfaces. It’s best to stick with a 70% isopropyl alcohol solution, or soap and water, and avoid scrubbing vigorously.

Driving a car

Long-term advantages

Of course, experienced car owners are accustomed to dealing with a long maintenance checklist. They won’t blink at adding another layer of strict hygiene to the routine. But for prospective first-time buyers, it highlights the potential for car ownership to be a greater hassle than its worth.

Given the substantial outlay involved, and the fact that cars will always depreciate over time, is it a good idea to buy a car amid today’s recession? The signs seem to indicate that car owners will enjoy an advantage moving forward.

Public concern for health and safety isn’t going away. Even with social distancing and fewer people going out, the idea of ride-sharing or taking public transportation is enough to make many people uncomfortable. They don’t want to be exposed to any more risk than is necessary.

In the big picture, the ability to work from home and the fear of crowded urban spaces might drive people away from population centers. Living in the suburbs gives you more freedom to move about and enjoy green spaces. Having a car will allow you to maximize that mobility and still head into the heart of the city when needed.

Ease of buying

Unexpectedly, the pandemic and ensuing recession have been beneficial for car buyers. Dealers have been offering some fantastic bargains to shift inventory. You might even be able to qualify for 0% financing terms.

Beyond the financial aspect, however, companies have been going all-in on efforts to win over customers. They are finding ways to address concerns over contact and the possible spread of disease as would-be buyers seek to inspect and test-drive models.

Consumers have shifted to online shopping, and car companies have followed this trend. The process of buying a car can now be completed in an entirely virtual manner. You can take a virtual tour of the vehicle, with in-house personnel guiding you through the features through a video chat.

Sales interactions, including credit application and price negotiation, can be finalized online as well. And if you’re the sort of buyer who absolutely must get behind the wheel before making a decision, valet services are becoming the norm. The vehicle can be delivered to you for a test drive.

If you don’t have one yet, buying a car can be easier than ever. This convenience, combined with the long-term benefits, can more than offset the periodic effort involved in maintaining it as a safe indoor space. And if you already have one, this could be the perfect opportunity to trade-in and get a great deal on your next vehicle.

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