Safe Car Buying: At-Home Options and More

May 01, 2020
Buying a Car During a Pandemic

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the process of planning—be it a short-term grocery list or a long term investment like buying a car--has taken on an entirely different meaning. You might have been planning to buy a car this spring and are wondering if now is a good time. Are there special incentives being offered? How will car dealers handle pandemic safety?

Here’s some information to help inform you not just about car buying, but about how the virus could affect your shopping process.

Should I buy or lease a car now and can I get a better deal?

The good news is that automakers need to keep sales up to keep cash flowing, so they’re offering finance incentives. Not just cheap deals and low or zero interest financing, but flexibility. According to Auto Trader, “We’re certainly in a buyer’s market. Some automakers are offering special incentives during the pandemic to try to keep sales up. Several major automakers — including GM, Ford, Hyundai, Toyota and Nissan — are offering some form of payment relief to customers who have financed cars through them.”  Most mid-market automakers are making offers and are rolling out new relief programs in light of COVID-19.

As for buying versus leasing, keep in mind your personal circumstances. If you drive a lot of miles, are able to make a big down payment and like the idea of holding onto a car, then the least expensive route is outright ownership. However, if you only keep a car a few years, don’t put more than 10,000-15,000 miles per year on your vehicle, and are used to the idea of having a monthly car payment, then leasing is a good choice. In this era of stay-at-home work, a short-term lease may be very attractive.

There are incentives being offered right now by just about every manufacturer regardless of whether you buy or lease. Lower interest rates have already brought down costs for payment buyers, and if more people avoid going out and dealer inventories balloon, automakers and dealers may increase incentives even more so to clear their lots.

Do I risk Coronavirus exposure from shopping for a car?

Right now, most dealerships remain closed. But keep in mind that much of the shopping process (researching the right car, applying for a loan and some aspects of negotiating) can easily occur online from the social-distanced security of your home.

Here are some simple ways to exercise a few precautions:

  • Do as much as possible online. You can’t test-drive a car on the internet, but just about everything else is possible without leaving home. You can research vehicles and credit applications can be approved online.
If you do go shopping, ask in advance about precautions the dealer is taking and follow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC’s) recommendations for good personal health habits and preventive actions for avoiding undue exposure. Practice social 
  • distancing, which, per guidance from the CDC, means staying a distance of 6 feet away from others when possible. Wash your hands regularly, and avoid going if you’re feeling sick.

    As of May 1, 2020, in California, customers are barred from visiting dealerships in person, but many dealerships have modified their services to allow for at-home test drives, vehicle delivery, and trade-ins.

  • A widely cited study finds the coronavirus can live up to several days on plastic and stainless-steel surfaces, so consider using disinfecting wipes on high-touch areas of your prospective vehicle, such as the steering wheel, gear shift and seat-belt buckles, plus all major controls and touchscreens.

  • Consider options where a representative drops the car off with you for the test drive and paperwork — a situation that can limit your interactions to just one person. Request to have the vehicle delivered to your house, potentially minimizing interactions.

What The Police Credit Union is Doing to Keep Members Safe When Buying a Car

The Police Credit Union offers superior member services for buying your next new or used vehicle. We have partnered with vendors (new and used) to allow car deliveries to be conveniently made at home rather than at the dealership.

  • Purchasing pre-owned vehicles: If you’re interested in purchasing a pre-owned vehicle, keep in mind that members can still qualify for a 1% loan rate discount* when financing an Enterprise vehicle through the credit union. Although customers in California are unable to visit Enterprise dealerships in person, everything is available online. To get started, members can click here to review online inventory and email/call Enterprise directly to discuss details and schedule an at-home test drive.
  • Purchasing new vehicles: The Police Credit Union’s Auto Buying Service is open for business during shelter-in-place, with modifications that respect social distancing regulations and bring the majority of the process to your home instead of a dealership. Visit our website to fill out a Vehicle Inquiry Form that lets you specify the exact vehicle make, model, and interior you’re looking for, or call the Auto Buying Service directly at 800.716.9550 for information on how to get started.An added bonus, the Auto Buying Service can also work with you for contactless vehicle repairs if you give them a call – they will arrange to have your car picked up, repaired, and delivered back to your home.

And starting May 1st, 2020, members can get a 0.25% APR** loan rate discount when purchasing a new car through the Auto Buying Service. So if you’re thinking of buying that new car now would be a perfect time with this low auto loan rate!

*APR=Annual Percentage Rate. 1.00% off current The Police Credit Union rate with a max loan term of 60 months. Current rate will vary based on credit worthiness and terms. Financing for qualified The Police Credit Union members. Not all buyers will qualify. Offer valid through 12/31/2020 and is subject to change without notice. This offer cannot be combined with any other offer. Used vehicles were previously part of the Enterprise rental fleet &/or an affiliated company’s lease fleet or purchased by Enterprise from sources including auto auctions, customer trade-ins or from other sources, with a possible previous use including rental, lease, transportation network company or other use.

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APR = "Annual Percentage Rate". Actual APR is based on your credit profile and may be higher than the lowest rate available. Posted rates may include promotional discounts and other terms and conditions. APY = "Annual Percentage Yield". Rates are subject to change without notice.

The Police Credit Union proudly provides banking and loan solutions including checking accounts, credit cards, auto loans and more for police and other law enforcement agencies and their families  in the Bay Area and beyond. Visit us at one of our branches in San Francisco, Pleasanton, San Mateo, San Bruno or Oakland, CA or check if you are eligible for membership and apply online today.

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