Test Driving a Car During the Pandemic

With orders to stay at home during the coronavirus pandemic, you might be wondering what it’s like to actually go shopping for a car. I recently had the chance to go through most of the steps of the car-buying process in order to see how some car dealerships are currently handling it. Here is how my experience went.

Setting up the appointment

Most car dealers in my area are currently selling cars by appointment only as the showrooms are currently shut down, so I knew I would have to inquire online or call.

After taking a look at Cargurus and finding an Acura TL that I was potentially interested in, I submitted my information on the website.

The next day, the Internet Salesperson responded and I asked him how they’re going about setting up test drives. He said that the current protocol was to set up an appointment and then send him a picture of my license and insurance. Then, when I arrived at the dealership, he would have the car sanitized and ready for me to drive all on my own.

Once I was back at the dealership, we could discuss numbers at a table that was set up with a “breathe barrier.” That sounded good to me, so I made an appointment for the following week.

The Acura TL that I test drove. | Credit: Joe Santos

At the dealership

When I arrived at the dealership at our agreed time, the salesperson had the car pulled up next to the service shop for me and greeted me straight away. As you can imagine, we didn’t shake hands, nor did we even get within six feet from one another. It was actually rather entertaining.

He said he already disinfected the car and it was running and ready to go. I was curious as to how they disinfect the cars, so he was kind enough to show me the machine that they use. He said it’s an electrostatic sprayer that they use. Just simply spray it in the car for a few seconds and it kills everything, including the coronavirus.

The Clorox electrostatic sprayer they use to disinfect the cars. | Credit: Joe Santos

Test drive

I was sold, at least on his car preparation. He told me to feel free to look the car over and take it for a test drive for about 25 minutes, then call him when I got back.

To be honest, I wasn’t completely sure if I was going to buy the car at this point, but I looked it over anyway. It was pretty clean, although it did have some scratches and a messed up mirror, it was good considering its age.

(For more details about the test drive, click here.)

Back at the dealership

When I returned to the dealership, I parked the car and called him. He told him to wait for him in the lounge area. In the lounge area, which was just a bunch of chairs set up in a couple of circles, I noticed that customers were all wearing masks and sitting very far apart. At the end of the area, the lounge was sectioned off from the main showroom by a chair border with a sign that read “employees only.”

It was surreal in that this was the first time being in a dealership where they actually didn’t want customers in the showroom.

No customers allowed on the showroom floor. | Credit: Joe Santos

The salesperson found me, gave me hand sanitizer, and then led me over to a table set up in the service garage. Sure enough, there was a breath barrier set up for us to sit on either side as he went over the pricing with me. The surrealness continued as it kind of felt like I was chatting with a prison inmate.

After he went over the numbers and asked I wanted to buy the car, I politely told him that I needed to think about it because it was a big purchase, although, I’ll be in touch. He completely understood and didn’t try to push the sale, which I respected. We parted ways after that.

The breath barrier added a layer of protection as did their constant cleaning. | credit: Joe Santos

A good experience

Overall, I would say it was a good experience. I really liked being able to test drive the car alone and of course, I like the salesperson was responsive, courteous, and respectful, which is exactly what we all need during this time.

While I can’t say that every dealership experience will operate this way during the pandemic, it’s nice to know that some are.