Home Advice Coronavirus, Cars and You: News, Advice and Staying Safe (Continuing Coverage)

Coronavirus, Cars and You: News, Advice and Staying Safe (Continuing Coverage)

Even in normal times, buying, selling, owning and driving a car each brings its own joys, challenges and questions. During a global health crisis like the coronavirus outbreak, questions are winning the day. We’ll be updating this space with news, answers and advice for the foreseeable future, and we’ll get through this together.

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News from the Last 72 Hours

GM to make 30,000 ventilators in federal contract

Official numbers have been revealed for the amount of ventilators General Motors will make under a government contract. The Department of Health and Human Services announced GM will supply 30,000 of the devices for a contract price of $489.4 million. Weeks ago GM quickly moved to partner with Ventec Life Systems to build the devices that are critical to hospitalized coronavirus patients. Under the Defense Production Act, the contract with GM calls for the ventilators to be delivered to the Strategic National Stockpile by the end of August, with 6,132 to be delivered by June 1.

Kia extends warranty program

Kia is extending the coverage of warranties set to expire soon, following a similar move as its corporate cousin Hyundai. Like Hyundai, Kia boasts an exceptional new-car warranty that covers 5 years/60,00 miles bumper to bumper and 10 years/100,000 miles for the powertrain. Kia’s warranty extension applies to those that would otherwise expire in March through May. They are now extended until June 30, 2020. Read more about Kia’s warranty extension.

Honda, FCA could resume output in May

While car factories remain closed around North America, at least two automakers are hoping to resume production as early as next month. Honda says the production of automobiles, engines and transmissions at plants in the U.S. and Canada has been suspended until May 1. In theory, production could restart after that. FCA, meanwhile, plans to begin restarting its U.S. and Canadian plants on May 4, according to Automotive News. Other major automakers like Ford and GM have not announced timetables on restarting production, and as with all things related to this pandemic, we expect this situation to remain very fluid.

Ford makes 1 million face shields in under 2 weeks

As the coronavirus pandemic tightened its grip in the past weeks, Ford is among the automakers that have quickly pivoted from making cars to medical supplies. Among those are face shields being made at a factory in Plymouth, Michigan — and they are being made rapidly. According to the Detroit Free Press, Ford and paid volunteer UAW members produced their 1 millionth face shield over the weekend, just 13 days after making their first batch of 1,000. The plant is now making some 200,000 of the disposable face shields per day, which are critically needed by medical personnel and first responders.

Hyundai extends warranties set to expire soon

Hyundai has announced it will extend the coverage of warranties set to expire between March and June until June 30, 2020. The automaker already boasts a substantial warranty that covers 5 years/50,000 miles bumper to bumper and 10 years/100,000 miles for the powertrain. The extension allows further leeway for vehicle maintenance and repair that would otherwise be performed during this time. While vehicle repairs are deemed essential and still being allowed, Hyundai said it realizes some owners face difficulties having their car serviced amid the pandemic. See more about the Hyundai warranty extension.

Dealerships in more states affected by stay-at-home orders

Several more states have issued stay-at-home orders to residents and have mandated that non-essential businesses to close. Florida, Texas, and Georgia are among the latest to join states such as California, New York and New Jersey in safer-at-home mandates. In all affected states, auto repair services – including those at car dealerships – are allowed to remain open since they are deemed “essential” business. Car sales, however, vary by jurisdiction. If you need to buy a car, verify the dealership’s status first. Also know that more dealerships are opening their (virtual) doors to online sales, service and delivery.

New Programs and Incentives

As the coronavirus spreads, more and more automakers are offering incentives, payment deferrals and other financial assistance. Below are a few examples. For a full list of incentives, payment assistance and other programs, click here.

Fiat Chrysler

FCA (Fiat Chrysler Automobiles) on April 1 began its “Drive Forward” initiative that offers 0 percent financing for 84 months and deferred payments for 90 days on select 2019 and 2020 models. FCA also debuted an online retailing experience where you can buy, trade-in, apply for credit and more.

General Motors

GM is offering 0 percent financing for 84 months with the first 120 days of payments deferred. This local program is for A+ and A- tier customers on purchases made from March 17 – March 31, 2020. Customers must take delivery within 30 days. Note that these offers do not include select base trims on some models, and apply to all 2019 models, and select 2020 models: 

  • Chevrolet: Equinox, Trax, light-duty Silverado 
  • Buick: Encore and Envision 
  • Cadillac: No 2020 models 
  • GMC: Acadia and Terrain 

GM provides OnStar crisis assist, which includes free OnStar to all (regardless of subscribers). The assistance features 3 gigs of data for 3 months to provide in-car connectivity. Customers can activate the blue emergency button on all brand models. 

Honda/Acura

Honda and its luxury brand, Acura, are offering up to 90 days deferral on the first payment of a new vehicle. Honda is also offering $1,000 toward the purchase or lease of select vehicles, and Acura is offering $500.

Hyundai

Hyundai is offering 0 percent financing and 4 months of deferred payments on select new vehicles through April 30. Additionally, for current owners who lost their jobs or experience medical hardships related to COVID-19 before April 30, Hyundai will defer up to 3 months of payments. The “Hyundai Assurance” job-loss protection program is also back.

Jaguar/Land Rover

Jaguar Land Rover is offering 0 percent financing for 72 months, and payment deferral for 90 days. The program from the British automaker’s financing arm is available on 2020 Jaguar and Land Rover models, plus the 2021 Jaguar F-Type.

Kia

Kia is offering first payment deferrals of up to 120 days, and 0percent financing on 2019 Forte, Niro PHEV, Niro EV, as well as 2020 Forte, Soul, Optima, Optima Hybrid and PHEV, Sorento, Sportage, Sedona, and Stinger vehicles. Vehicles must be financed through Kia Motors Finance between March 18, 2020, and March 31, 2020. 

Toyota and Lexus

Toyota is offering deferred payments for 90 days in some circumstances on both new and certified used vehicles. The offer applies to purchased vehicles only, and financing must be through Toyota or Lexus financial services. This offer applies to Tier 1+ through Tier 3 customers. Contracts have a maximum term of 72 months. 

Volkswagen

Volkswagen is offering up to 180 days of deferred payments to customers who purchase and finance a vehicle through VW credit. The offer expires April 30, 2020. VW is also offering 0-percent financing for up to 72 months. For existing owners using Volkswagen Credit and affected by COVID-19, VW is offering 90 days of payment deferral.

Can I still get my car serviced?

Most likely, the answer is yes. While some car dealerships around the country have had to close due to government mandates stipulating that “nonessential” businesses close, car repair facilities – including service departments at car dealerships – have been deemed “essential.” If work must be done on your vehicle, we advise calling ahead, confirming the shop is open, and making an appointment. Here’s how COVID-19 is affecting dealers service centers.

Also be sure to read our tips on car maintenance during the coronavirus crisis.

How long can my car sit undriven?

Millions of Americans ordered to stay at home means fewer miles being put on our cars. A car that sits and isn’t driven regularly can spell trouble for when you need it most. Here’s advice for how to keep your car in shape during the coronavirus.

Are gas stations still open?

Yes. While many businesses have closed because they are deemed “nonessential,” gas stations don’t fall into that category. In fact, gas stations are among the most “essential” operators, as they provide the fuel we need for cars, our primary mode of transportation in America.

It’s also a great time to fill up. Amid the economic fallout and lower crude prices that have resulted amid the COVID-19 pandemic, gasoline prices have fallen. According to AAA, today’s national average for a gallon is just under $2.13. That’s down nearly 50 cents a gallon from a year ago. Here’s more about plummeting gas prices. Also be sure to read our tips on staying safe amid the coronavirus when refueling.

Is it even possible to buy a car right now?

That will depend where you live and the current state of government mandates. It seems that by the hour more car dealerships are having to cease sales operations as that part of the business is deemed “nonessential.” We advise calling ahead to check the status the dealership, and remain flexible as this is an ever-changing situation. Also understand that these businesses are complying with government orders. See how coronavirus is affecting car dealerships.

What’s the best way to buy a new car amid the outbreak?

If you need to buy a car amid the coronavirus pandemic, there’s a good chance you still can. While some dealerships have had to cease sales operations, many more are still open and ready to deal. Call ahead to confirm. And remember, you can do the bulk of your research online here at KBB.com. Read this before signing on the dotted line, and here are specific actions to take while shopping for a car amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Buying a car online is also possible

Another option is to buy a car online, from the comfort of your home. Kelley Blue Book has launched Dealer Home Services, which enables you to see a video walkaround of a car, have a car brought to your home to test-drive, and have home delivery if you choose to purchase.

new cars on dealer lot

What’s the best way to buy a used car?

Similar to new-car dealerships, used-car operators have to obey government mandates amid the COVID-19 pandemic. And again, while most remain open, some have had to close as they are deemed “nonessential.” Call ahead to confirm the dealership’s status, and be sure to read our 10 Steps to Buying a Used Car.

Should I defer my car payment?

Between the loss of jobs, reduced paychecks, prioritizing other needs and overall economic uncertainty, many people are weighing the decision to defer car payments amid the coronavirus. Moreover, some automakers’ finance departments and lenders are offering flexibility and the ability to pay later instead of now. Is this a good idea? See our guide on car payment deferral amid COVID-19.

What to do if you can’t make a car payment

With jobs and paychecks coming to a screeching halt for more and more people every day, many are worried about making their car payment. Whether that’s a monthly payment on a lease or a loan, it’s likely hundreds of dollars – a substantial sum that’s often the second-biggest financial commitment after rent or a home mortgage.

If there’s any consolation amid the coronavirus crisis, it’s that there seems to be an air of understanding about the toll this is taking on our lives, finances include. Just in the past few days, many automakers have rolled out payment support programs.

If you think you will miss a payment, it’s better to take action sooner vs. later. The first thing you should do is contact your lender or your lending institution and advise them of your situation. Many banks and credit unions have already set up coronavirus relief programs and assistance lines. So rather than simply miss a payment, contact your lender as soon as possible to figure out a path forward.

This will be in the best interest of not just you, but also the lending institution. The reality is, they don’t want the extra work that comes with filing notices and the possibility of a vehicle repossession. Communication is key here, as is staying ahead of potential trouble.

Is it better to buy or lease in this environment?

As usual, that will depend on your situation, coronavirus or not. We advise not just the usual considerations of how many miles you plan to drive in a year and whether you want the ability to modify your car, but also think about your future given the pandemic.

Here’s our guide on whether to buy or lease during the coronavirus pandemic. Be sure to weigh these other buy/lease considerations, too. And here’s a look at how the coronavirus is impacting car sales. If you’re still debating whether to buy or lease in general, read this. And if you decide to lease, read this.

Are financing conditions favorable?

In general, yes. With the Federal Reserve cutting interest rates and the government taking actions to try to prevent a recession, loans are becoming cheaper and thus lending more favorable. Also, due to the uncertainty in general and some dealerships having to suspend sales, there should be plenty of incentives to be had. Be sure to read our 6 Steps to Financing a Car.

What are the best car deals right now?

Automakers are rolling out new incentive programs in response to the coronavirus. Brands are offering measures that range from 0 percent financing to deferred payments and even assurance programs that promise to make car payments in the event of a job loss. See what brands are offering car buyers right here.

How might the coronavirus affect my car insurance?

With fewer miles being driven as more people stay at home, you might be wondering if that will affect your car insurance. Here are some answers to that question.

Will there be a Cash for Clunkers type of program in 2020?

No formal announcement has been made by the federal government as of early April for a car-buying program like “Cash for Clunkers.” But at least one automaker is hoping such an incentive will happen. Ford has said it would like to see another government stimulus plan for the auto industry. The Car Allowance Rebate System, informally known as “Cash for Clunkers,” took place in the summer of 2009 and offered car owners thousands of dollars toward a new vehicle if they traded in a less fuel-efficient model.

Is the DMV still open?

As with so many other answers these days, it depends. Each state’s Department of Motor Vehicles must follow government ordinances. Some have been closed due to emergency ordinances, while others remain open but by appointment only. Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, here’s what to know about the DMV before you go.

Can I rent or lease a car during the coronavirus?

Yes. The government has deemed the renting and leasing of cars as an “essential” business amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Here’s more information about renting and leasing a vehicle amid the coronavirus.

Coronavirus and the REAL ID requirement

The federally mandated REAL ID deadline has been delayed a year, until Oct. 1, 2021, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. “The federal, state and local response to the spread of the Coronavirus here in the United States necessitates a delay in this deadline,” the Department of Homeland Security said. REAL ID put more stringent standards on state-issued driver’s licenses and identification cards. For everyday citizens, its biggest affect will be the REAL ID requirement for boarding planes at airports.

Is it safe to buy a car made in a country affected by COVID-19?

Yes. If you’re hesitant about buying a car made in one of the countries hit hard by the coronavirus – such as China, South Korea, Italy or here in the United States — you needn’t fret.

At present, very few vehicles imported to the United States are made in China. The most popular is the Buick Envision SUV. More models come from South Korea, the home countries of Hyundai and Kia. Cars made in Italy, where the coronavirus is also hitting hard, include expected models such as Alfa Romeos, and others such as the Fiat 500X and Jeep Renegade crossover SUVs.

Then there is here in the United States, where most major automakers have factories. While more and more automakers have announced that they are idling their U.S. plants amid the pandemic, some have noted that workers were exposed to the virus before they went into quarantine. Still, this should not be cause for alarm if you are shopping for a new car.

Even if you were to buy one of these vehicles right after it was imported to the United States or came off a U.S. assembly line, the vehicle should be safe.

According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the coronavirus can live for hours or up to a few days on a surface. But it takes much longer than that for a vehicle to reach a dealer lot. In fact, it can be weeks between the time the automobile leaves the assembly line, is shipped to America, and is transported to a dealer’s lot.

What’s the best way to sell my car right now?

Selling a car at any time can be stressful, and it will be even more so amid a pandemic. Patience is key here, as is understanding. Face-to-face transactions will be more difficult as potential buyers practice social distancing, and some dealerships that would buy your car could be closed by government mandate.

Still, you can sell your car amid this crisis. Here are tips on how to sell your car during the coronavirus.

How should I clean my car amid the coronavirus?

With multiple surfaces that we touch constantly – think your steering wheel, audio dials, climate controls and the like – there are numerous places in a car that can harbor pathogens including the COVID-19 virus. Now more than ever it is vital to keep the inside of your car not just clean, but disinfected. One of the most-effective and least-expensive ways is with isopropyl alcohol (60 percent or higher). To clean and disinfect, wipe the surface with a rag sopped with alcohol. Products you’ll want to avoid using inside your car include bleach or hydrogen peroxide. While both can kill the coronavirus germs, their harshness can damage materials like vinyl and plastic commonly used in cars. For more tips on what and what not to do, click here.

What are dealerships doing to keep safe?

Automobile dealers have moved quickly to ensure all aspects of their business, including buying, selling and servicing vehicles, is as safe and stress-free as possible amid the coronavirus. Safety measures have included everything from disinfecting doorknobs, showrooms – and of course the cars in them – to specialized training in best practices for employees. Don’t be offended if the sales associate doesn’t shake hands – they shouldn’t, and neither should you at this time of social distancing.

Other measures dealerships are taking include a higher reliance on digital tools, and even bringing cars to potential buyers for test drives. See more measures dealerships are taking to ensure the safety of customers and employees.

25 things to you can do through your car window

You already know about restaurant drive-throughs, drive-in movies even in-vehicle banking. Here’s a list of 25 things you can do without leaving the safety of your car.

10 items to keep in your car at all times

If we’re learning anything amid this pandemic, it’s proper preparation. That extends to your car. While many of us are preparing our homes and pantries for the unknown, don’t forget about your car. Here are 10 items you should always have in your vehicle.

CDC recommendations and advice on COVID-19

News, events and tips for dealing with Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) are evolving daily. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has set up a resource page to answer general questions and give guidance on how to prevent the virus’ spread and what to do if you are sick.

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