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Coronavirus and motoring FAQs: everything you need to know about driving during COVID-19

Coronavirus and motoring FAQs: everything you need to know about driving during COVID-19

Get information about changes to motoring and car insurance, as the Government continues to respond to the ongoing COVID-19 (coronavirus) crisis.

Daniel Hutson
From the Motor team
minute read
posted 1 APRIL 2020

How is COVID-19 affecting driving and car insurance?

The pandemic may affect the way you drive, insure and maintain your car. Our experts answer common questions and concerns.

Please note: The information in this article was correct at the time of publication on 31st March 2020, but, because of the impact of COVID-19, things are changing rapidly. We aim to keep this page updated, but check with your insurance provider or potential provider directly, to confirm any details.

How do I go about getting an MOT?

The Government is giving an MOT exemption lasting six months to owners of cars, motorcycles and vans, from 30 March 2020. This is to allow key workers who cannot work from home, to get to work, or for people who need to shop for essential food and medicine.

However, the Government says your vehicle must still be maintained in a roadworthy state, and some garages will stay open to carry out critical repair work. People can still be prosecuted if they drive unsafe vehicles.

The six-month MOT exemption will mean that drivers due an MOT, will save the £55 that it costs at a time when money will be tight for so many in the UK.

Annual tests for buses, lorries and coaches have been suspended for up to three months.

In Northern Ireland, drivers whose MOTs are set to expire within the next eight weeks will receive a Temporary Exemption Certificate (TEC) which will extend the time needed until their next MOT.

The Northern Irish government website says: “It remains the responsibility of the vehicle owner to make sure their car is in a roadworthy condition to be used on a public road.”

Read our guide to the MOT

Should I change the way I fill up my tank?

As far as we’re aware, the way people can use petrol station forecourts hasn’t changed.

However, individual fuel retailers are free to enforce their own rules on their forecourts, so look out for news on TV and signs at petrol stations.

There’s no evidence that petrol pumps pose any greater risk of harbouring coronavirus than any other surface. However, it’s wise to wear gloves and wash your hands after using them.

You can also pay by contactless (for up to £30) at many pumps around the country, meaning you can observe social distancing guidelines by avoiding going into the store and you won’t have to touch a keypad either. That £30 limit is scheduled to rise to £45, with a national rollout starting on 1 April 2020.

How is coronavirus affecting driving tests?

The Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) has suspended all driving tests for up to three months from 21 March 2020.

The suspension applies to all car, motorcycle, lorry, coach and bus driving tests, as well as approved driving instructor (ADI) tests and checks.

Some key workers can still apply to take an emergency driving test during the suspension period. People who may be eligible to book an emergency test include workers in:

  • health and social care
  • education and childcare
  • key public services
  • local and national government
  • food and other necessary goods
  • public safety and national security
  • transport
  • utilities, communication and financial services

If you had a test booked which has been cancelled at short notice (less than three days), you can claim back expenses using the GOV.UK website.

The DVSA, which handles driver testing in England, Scotland and Wales, has promised to contact everyone affected and rebook all cancelled tests at the earliest opportunity.

“Those who have tests cancelled will have priority when testing resumes,” said Transport Secretary Grant Shapps.

The Driver & Vehicle Agency (DVA) in Northern Ireland has also suspended all driving tests, including those for cars, motorcycles, lorries, buses and specialist vehicles, until 22 June 2020.

What about attending driving courses, like speed awareness courses?

Speed awareness courses are being suspended by UK Road Offender Education (who run the scheme for the Police Service), due to the coronavirus pandemic. The suspension applies for a minimum of 12 weeks, from 20 March 2020.

You should try to check with the authority in charge of running your course, to see whether courses will be run online during the suspension period.

What about driving abroad?

The Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) is currently advising against all non-essential travel abroad. The announcement was made on 17 March and is initially for 30 days. Many other countries are also closing their borders to travel.

To the best of our knowledge, no countries have changed the rules specifically regarding foreign drivers or foreign vehicles.

However, many countries have started to implement specific policies regarding driving as a whole, including limiting traffic on roads to only essential journeys. Here the Government has directed that currently, no one should leave their homes unless there is an essential need to, as outlined in the PM’s address to the nation on 23 March.

In light of the crisis, many countries have stopped allowing foreign travellers into their countries altogether. If it is essential you travel abroad and drive, you may need to be aware of this if you intend to drive across any national borders, including within the Schengen Area, or across state borders in places like the United States, as you may be forbidden from entering.

Check the Foreign Travel Advice section of the Gov.uk website for specific information.

You should also be aware that while some countries may not block British drivers from travelling through, they may block you if you’ve recently travelled through certain areas, such as Spain and northern Italy.

What changes to my driving habits should I notify my insurance provider about?

If you already have a vehicle insurance policy, you may want to notify your insurance provider about changes like these:

  • No longer commuting – if your insurance covers SDPC (social, domestic, pleasure and commuting) you may want to tell your insurance provider if you’re going to be working from home for the foreseeable future. The Government has directed that people should work from home, wherever possible.
  • Changes to where you keep your vehicle overnight and during the day – if you’re not going to be using your car and want to keep it somewhere different to the place specified on your insurance policy (for instance, moving it from the street to a garage) you should let your insurance provider know.
  • Changes to your anticipated annual mileage – let your insurance provider know if you no longer expect to use your vehicle as much as (or, perhaps, more than) you said you would when you took out your policy.

Please note, the Association of British Insurers (ABI) has provided guidance on NHS volunteers and their car insurance. The ABI says NHS Volunteer Responders and other volunteers helping in the effort to combat the coronavirus outbreak, aren’t required to get in touch with their insurance provider to extend their cover or update their documents.  
The ABI’s advice relates to those who are using their own vehicle for voluntary reasons - delivering medical supplies or groceries to help people affected by Covid-19.  
Not all insurance providers are part of the ABI, so you may want to check. For more information, visit the ABI website

Should I consider declaring my car SORN?

If the pandemic means you’re not going to drive your car at all, you might want to take it off the road altogether. Getting a Statutory Off Road Notification (SORN) for your car means you won’t have to pay tax or car insurance. But you mustn’t drive, or even park your car, on a public road while it is in place.

Find out more about SORN and your car

What should I do if I can’t make my monthly/annual insurance payments?

The first thing you should do is contact your insurance provider as soon as possible – they may be able to help you.

You should do this as soon as possible because, if you miss a payment and you don’t notify your insurance provider, they may cancel your policy, leaving you without valid insurance.

Driving a vehicle without at least valid third-party insurance is against the law and could land you a fixed penalty of £300 and six points on your licence.

If the case goes to court, you could receive an unlimited fine and be disqualified from driving. The police also have the power to seize, and in some cases, destroy the vehicle that’s being driven uninsured.

The Government has not so far issued official advice on what drivers should do if they can’t pay their car insurance premium. But they’ve made a number of pledges to help people experiencing financial hardship.

To see if you’re eligible for support, visit GOV.UK for detailed financial support information.

If you have immediate debt problems, get in touch with the Money Advice Service for free debt advice as soon as possible.

Find out what to do if you miss a car insurance payment.

What if I can't keep up my vehicle repayments?

If you can’t keep up car loan or car leasing payments, the first thing you should do is contact your lender. They may be able to help you.

The Government hasn’t issued official advice yet on what to do if you can’t keep up the cost of your car loan repayments. But there’s support available for those experiencing financial hardship at this time.

See if you could apply for financial help on the GOV.UK website.

And if you need immediate help with debt, contact the Money Advice Service for free debt advice.

What should I do if I’m on a car leasing or PCP agreement?

If you’re self-isolating when your vehicle lease comes to an end and therefore unable to return the vehicle to your provider, you should contact them as soon as possible.

They may be able to help you by extending the terms of your lease or by arranging to collect the vehicle themselves.

If you’re unable to meet the ongoing or final costs of a lease or PCP agreement, you should once again contact your provider as soon as possible to see if they can offer any kind of help.

The Government hasn’t yet offered specific advice on what to do if you’re unable to meet the costs of paying off your vehicle lease or PCP. But there’s a range of financial support available for people who are affected by the crisis.

Find out more about support on GOV.UK.

What if my car breaks down?

If you have breakdown cover included in your car insurance policy or as standalone cover, you could still call your breakdown service during this time for home start or emergency roadside assistance.

If you’ve come into contact with the virus, are self-isolating or experiencing the symptoms of coronavirus, you should let your breakdown service know when you call them, so the mechanics can take appropriate action when they reach you.

Both the AA and RAC have confirmed they still aim to attend every breakdown they are called out to. However, they have asked customers to maintain a distance of two metres from their mechanics at all times while they’re on the scene.

Can someone else drive my vehicle – for instance if they are picking up shopping, or if it’s an emergency?

The rules around driving other people’s vehicles haven’t changed. If you’re not listed as a named driver on someone else’s policy, you can only drive their vehicle if you have their permission. You’ll also need a comprehensive insurance policy which includes ‘driving other cars’ (DOC), giving you the minimum legal standard of insurance (third party cover) in emergency situations only.

You won’t be exempt from the rules if you’re caught driving another person’s car without insurance – even if you’re making an essential journey.

If you’re caught using another person’s vehicle without insurance or the owner’s permission, you could face strict penalties, including 6–8 penalty points on your licence, and an unlimited fine and a disqualification from driving if the case goes to court.

If you’re in an emergency and aren’t insured to drive another person’s vehicle, your first port of call should be to call 999.

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