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Buying a Car During the Coronavirus Pandemic: Everything You Need to Know

Until it passes, the coronavirus pandemic will raise a lot of questions about the new normal for everyday life. Schools, gyms and restaurants are temporarily shutting down across the country. You might have been asked to work at home for a while. You might be wondering is if buying a car is still safe in this crazy time. We’re here to help.

Will Shopping for a Car Put Me at Risk of Coronavirus Exposure?

We highly recommend doing the majority of your research online to limit your time in public. The best course of action is to follow the basic guidelines and the advice of your local and federal authorities to help prevent the spread of viruses. That being said, many dealerships are offering enhanced online services including at-home test drives, vehicle pick-up and delivery for service customers and altered hours. You might want to call your local dealer or check their website before leaving the house.

Is the Coronavirus Affecting Car Prices?

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’ve financed cars through them. GM, for example, is offering a zero-percent financing deal for 84 months for well-qualified shoppers and is deferring the first 120 days of payments. This deal applies to all 2019 GM models and select 2020 models. This is an effort to clear out the 2019 model year inventories more quickly so that vehicles don’t stick around on the lot for too long while the U.S. works through this health crisis. Here are the automakers offering payment assistance and special financing during the pandemic.

If you’ve taken a loan through a bank or credit union that’s not affiliated with an automaker, you might want to consider contacting them to see if a similar payment deferral program is available, if you’re worried about making your car payment. If making an existing car payment is a concern, check out our advice on what to do.

What Are the Best Car Deals Right Now?

To help you find the best deal, we’ve put together some of March’s best deals on new cars, SUVs and trucks, as well as some of the month’s best lease deals.

Should I Buy New or Used?

A new car comes with the peace of mind of a manufacturer’s warranty, while a used car comes at a steep discount because of depreciation. Whichever is best suited for you depends on your budget and how much you value being the first owner of the car. A happy medium between the two is a certified pre-owned car, which allows you to take advantage of the depreciation of a used car while still getting a manufacturer’s warranty.

Which Car Is Right For Me?

The car that meets at the intersection of your wants, your needs and your budget is the car you should buy. Here are just a few that we recommend, along with our expert reviews.

SUVs: Kia Telluride, Ford Explorer, Toyota Highlander

Trucks: Ford F150, Ram 1500, Jeep Gladiator

Sedans: Hyundai Sonata, Nissan Sentra, Honda Accord

Minivans: Chrysler Pacifica, Honda Odyssey, Toyota Sienna

Award-winning cars and features: Autotrader’s 10 Best Car Interiors Under $50,000, Coolest All-Wheel Drive Cars on Autotrader, The Best New Automotive Technology for 2020

What Is the Best Financing Option?

The coronavirus pandemic is a good reminder of the perks of buying a car with cash and owning it with the title in hand so that you don’t have to worry about making a car payment if something changes with your income. We know that it can be tough to save up enough cash to buy a car, so some other options are leasing the car and getting a car loan and paying it off over time. Here’s some advice on how to get the best interest rate.

Another thing to consider is using your stimulus check from the government as part of your down payment. Read more of our advice on whether that strategy is right for you.

How Much Car Can I Afford?

Our car price calculator and auto loan calculator can help you find the right payment and price tag for your budget.

Should I Get an Extended Warranty?

Only if you’re planning on keeping the car for a long time. Read more of our advice on extended warranties

Should I Sell or Trade In My Old Car?

Selling your car privately would likely net you more money than trading it in to a dealer would, but you’d go through the hassle of selling the car yourself. If you traded it in, you’d drive your old car there and bring your new car home, giving you a clean break from your old car (provided that doing so is permitted under current COVID-19 ordinances where you are located). A third option is to get a Kelley Blue Book instant cash offer. NOTE: Due to ongoing public response to the COVID-19 outbreak (which has restricted or limited the activity of the vehicle markets in most states), certain Participating Dealers may be temporarily unable to redeem some or all Offers.

Looking for more info relating to you, your next vehicle, and the COVID-19 pandemic?  Check out more of Autotrader’s Coronavirus content.

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