31/03/2020

COVID-19: Information for drivers in Scotland

31/03/2020

COVID-19: Information for drivers in Scotland

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Much has changed for drivers in Scotland in the few short weeks since the coronavirus outbreak was announced. From MOT tests and servicing to keeping on top of your car finance payments, we cover the key considerations that will affect the road ahead.

What coronavirus could mean for drivers

Following the announcement on March 24, 2020, to stay home and avoid all but the most necessary travel, traffic across the country has reduced to just 25%. Notoriously busy roads have fallen silent and many commuters are finding their longest journey is now from their desk to the kettle and back.

The average monthly cost to own a car is £388 (including maintenance costs and finance). That’s a lot of money, especially if you’re not planning to drive anywhere. If the only place you’re going is for a brisk stroll to the local corner shop to stock up on essentials, it’s understandable that you might be reassessing your expenditure.

What if I’m worried about my car finance payments?

You’re certainly not alone. An overwhelming majority (almost nine in 10 households) in Scotland pay for their vehicle via some form of finance contract, whether that’s hire purchase (HP), personal contract hire (PCH) or personal contract purchase (PCP).

Car finance companies are open to discussing the terms of your agreement if you’re worried you won’t be able to make your full monthly payment. Many are making special provisions for those that have been left vulnerable by the Covid-19 outbreak and showing understanding to those customers who are facing financial uncertainty.

The best general course of action to take is to contact your finance provider directly to find out what allowances they’re making for customers, and to inform them sooner rather than later that you might need their help.

It’s worth noting that many are being overwhelmed with calls at the moment, so you may need to visit their website to find out the easiest way to make contact. Here are just some of the other measures car finance providers are taking to make things a little easier for their customers to get in touch:

  • Peugeot (PSA Finance) – Have offered an online request form to mitigate their current high call volumes, which should be your first port of call if you’re a customer.
  • MINI – Are assuring customers they can offer support based on individual circumstances. They also have an email address so you can get in contact with more information about your specific needs to help them tailor their assistance.
  • Vauxhall Finance – Their website states that if you are struggling to make payments, they’re “Committed to treating customers fairly and are able to discuss possible arrangements to complete your agreement in a way that works best for you and us.”
  • Volkswagen Finance (Volkswagen and SEAT customers) – Have advised that they are prioritising calls from key workers and those with mobility concerns. They have an online form set up to help other customers provide more information if they’re struggling.

I have an MOT test due. What should I do?

If your MOT is set to expire any time from 30 March 2020 onwards, you’ll automatically be granted a six-month exemption. This goes not just for cars, but also vans and motorcycles, and applies to drivers in Scotland, as well as the rest of the UK.

The Department for Transport has introduced this measure to ease any strain on workshops and make it easier for key workers to travel without hindrance. Transport Secretary Grant Shapps stated:

“Allowing this temporary exemption from vehicle testing will enable vital services such as deliveries to continue, frontline workers to get to work, and people to get essential food and medicine.”

You can find more information about the exemption on the government website.

How about servicing and repairs?

If you have a service coming up, it’s worth checking your manufacturer’s website for guidance, as approaches differ, and workshop availability can vary. It’s important to remember that now, more than ever before, you still have to keep your vehicle in a safe and roadworthy condition.

Some garages will remain open for essential repairs to help motorists travel safely, but priority will be given to key workers and emergency vehicles.

Do I still need to pay road tax?

If you’re planning to take your vehicle completely off-road, you can follow the process of declaring a Statutory Off-Road Notification (SORN). This will help you eliminate the need to pay road tax and insurance if you’re not driving for an extended duration.

The good news is, there’s a simple process in place for declaring this online – which might be easier than calling up and waiting at such a busy time. You’ll need:

  • Your V5C (you can find this in your vehicle logbook).
  • The 11-digit number from your vehicle tax reminder.

If you still need to drive, even occasionally, you must keep up with your road tax payments. You can arrange any payments online at https://www.gov.uk/vehicle-tax

How about my car insurance?

If you intend to stop driving entirely during the coronavirus lockdown, you have somewhere safe off-road you can keep your car, and you’ve made a Statutory Off-Road Notification, you won’t need to insure your car and can end your insurance agreement.

There may also be the option of switching up your car insurance cover level, for instance, if you’ll have a drastically reduced mileage or you’re no longer using your vehicle for commuting. Before contacting your provider, you could find out if it would be worth your while by reading your policy documents carefully or checking their website.

Driving without insurance or failing to keep your car insured properly can result in a £300 fine and up to six points on your driving license, so even in the exceptional circumstances we’re all facing, it’s crucial to make sure you’re still covered.

If you’ve been affected financially by the Covid-19 outbreak and want to get your debt under control, you can contact one of our friendly, expert team of advisors. Just give us a ring on 0808 253 1158.

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