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How Can I Test Drive A Car While Social Distancing?

Illustration for article titled How Can I Test Drive A Car While Social Distancing?
Photo: David Zalubowski (AP)

As Jalopnik’s resident car buying expert and professional car shopper, I get emails. Lots of emails. I’ve decided to pick a few questions and try to help out. This week we are discussing social distancing and test drives, using your credit to leverage low APR financing and potential Mad Max cars.

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First up, what is the best way to conduct a test drive while social distancing?

My current car needs a lot of work and I need to replace it ASAP. I don’t really have the ability to wait-out this coronavirus thing. How should I go about doing test drives while practicing social distancing?

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We are now living in a time where we need to rethink our strategy on how we go about social interactions that we normally take for granted. As you know the traditional way of test driving a car is not compatible with the social distancing guidelines of keeping six feet away from other people. But there is a way to manage the process. In case you haven’t heard dealers along with many other local businesses are going to get hit hard by the economic impact of this virus and some of them, provided that they are staying open, are adjusting their strategies to sell cars and maintain a level of safety. Ford is offering some kind of bonuses for dealers that bring the car to the customer, and other dealers are adopting similar approaches.

What I would recommend is first use third-party listing sites to check your local inventory for a car you would want to drive. Call that dealer and tell them you are interested in a test drive and ask if they would be willing to deliver the car to you for an hour or so. If the dealers don’t have the staffing or aren’t willing to do this, they may have a system in place where the car is prepped and ready to go once you arrive and you don’t have to be in close contact with any of the staff or other customers. While many dealers are taking extra precautions regarding cleaning surfaces, it probably wouldn’t be a bad idea to bring some disinfecting wipes to do a quick clean of commonly touched areas like the steering wheel, gear shifter, and infotainment unit. Of course, wash your hands as well.

Next, is it possible to use your credit score to get a low APR?

I’m shopping for a new car and I have very good credit with a FICO above 800 I want to get something like zero-percent financing on my next car. Can I use my high credit score to make the dealer give me that rate?

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A common misconception is that someone with a good or even okay credit score can dictate the APR. That is really not the case, your high FICO qualifies you for the lowest rates available, but that is the key: they have to be available. Programs like zero-percent financing are like rebates offered by the automaker on certain cars. If the brand isn’t offering that program, you can’t have it, regardless of your credit. Though if you are patient, given the current circumstances I bet we are going to see more low APR specials from various brands in the coming months.

And we end with a fun one…

Do you think a 1976 Oldsmobile Cutlass 442 would work for a lifted Mad Max Vehicle?

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I think any car can make for a great lifted Mad MAx vehicle with enough creativity, but I’m especially fond of the 442 and it would probably be very cool with some knobby tires and whatever other post-apocalyptic accessories you want to add.

Got a car buying conundrum that you need some assistance with? Email me at tom.mcparland@jalopnik.com!

Tom is a contributing writer for Jalopnik and runs AutomatchConsulting.com. He saves people money and takes the hassle out of buying or leasing a car. (Facebook.com/AutomatchConsulting)

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DISCUSSION

strangelove4791
StrangeLove4791

Hi Tom...what’s your take on whether buyers have any additional leverage to score better-than-normal deals in this environment?