Monday, December 20, 2021

Buying a Car During the Omicron Threat

Just When We Thought It Was Safe To Go Back in the Water

You’ve already read or heard this all over the news media. Omicron, the latest mutation of the COVID virus, appears to be setting the world back from an optimistic recovery from Covid to the worst surge ever. Only time will tell, all too soon, just how bad this will be.

My job as a consumer advocate for auto buyers is to make it “safer” for you to buy your next new or used cars. My regular readers know that I been doing weekly “mystery shops” of car dealerships for many years. The information from these has been my primary guide to advise you how to buy or lease a car without being taken advantage of by a car dealer.
One problem that my mystery shopping reports have revealed in the past two years is that the precautions car dealerships take against Covid-19 varies tremendously. My mystery shoppers have visited dealerships where no precautions were taken…nobody in those dealerships was wearing a mask…much less asking their customers to. In those dealerships where some did wear masks, we almost never saw the N95 or KN95 masks which provide much better protection, about twice that of any other. Many of those wearing masks wore them improperly.
In previous articles I wrote that you should not buy a new or used car now because the covid induced microchip shortage has raised all car prices to historically high levels. But, if you must buy a car, these are some precautions that that you should take.
  • If you’re like most people, you find yourself buying almost everything online. My wife, Nancy, and I buy almost everything on Amazon. It’s more difficult to buy a car online, but it can be done. There are a few car dealers that will give you their lowest out-the-door price online, appraise your trade-in online, allow you to electronically sign all the paperwork, and deliver your new car to your home. You should test drive the car you buy before you buy it. Insist that the car dealer bring it to your home and allow you this opportunity. 
  • If you cannot, or choose not to buy online, call the dealerships that you are considering buying from and ask them what their COVID protection protocol is. You should get answers to these questions: a. Do all your salespeople properly wear N95 or KN95 masks? Of course, this should apply to all personnel you may meet like receptionists and sales managers. (b) Also ask what the dealership’s vaccination policy for employees is. Are employees that come face-to-face with customers required to be fully vaccinated. The latest recommendation from scientists is that the definition of “fully” vaccinated should include a booster shot. (c) Does the dealership have a policy of requiring periodic COVID tests of their employees.
  • Some people buy all their cars through an auto-broker. Brokers are often former car salesmen or sales manager who go into business for themselves. Dealing with one auto broker on the phone, or even in person, instead of several people at a car dealership is much safer. You should do your “do diligence” on the price the broker offers you. As I said earlier in the article, all car prices are currently at historic highs. A broker receives a commission from the car dealer and that’s increasing your already high price. These broker commissions can range from $500 to $5,000.
As you may know, I’m not only a consumer advocate for car buyers but I have a Toyota dealership in North Palm Beach. I “walk the talk” when it comes to protecting my customers and employees from COVID. We hire no one who’s not been fully vaccinated. Most of our employees are fully vaccinated and those few who aren’t must wear N95 or KN95 masks. In fact, with the onset of Omicron, we’re going back to all employees wearing KN-95 masks. We even ask our customers to wear masks and furnish masks to those who don’t have one.

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