With self-isolation and social distancing taking their toll up and down the high street, it’s no surprise that consumers are turning to the internet when there’s something they need. You might not expect that to be true of car sales, yet one online car marketplace says internet sales are rising as “determined” customers buy their new wheels remotely.

Analysis by BuyaCar.co.uk revealed an increase in the number of cars sold on the site relative to the number of website visitors this week, while the company also said website traffic is higher than it was a year ago. BuyaCar.co.uk has begun arranging “contactless handovers”, where cars are delivered to the homes of people with pre-existing medical conditions without the need for human contact.

The news comes as Britain enters a period of emergency health measures, with people asked to maintain their distance from others and refrain from non-essential travel. Yesterday (March 19), Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the UK could “turn the tide” on coronavirus in 12 weeks, but it is not known how long the country will retain these measures.

In the meantime, Chancellor Rishi Sunak has announced a wave of tax breaks and loans to help businesses absorb the inevitable economic downturn. The measures were welcomed by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), which said the “extraordinary” changes would help to prevent the industry “falling off a cliff edge”.

Volvo Online

Buyacar.co.uk, though, says the recent expansion of online car-buying services, which offer home delivery, means motor retail “is not grinding to a halt”. The company says the rise of online car sales is allowing dealers and manufacturers to continue selling cars, even if dealerships are temporarily forced to close their doors. Among the new entrants to the market are Cazoo, Cinch and Heycar, while well-known retailer Peter Vardy recently announced his online sales platform would be available at no extra cost to dealers not yet using online sales.

“While consumers, car makers and dealers all face the biggest challenge of our lifetimes, it is fortunate that they are served by a rapidly expanding and innovative online car marketplace sector that has already been proven to work,” said Andy Oldham, BuyaCar.co.uk’s chief executive. “The ability to buy cars from the comfort of your home and have them delivered has never been as valuable as it is today. We have already arranged contactless handovers to vulnerable customers who don’t want to risk meeting a delivery driver, in response to enquiries from people with pre-existing medical conditions.

Woman car shopping online using tablet device

“The flexibility of online car sales platforms, along with intelligent delivery solutions, will certainly help many businesses and their customers through the current crisis. It used to be that the pitch for buying a car online was that it’s simply easier and more convenient for many people, but in the current circumstances customers are also realising that it is safer too.

"I welcome the rapid expansion of Britain's online car marketplace, including the increasing number of competitors, because we are all in this together for the good of our suppliers as well as our customers. We all have an important part to play in keeping the wheels of our industry turning, while also helping to keep everyone safe.”

Woman researching cars on internet using laptop