Driving with Jens: Resources in a COVID-19 World

We are living in unprecedented times. Social distancing, quarantines and businesses closed or running on skeleton crews make life challenging right now. Restaurants and coffee shops where we used to meet and enjoy fellowship are now only available for take-out, if open at all. Businesses are trying desperately to balance customer needs and health with employee livelihoods. It’s a very difficult and delicate balance. Balancing your own heath while supporting local businesses is also a very difficult and delicate balance.

Many of you may be self-isolating and off work right now. Many others have probably been laid off or have reduced hours. There may be a lot of uncertainty about income going forward. The stress can be overwhelming. It’s been announced that the banks may defer mortgage payments for six months which would certainly help. Getting through on the phone to set this up is very difficult.

If you are concerned about making current auto loan payments, there may be help available to you. Contact your lender and ask what options are available. Ford Credit is deferring vehicle payments simply by going online or making a phone call to them. Call volumes are very high right now, so the online option is probably the easiest and quickest way to do it. Others are almost certainly doing the same. If you are not sure who to call, check with the dealership where you got your vehicle. They won’t be able to talk to the lender for you because of privacy issues, but they can get you the right number to call. Have your account number or the VIN ready when you call. They will ask you the normal questions to verify who you are. I would recommend asking for the longest deferral possible since we are not sure how long this current situation will go on for. If you don’t have any luck finding the right number to call, regardless of where you bought your vehicle, send me an email to drivingwithjens@gmail.com and I will help you.

The automotive industry is obviously being affected in a huge way. Many vehicle manufacturers have ceased production of new vehicles. Like restaurants and coffee shops vehicle manufacturers and dealerships are trying desperately to remain available for customer needs and keep staff healthy and employed.

Most vehicle dealerships are still available for urgent or emergency needs. However, they are likely running with skeleton crews. Service departments seem to be available for emergency repairs only. Oil changes and regular services are being postponed, allowing for urgent repairs to be dealt with in a timely fashion. Sales departments may be available by appointment for urgent or emergency needs. Call your dealership before going there to see what their hours are and what protocols they are observing.

Even if you really need a new vehicle right now, it may not be the best time to go car shopping — not in person anyway. If you’re quarantined at home and are bored or interested in researching potential vehicle needs, there are lots of online resources available to you.

Most vehicle manufacturer or dealership websites offer many tools to assist you in your research. Look for a tab somewhere on the site that says shopping or research tools.

Probably the most helpful is the Build and Price feature. This tool allows you to start from the ground up and build a specific vehicle to meet your personal wants and needs. You start by choosing a specific kind of vehicle and then narrowing it down to model and trim level. It allows you to add and remove options or features and immediately see how it affects the price and monthly payment. It gets quite detailed, right down to color. Once you have built your dream vehicle you can see if it fits your budget. It usually allows some mechanism to see approximately what your trade-in vehicle may be worth, subject to inspection. If you have questions you can request for someone to call or email you.

Most dealer or manufacturer websites also offer a pre-approval function. This allows you to arrange financing before you even leave the house. If you’ve had some bad luck or made some bad decisions that have affected your credit, this is a great way to see where you currently stand.

Dealership Facebook pages are also a great resource. They usually offer up-to-date information about what’s happening and hours of operation. The posts can also give you a feel for the people there. Messaging questions will usually get you a quicker and more personalized response to your questions than by email.

Please put your safety and the safety of others first.

Catch Driving, with Jens on CHON FM Thursdays at 8:15. If you have any questions or comments you can reach out to Jens Nielsen at drivingwithjens@gmail.com, Facebook or Twitter: @drivingwithjens.

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