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Buying a car during COVID-19: What the new normal looks like

Several car dealerships told Local 5 they have taken measures to make test drives and other car buying features "contact-free" during the pandemic.

DES MOINES, Iowa — You can still buy a car during COVID-19 in Iowa.

Many dealerships have found ways to adapt the car-buying experience to the new normal, adhering to CDC guidelines and social distancing recommendations.

But one woman who reached out to Local 5 said she's still scared for her family who works in the industry.

Tylonda Mason's fiancé is a car salesman at a dealership in Des Moines. She said they’re both scared he’ll get the virus from a customer and bring it home.

"The stress, he has stress, the family has stress. So many people who come from out-of-state to buy cars," said Mason. "So you are dealing with a lot of strangers. The unknown. Have they traveled? How do you know they haven’t traveled?"

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At a separate Des Moines dealer, Smart Honda, general manager Matt Hofmeyer said they’re taking precautions for both their employees and their customers.

"A lot of the deep cleaning that we’re doing every day with our cleaning crew. We’ve got a Clorox 360 product that we have enlisted...that we are doing a couple times a week," Hofmeyer said. 

If you go for a test drive, you’ll be given gloves and you won’t have a salesman sitting next to you.

"Customers are able to go out and spend a little more time in the car actually," Hofmeyer said. 

Carmax also has a socially distanced car-buying experience called "Carmax Curbside." 

Both places are disinfecting frequently and making use of online tools.

"We are very fortunate and glad that we are able to stay open. We have been deemed essential," Hofmeyer said. 

Ty Mason still said she wants to know why dealerships are open. Though her fiancé wears a mask, she's worried safety measures at her fiance’s dealership may not be followed by everyone.

Patt Garrett, with Governor Kim Reynolds' office, said the team came up with a list of businesses to close for safety and social distancing and did not put dealership on that list. Their office did not provide further comment on the matter.

Hofmeyer said car accidents make car buying essential.

"Customers still want to go out and buy a car or replace a car that they may have been in an accident with," Hofmeyer said. 

Each day that they stay open, he’s thankful he and his colleagues still have jobs.

"It’s great for our employees so they can still earn an income. Otherwise, we don’t know what situation we would be in," Hofmeyer said. 

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Local 5 also reached out Karl Chevrolet in Ankeny to see what precautions they were taking as a dealership. 

They told us about the many practices they're doing during this time to keep their customers and employees as safe as possible. 

Some of these practices include: 

- 6 feet tape marks in service, collision and other departments where customers may interact with staff. Adding plexi glass in front of cashiers and stanchions in front of the receptionist to keep spacing a priority.

- No waiting areas are open, with pick up and drop off only for service. Or they can come get oil change/tire rotations in the certified express and stay in their vehicle.

- Trying to work as much as possible by appointment. Working over the phone and email to sell a vehicle and then deliver the vehicle to the customer at home.

- Hiring a company to come and spray every department at the Ankeny location, the Stuart location and Karl Kustoms with a Hospital Grade Hypochlorus Acid Disinfectant and a surface treatment that layers onto its surroundings, disrupting microorganisms like bacteria and viruses, not allowing them to grow.  

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