Finance - Car supermarkets versus main dealers
The truth is there are pros and cons to either option. Here's what you need to know.
First off, let's define the difference. Plenty of new car main dealer groups deal with more than one make of car, but they tend to do so in separate showrooms, with separate staff to handle customer needs. At a car supermaket the different brands are generally all lumped in together.
This has the advantage that you could conceivable view every car you're considering all in the same place, while single marque dealerships should offer more specialised knowledge of the individual brands. However, many car supermarkets are highly knowledgeable, while any dealership that doesn't know its products does not deserve your custom.
Sources of stock
Main dealers also have a direct relationship with the manufacturer they are representing - exactly how this operates varies between different makes, but the principle remains. 'Franchise dealer' is another common expression of this relationship. Car supermarkets generally - although not always - operate independently, impacting the way they source their stock.
So while you can be confident - there are occasional exceptions - that the new car you buy from a main dealer is an official manufacturer supplied product intended for the UK with you as the first owner, you need to make absolutely sure exactly what you are buying when considering a new car from a car supermarket.
This is particularly the case with 'delivery mileage' vehicles. You may find that these are not always cars that were originally destined for the UK, instead being remainder stock from overseas markets that have been imported after - potentially - years of sitting unsold. And yes, these will be right hand drive.
Obviously, that is worst case scenario stuff - and you might be willing to consider such a car at any rate, since they usually offer a considerable saving even if they don't come with the same warranty, equipment levels and, in some case, build quality. All of which needs careful consideration.
Volumes and special offers
On the other hand, because car supermarkets hold such vast stock levels, their buying power can be immense - creating savings they can pass on to the customer that main dealers are simply unable to profitably compete with. Customers at main dealers, however, may be able to take advantage of manufacture special offers.
You don't see many car supermarkets offering zero percent finance, for example - a common main dealer draw, many of which have the benefit of a manufacture-backed finance house providing the credit. You may also find that car supermarkets act on a fixed price basis, where the price on the windscreen is the price you pay.
What about buying used?
When it comes to used cars, car supermarkets again have an edge due to their stock volumes, allowing for more aggressive pricing. And while main dealers offer 'approved used' schemes with detailed inspection checks and guarantees for their franchise marques, knowledge of rival brand products they may also be selling is potentially limited.
Many car supermarkets cultivate relationships with business fleets and rental companies, so their access to well maintained, high quality nearly new vehicles is consistent. And because this is usually several of the same vehicle at the same time there are again bulk discounts that can be passed onto the consumer.
Always shop around
However, the best advice when buying any kind car - whether new or used - is to shop around. Don't just go to your local dealer because they are nearest, and don't automatically assume that a car supermarket is going to have the best deal. Visit as many places as you feasibly can.
Keep notes, take print outs, and don't be afraid of telling one vendor what you've seen at another. Be patient, haggle, and above all be tough - the car industry is keen to get your business, and there are always excellent deals to be found if you're prepared to search for them.