Tom Evans
03/04/2011 11:02 | By Tom Evans, content manager

Tesco enters used car market (© Tesco)

Tesco has today launched Tesco Cars, a new web-only service giving customers direct access to thousands of used cars.

The service is designed specifically to reduce the hassle, stress and sales pressure typically associated with the industry.

Tesco Cars hopes to be able to offer very competitive pricing on a range of nearly new and used models. The service will not however take part exchanges, of which more below.

Service orientated
All the cars the service will sell must pass a 167-point independent RAC inspection (including a ramp inspection and road test), and have a clear HPI history check. Most cars will also have a service history and all cars have a RAC platinum warranty.

Each listing on the service's website displays multiple images of the vehicle together with a video of an RAC test-drive allowing buyers to get an accurate assessment of the car's condition.

Tesco Cars will deliver the vehicle direct to the new owner's home for a fixed transport charge of £149 to anywhere in mainland UK, or buyers can collect from the service's HQ outside Birmingham.

Sir Trevor Chinn, Chairman of Tesco Cars, comments: "When buying a used car, consumers want to know they can trust the information supplied, that they are getting value for money and a good product, all supported by good customer service. Importantly they also want to be able to take their time to make the right purchase for them."

"By marrying these principles, the success of the Tesco brand, and the transparent and unpressured online sales environment, we believe we will be delivering a positive new experience for today's car buyer.'

The MSN Cars view
Tesco is far from the first web-based car sales operation to enter the market. Many sprang up in the late 1990s to take advantage of the nascent internet and in some cases the fact that cars were much cheaper to source on the continent than the UK; this disparity has largely disappeared in recent years.

While buying used cars is clearly a problematic experience for many consumers, Tesco is also far from the first company to identify the problem, and the opportunity to make the experience better.

Finally, Tesco is not the first high profile outsider to enter the market; Virgin Cars started in 2000, but closed in 2006 after limited success. Online-only used car dealer entered administration in March.

Our quick verdict
The site is clean, easy to use and well thought out, and thus well reflects the high expectations of anything bearing the Tesco name. The prices seem keen, though some of the photography is sub-par, with distorted aspect ratios visible at times.

This lack of attention to detail is sadly common on many car sales websites, but is something that Tesco ideally should avoid, and this points to another, wider problem: to adapt a road test cliché, will the Tesco brand write cheques this service can't cash?

Additionally, while Tesco promises to remove hassles from buying a car, the new service does nothing to remove the other primary stress when buying your car: what to do with your old one. Tesco's lack of a part-exchange service will prove a big barrier to many potential buyers.

On this subject, the website rather lamely states: "We currently do not offer this service. However, there are numerous part exchange organisations who provide a quick solution for you to dispose of your current vehicle."

However, as numerous users of such 'part exchange organisations' have discovered, the 'quick solution' comes at the very major cost of usually getting below book-value for their car. And on the other hand, selling privately is not something everyone wants to do, notably single women.

Tesco needs to tackle this issue head-on, and quickly. If it cannot, it risks finding its market is largely limited to youngsters buying their first car, or those newly-arrived in the country.

Visit the new Tesco service at

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