Where to Buy a New Car

Where to bag the best deal

Buying a new car can be exciting: you get the benefit of the latest advances in technology including safety, security and environmental performance and you should be able to look forward to many years of trouble–free driving. But where's the best place to buy?

Not so long ago, you had no choice but to visit one of the manufacturers' franchised dealers. That meant there was no competition and prices remained high compared to other markets in Europe.

Pricing Pressures

In 2000, amid media accusations of 'rip–off Britain' and an official report that found UK prices to be 12% higher than elsewhere in Europe, manufacturers were ordered to reduce prices. The Government said that private buyers should have access to the discounts traditionally only offered to companies with big fleets of cars.

Besides Government pressure on prices, the traditional franchise dealer networks now also face considerable competition from a growing band of independent dealers and Internet sites selling both UK spec cars and new cars imported from Europe.

Revised Legislation

Competition and choice are set to grow further thanks to changes to the legislation which controls the way new cars can be sold. Since October 2003 it has been possible for:

  • Independent dealers to sell new cars
  • European dealers to open dealerships here
  • franchise dealers to stock more than one brand of car

Some dealers may even break traditional links between new car sales and after–sales –so the dealer who sells you the car may not provide warranty, repairs and servicing in the future.

So what are the pros and cons of the main choices?

Franchise Dealers

This is likely to be your first port of call, despite growing competition. Franchise dealers have a close relationship with the manufacturer, which means they should know more about the cars they're selling though prices may be higher.

  • They're likely to be the first with the latest models.
  • They'll have the widest choice available for test drives.
  • You should be able to give your old car in part exchange.
  • Most will have full workshop facilities for after-sales support.
  • Multiple franchises can offer greater choice as a result.

Independent Dealers

Independents should offer more choice and prices may be lower than with franchise dealers, but they'll be less open to haggling.

  • Cars might be European imports – the specification might be different to an official UK car.
  • You should be able to give your old car in part exchange.
  • They'll be less likely to offer comprehensive after–sales support.


Many franchise and independent dealers have web sites too, making price and service comparisons easy. However, Internet–only suppliers should be the most competitive on price. The drawbacks are:

  • you won't be able to test drive a car
  • you won't get to see the car until you've paid and it has been delivered
  • cars might be European imports – the specification might be different to an official UK car
  • they're less likely to take your old car in part exchange