Buying from a car supermarket: expert tips
About to go shopping for a car? Let’s ask a few questions first. Do you want a wide choice, keen prices and no too-eager sales person hurrying you into a decision? If each of these gets a ready ‘yes’, writes Ray Castle of motors.co.uk, then we think your plans should include a trip to a car supermarket. So, before you jump in your motor to drive to your nearest, we’ve answered the points you’ll want.
How are they different from regular car dealers?
Size. Typically, they’ll have over a thousand cars in stock and some of the biggest field twice that many. So if you’re looking for a particular make or model, there’s a good chance they’ll have a good choice. And if it’s a common one, they may have a couple for you to choose from.
And, because they aren’t tied to any one manufacturer, they’ll have all makes– from an Alfa to a Volvo.
What types of car to they sell?
Pretty much everything. If you’re after a rare car, you may be out of luck. But volume-selling mainstream models are what they’re best at. So if you’re after, say, a Ford Fiesta or a Vauxhall Astra, they’ll be perfect. But the most popular small cars – the Mini and the Fiat 500, to name but two – tend to be thin on the ground.
How old do their cars tend to be?
Many will be nearly-new: in other words, up to a year old and showing up to 20,000 miles on the clock. But they’ll also have cars up to five years old which have covered bigger mileages, particularly if they are prestige makes. You might see a few cars older than that, but they’ll be rare.
Are the cars as good as you’ll find at franchised dealers?
In our experience, they can be. Supermarkets in the main operate on slim profits per vehicle sold and fast turnaround. To succeed, they must be choosy about what they sell. Their stock needs to be what people want and of good quality. For every reason, they won’t want you coming back to complain about a faulty car.
Will they take my old car in part-exchange?
Most will. Some even value your current car before you buy and offer a fixed price for it, irrespective of what you buy, which makes purchasing simpler. They probably won’t offer quite as much as your local main dealer might, but the saving you’ll make on your purchase should cancel this out.
Will I get a warranty?
Yes. But where most big dealerships will offer at least a year’s cover as standard in you pay the price on the windscreen, car supermarkets tend to charge extra. If the car you’re buying is under three years old it should come with the balance of its warranty cover from new – check this before you agree to buy.
Most supermarkets offer some form of basic warranty within the price – but it may last as little as a month. As with any purchase, the Sale of Goods Act applies regardless of whether any specific warranty is offered, or taken. This says that goods must be of ‘satisfactory quality’ and requires repair or replacement if they aren’t.
Do they inspect the cars before they go on sale?
Generally, yes. The best give the car a visual check as thorough as you’d get from a franchised dealer and will show you a written report which outlines any repairs they did. If this isn’t offered, ask for it. You should also expect them to have checked that the car isn’t stolen, subject to an unpaid loan, or hasn’t been returned to the road after a serious crash. If you're a cautious type, why not get a professional pre-purchase inspection carried out. The RAC and other motoring organisations can help - for a fee.
Can I test-drive the car before I buy?
Usually, yes. But where a main dealer should allow you a spin lasting up to an hour, most supermarkets ask you to settle for a 10-minute ride around local roads.
Do they employ pushy sales people?
Most don’t. Some, like Fords of Winsford, Cheshire, and the Car People, with branches in Manchester, Sheffield and Wakefield, take pride in their no-fuss, no hassle approach. There you can look at cars for as long as you want without a sales person at your elbow. Others, though, adopt a more pressured sales approach.
Anything else I should know?
Their cars can sell fast. So if you’ve just spotted the perfect car online, before leaving home ring and check that it’s still for sale. Some get very busy at the weekend, so visit when it’s quieter if you can.
At a few, an ‘admin charge’ of up to £100 is added to the invoice which, the supermarkets say, cover the cost of the paperwork for the sale and preparing the car. We're not fans of such practices because we think prices should be all-inclusive and upfront.
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