What is a used car supermarket?

Used car supermarkets allow you to browse through hundreds of cars in one place - and from the comfort of your home in many cases

James Wilson
Oct 21, 2020

Used car supermarkets are just what they say on the tin - large shops selling second-hand cars of all shapes and sizes - and some allow you to browse online, order a car from home and even have it delivered to your door. A description like this, though, does not do them justice - as used car supermarkets are the motoring equivalent of Aladdin’s cave. 

Why do they deserve such a description? Simple, they typically offer everything from frugal city cars to high-performance sports cars, super-luxurious saloons, comfortable SUVs and stylish convertibles all in one location. Typically car supermarkets sell cars at competitive prices while also taking drivers' existing cars as part-exchanges and helping to settle existing finance. In short, car supermarkets are awash with choice, value and convenience and serve as a one-stop car buying destination.

Naturally, there are advantages and disadvantages to buying a vehicle through a car supermarket. Not having to individually visit lots of different garages which only sell one type of car saves time, effort and money. On the flip side, these supermarkets can be so big that it can be a daunting experience to visit a physical site and take in all the different models available.

Meanwhile, online car supermarkets (such as BuyaCar) are becoming increasingly popular as they offer additional benefits over traditional car supermarkets - such as allowing you to easily compare cars - and bypass some of the negatives, primarily enabling you to quickly and easily search through thousands of cars from the comfort of your home. Keep reading to get your head around the ins and outs of traditional and online car supermarkets.

How traditional used car supermarkets work

Traditional car supermarkets work by having a high turnover of cars and a huge amount of models for you to choose from. Part of the way they make this happen is through the tried and tested method of attracting buyers with prices that are lower than the market average. Vehicles for sale are often ‘ex-fleet’ (i.e. company cars or rental cars) meaning they can be sourced easily in bulk by the supermarkets and are usually no more than two to five years old.

Furthermore, the sites at which car supermarkets are based are normally rather large due to having to house hundreds of cars. This means that once there it is often possible to look at a wide variety of makes, models and trims. For example, those interested in a Ford Fiesta could also look at a number of rivals such as the Renault Clio and Seat Ibiza in a matter of minutes.

Once a potential purchase is found, negotiating can start. While haggling is common in many dealerships, a number of car supermarkets have opted for a no haggling approach to sales, claiming to always advertise cars at the lowest possible price. This means you don't have to worry about doing battle with the salesperson, but if you're always keen to push for a lower price, you may be disappointed.

Part-exchange (trading in an old car to go towards funding a new car) is possible at a car supermarket, too. After working out the value of any trade-in - accounting for whether the car has any equity or is in negative equity if there is outstanding finance on it - there is the matter of how the new car is being paid for: car finance or cash. Car supermarkets will accept both.

Most motoring supermarkets are credit brokers, too, so they are likely to be able to direct drivers to a suitable finance provider. Sourcing finance yourself  and then using that to purchase a car from a car supermarket is fairly common, as well. Most car supermarkets may also offer extended warranties, finance deals and servicing packages - which, if not handled by the company itself are likely to come from a partner company.

Once the particulars of a deal are worked out and documentation completed, you can simply drive off into the sunset. In many ways, car supermarkets are like regular dealerships but on steroids. More cars, more choice and more walking around.

Traditional used car supermarket: advantages and disadvantages

Like everything in life, there are positives and negatives to buying through a traditional used car supermarket. Knowing what these are should help you decide whether a traditional used car supermarket is the best place for you to purchase your next car.

If you like to be able to have all your options in front of you to see, touch and feel, then a car supermarket offers an unrivalled choice. However, if the idea of having to deal with sales people amid a sea of cars brings on cold sweats, they are perhaps best avoided.

If, however, you like the idea of the choice car supermarkets offer but don't fancy going to such a large physical dealership, an online used car supermarket could be for you. Keep reading for more.

Advantages

Disadvantages

Lots of choice

Huge sites and a huge number of similar cars

Potential for great deals

Having to haggle and negotiate with trained sellers

Convenient: warranty, finance, part exchange in one place

Having to buy a car in person (Covid concerns)

How online used car supermarkets work

BuyaCar sales process

Online car supermarkets, such as BuyaCar, have radically changed the way many people purchase cars. They simplify the process of buying a car while still offering many of the same advantages as buying through a traditional car supermarket - primarily choice and convenience.

The process for purchasing a car online typically revolves around the following steps:

  • Search the cars available - with BuyaCar these are held by a network of trusted UK dealers
  • A shortlist of potential cars can be made in a few clicks by setting preferences such as maximum age, mileage, fuel or gearbox type
  • Once you've selected a specific car, you can then reserve it
  • If you're taking finance out, this can often be arranged online
  • The final step is arranging delivery, which is typically done over the phone or online
  • Part exchanges are still welcome, with BuyaCar for instance, collecting your old car once your new one is delivered

Online used car supermarket: advantages

Online car supermarkets up the ante when it comes to convenience - all that is required is an internet connection. Why bother rushing around a warehouse in person to see a bunch of cars that might not be right for you when you can scroll through even more cars online while in the bath, if you so wish.

Similarly, delivery removes the need to take public transport or arrange lifts to collect a car. Simply book a slot and the car comes to you. If you have a part exchange, that can be taken away at the same time. This convenience has turned into an invaluable social distancing tool following the coronavirus outbreak, just like more people are choosing to have their weekly food shop delivered to avoid wandering around the supermarket.

It goes without saying that online car supermarkets also provide lots of choice and great deals. Unlike a traditional used car supermarket, these can be from a wide range of dealers up and down the country, so you could have even more choice and pricing that is even more enticing. You can also choose from plenty of finance options, too.

Online used car supermarket: disadvantages

One of the biggest disadvantages of buying online is not getting to see the car in the flesh beforehand. However, when was the last time you bought clothes online without seeing or feeling them in real life? Car buying is no different.

The clever bit to websites like BuyaCar is that all cars have to meet rigorous quality standards. Typically, there is a mileage limit, an age limit, a minimum length of MOT and the requirement to pass a HPI check. For those that don’t know, ‘HPI checks’ investigate a car’s background, making sure it hasn’t been in a major accident, its mileage is as claimed and that there isn’t any outstanding finance on it (which you'd be liable to pay if you bought it without realising). This is what provides confidence that you know what you're getting, whether you see the car beforehand or not.

Also, reputable car supermarkets have returns policies should the car not be as described. It pays to check the small print though as some companies' return policies are actually exchange policies which require you to still buy a car from the vendor. As a note, vehicles purchased through BuyaCar can be returned within 14 days of delivery. 

 

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