Small vs. Large Car Dealerships

When searching for a new car, your biggest concern is always which car you want to buy. But don’t let your search for the perfect vehicle cloud your judgement. It’s just as important to buy from the right place, not just the dealership you know has the car you want.

Many shoppers gravitate toward large brand-name dealerships, like Toyota or Subaru, driving right past smaller family dealerships. What you might not realize, however, is that bigger isn’t necessarily always better when choosing the right dealership.

Depending on the type of car you’re looking for, a smaller dealership might actually give you a better price and overall experience than a brand-name business. Here are just a few things to consider before you go car shopping.

Negotiation power

It’s hard to negotiate with a large dealership, where there are plenty of options and a big brand name to the back of their set prices. For the most part, negotiating with a large dealership won’t get you anywhere.

On the other hand, small dealerships are hoping to make a certain profit, often after their larger counterparts have already passed on the car you’re looking at. Small dealers simply have more power to match the price you want.


Employees at large dealerships often want to get you in and out with a new car as quickly as possible to make room for more customers. It’s hard to feel a personal connection to a shopper when you’re tasked with talking to every customer that walks through the door.

Since small dealerships have fewer cars on their lots and fewer customers as a result, they’re inherently more personal. A salesperson at a small dealership will try to get to know you and your car goals before making any suggestions.

Trade-in value

Large dealerships don’t need your business as much as you need theirs, so your used car may not add much value to their lot. That’s why many shoppers often feel as if they aren’t getting a fair trade-in price at large dealerships.

Small dealerships, meanwhile, recognize the value of your used car for their lot. That’s why they’re known to offer far better trade-in deals than large dealerships. If the trade-in value of your car is going to be a major determining factor in the type of car you buy next, then a small dealership is your best bet.

Repeat business

A large dealership has high employee turnover, so you’re probably not going to feel like a valued returning customer in a few years. While they may reach out to you to bring your existing vehicle in for servicing, working with a large dealership can feel like you’re just another customer.

Fortunately, small dealerships simply aren’t big enough to forget you. Many small dealerships are family-run, so you typically won’t have to deal with constant employee turnover, meaning you can actually get to know the business. Moreover, small dealerships understand that they need your respect to keep their business successful, so they’re better at working with you than their larger counterparts.

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