Best car dealers 2018

As part of our Driver Power survey, you’ve given your verdict on UK dealer networks. We reveal the best and worst…

There’s much more to car ownership than simply picking up the keys to a new model and driving it away. Over the past 10 pages, we’ve listed some of the best deals on the top 50 performing cars in our Driver Power survey. But bagging a bargain is just one part of the journey.

Your car needs regular maintenance and servicing, and, on some occasions, even repairs. This is where a great dealership experience will make a big difference
to how you look upon your time owning a car. 

To help you choose the right model with the best dealers in the business, we’ve ranked the top 28 franchised networks in the UK, based on feedback from the owners who used them.

We quizzed drivers on whether there was enough parking on site, how clean and pleasant the waiting areas were, whether staff were courteous and explained all of the work they were doing clearly, and if that work was done well and finished on time.

We also wanted to know if dealers had courtesy cars available, and when it came to value for money, we were interested in hearing whether owners felt their dealer’s rates and fees were appropriate for the work that had been carried out.

As always, the best franchised dealers in the business scored well in all categories, because any slip-up can easily cost a place or two in the ranking.

• Click here to take the Driver Power SurveyBiggest complaint you had with your dealer

 

On average just 11 per cent of owners told us they had a problem with their dealer. But of those who did, the majority highlighted that their dealer wasn’t able to identify or fix a fault. This could also explain why another 19.1 per cent of customers were dissatisfied with their dealer – if staff struggle to find out what’s wrong with a car, they’re unlikely to be able to complete the work on time.

Another 16.2 per cent of drivers told us that they didn’t like the fact that their car wasn’t clean when it was returned. This may not sound like a big deal to many people, but the dealers that went the extra mile were rewarded this year.

Staff courtesy and attention to detail also played a role – dealers with staff who picked up the phone and were courteous clearly had an advantage over those that didn’t. The same goes for staff who took time to provide proper cost estimates.

Reasons you chose your dealer

When the time came to choose your dealer for servicing, convenience clearly played a big role. Most owners stuck with the dealer they bought their car from, while a convenient location was the second biggest factor in your decision.

However, the rest of the stats make for interesting reading. Dealers that had the right staff and expertise were clearly rewarded with repeat business – even if it meant a longer trip for the customer – plus those that kept their prices competitive were also popular.

• How to buy a new car

Word of mouth still plays a role in a digital age, with four per cent of drivers trusting the recommendations of family and friends. Finally, those with busy schedules and lives appreciated dealers that stayed open late or started trading early.

What type of dealer do you use for servicing and what type of service was performed?

Close to half of all service visits were for basic maintenance that often included oil and filter changes. And while scheduled services made up the second most visits, repairs due to an accident or other unforeseen circumstance were the reason for nearly one in 10 drivers visiting their dealer.

When the time came to pick which garage to go to, the majority of drivers opted for a franchised branch. Compared with last year, a slightly higher share of drivers opted to use independent garages, while a small minority continue to use specialists that are often a bit pricier than regular independent dealers. But these outlets should have the added expertise in a marque to make the extra worth paying. 

Best car dealers 20181. Lexus – 90.23%

 

Another year, and it’s another first-place finish for Lexus. What really impresses about this result, aside from the fact that the company didn’t rank any lower than fourth place in any individual category, is that Lexus has maintained its position while rival manufacturers have moved up and down the rankings over the years. Courteous staff go the extra mile, with excellent communication, workmanship and unsurpassed service. Clearly this VIP treatment means owners are more than happy with the value for money they’re getting; Lexus placed above Toyota in that category and rose six positions when compared with last year. 

Case study: Joshua Fernie 

Lives: Lincoln
Drives: Lexus RX 450h

Joshua Fernie, from Lincoln, bought his RX 450h from Lexus Hull in 2016, and his positive experience isn’t a one-off – Hull was one of just 10 European dealers to win the brand’s Kiwami award for customer service and hospitality.

“It’s been one of the best cars I have ever owned, and the dealer has been wonderful,” Joshua told us. “We live 40 miles from Hull, and staff come and collect the RX, leave a loan car and drop off my car when it’s been serviced. My father was driving the RX in the area once when it needed servicing, and they lent him an LC 500 while our car was being worked on.”

The friendly, helpful and knowledgeable staff make all the difference for Joshua. “We all want the best car on the market, but that’s only half the story,” he explained. “The dealership is the other half. The MD comes and chats to us, the sales team is friendly without being pushy and the receptionist knows us by name. Lexus Hull is excellent in every capacity.” 

Owner’s view: “Everyone from the receptionist to the service advisor and the technicians is extremely helpful and professional.” 

2. Honda – 89.43%

This year sees Honda retain its second-place finish from 2017, making it the leading mainstream manufacturer in our dealer survey. For the second year in a row the brand scored a first-place finish in the value category. The fact Honda has a relatively narrow range of cars will have helped its dealers to complete work in a timely manner, while great communication keeps owners in the loop about when their car will be ready. It wouldn’t take much for Honda’s dealers to clinch the top spot next year, either, with a slight improvement in dealer facilities and the greater availability of courtesy cars likely to put them in an even stronger position.

Case study: Richard Renson

Lives: Worthing, East Sussex
Drives: Honda HR-V

Richard Renson, from Worthing, E Sussex, bought his HR-V from Yeomans Honda in Littlehampton in 2016, and he has nothing but good things to say about the experience.

“The dealer is brilliant,” he told us. “It collects the car, services it and drops it off. We’re really spoilt.

“The service manager is always diligent in making sure we’re happy, and bends over backwards to find a servicing slot that works for us.” Richard said he’s hoping to replace his HR-V in March, and will definitely go to Yeomans as a first port of call. “Good service counts for a lot,” he added.

“It’s a big company, but Yeomans Honda still feels like a family business. Staff are really helpful and friendly, and I’d absolutely recommend the dealer to friends and family.”

Owners’ view: “The paperwork is always very clear, outlining the work, parts and prices. Makes it easy to understand.” 

3. Toyota – 88.83%

 

Clearly Lexus’s excellent customer service has rubbed off on Toyota, and the parent firm earns a podium in this year’s survey, up four places from 2017. Indeed, Toyota’s dealer facilities are second only to Lexus, as is the courteousness of staff and the speed at which they work. The quality of the workmanship was also highly praised and communication was rated strongly. The issue of courtesy car availability still needs to be addressed, and Toyota dealers don’t offer the expected value for money that their Lexus counterparts do. If these elements can be polished, then don’t be surprised to see Toyota produce a one-two in next year’s dealer survey. 

Owner’s view: “The staff are always positive and friendly, and the quality of work is excellent.” 

4. Suzuki – 88.75%

It’s a small company with low sales figures, but a fourth-place finish – the same result as in last year’s survey – is high praise for Suzuki’s franchise network. It also means Japanese makers lock out the top four positions in this year’s survey. Suzuki owners are the most satisfied when it comes to the standard of work carried out, while great value for money and courteous staff helped to bolster its overall score. Customers also liked the dealer facilities, the speed with which work was completed and how staff kept them informed. If Suzuki can improve the access to courtesy cars, then it could be sitting on the podium next year. 

Owner’s view: “They always know what they’re doing. My car always gets cleaned before it’s handed back.”

5. Jeep – 87.53%

 

For the second year running, the standard of the facilities at Jeep dealerships is the biggest bugbear for owners. But scores have also fallen slightly in other areas, so the US company drops two places. However, this is still a fantastic achievement and puts Jeep well ahead of its rival European 4×4 brands. The communication of the courteous staff was again a highlight for customers, and the availability of a courtesy car put Jeep dealers in a good light. Owners feel that the value for money they’re getting isn’t quite as good as it was last year, but is still reasonable, and the standard of work and the timeliness of its completion also stand out. 

Owner’s view: “Service report was detailed and very comprehensive, and included recommendations for the future.” 

6. Alfa Romeo – 86.97%

Alfa Romeo is this year’s Driver Power renaissance brand. The Giulia earned a podium in the new car countdown, and now the Italian marque is a new entry in the dealer survey as the top-performing European firm. Reliability wasn’t one of the Giulia’s strong points in its category results, so owners have had plenty of first-hand dealer experience. The facilities come in for the biggest criticism, yet this is made up for by the communication provided by the friendly staff, as well as the standard of the work. Jobs could be completed faster, but that is likely to pick up once dealers are more familiar with new models such as the Giulia and Stelvio.

Owner’s view: “My dealer didn’t have a courtesy car available, but went out of its way to get me one. Very impressed.”

7. Kia – 86.86%

 

Compared with last year, Kia has improved in some categories and lost out in others to maintain its position in the lower half of the top 10. There’s more chance of getting a courtesy car than before, and the staff are still friendly and let owners know how work is progressing. But the amount of time it takes has proven frustrating, the dealer facilities are only average in terms of quality and the standard of work has slipped slightly, too. Where Kia does stand out is with the value for money it offers; it ranked second in this category. Good-value, fixed-price servicing, and warranty work that’s covered for seven years help here. 

Owner’s view: “The fixed-price servicing is great. Staff are friendly, too, and work is completed on time.” 

8. Skoda – 86.75%

For a manufacturer accustomed to finishing near the top of our Driver Power survey results, Skoda’s eighth place in the dealer survey, down from fifth in 2017, might be a disappointment. Where Skoda was once a budget brand, it’s moving upmarket with models like the Kodiaq and Karoq, and it appears dealers are taking their eye off the value for money brief, too, slipping from fourth to 15th in that section. The standard of work still can’t be faulted, though, and the dealer facilities came in for praise, but lower scores for staff courtesy and communication, and tardiness when it comes to finishing work, will be cause for concern.

Owner’s view: “I was greeted immediately, looked after well and sent follow-up E-mails to confirm everything went okay.”

9. Volvo – 86.48%

A jump of seven places in 2018 sees Volvo break into the top 10 and finish ahead of its prestige German rivals. The Swedish company maintains its position as one of the leading choices if you need a courtesy car, but the real improvement has been with dealer facilities. Franchises now offer stylish waiting areas that are a match for the cars in terms of quality. While the standard of work and value for money owners get is still merely average, dealers turn vehicles around quickly. If staff were more courteous when they finally contacted owners, then Volvo could move even further up the dealer ranking in 2019. 

Owner’s view: “My dealer was recently refurbished. Now it looks like a five-star hotel entrance.” 

10. Mitsubishi – 86.42%

A new entry in this year’s dealer survey, Mitsubishi can be proud of the top 10 finish for its small band of dealerships. There are no below-average scores for the firm, with the standard of the dealerships earning the biggest criticism. Considering Mitsubishi’s limited model range, it’s no surprise that courtesy car availability is stingy, while staff communication, the standard and value of the work carried out could be polished to boost the brand’s future standing. Owners are pleased with the quick turnaround offered by dealers – working vehicles like the L200 pick-up need to be off the road for as short a time as possible to keep businesses moving. 

Owner’s view: “My car was collected from work, serviced, washed and returned three hours later.” 

Worst dealers 2018 24. Mazda – 84.20%

Percentage of owners who had a problem: 13.9%

According to Mazda owners, dealer staff are polite and courteous, but the Japanese brand has work to do when it comes to aftersales care. A lack of communication was one issue that was highlighted by customers, while the standard of the dealer facilities, as well as the workmanship of any jobs carried out, were both questioned. Combine these gripes with a slower-than-average work rate, disappointing value for money and a lack of courtesy cars available for those who wanted them, and Mazda was lucky not to be at the back of the pack of Japanese manufacturers.

Owner’s view:  “I was told the dealer needed eight weeks’ notice to provide a courtesy car for me.” 

25. Nissan – 83.85%

Percentage of owners who had a problem: 13.0%

If you drive a Nissan, you’re unlikely to be looking forward to visiting your local dealer. Owners rate the brand’s franchises as the least appealing of all, with a lack of parking and poor waiting areas being particular bugbears. The remainder of the dealer experience doesn’t get much better, with inattentive staff who keep owners in the dark, including failing to let them know if a job is taking longer than anticipated. And when cars are collected, owners find the standard of workmanship to be poor. All of this means that Nissan remains in 25th place – the only rays of light being the availability of courtesy cars and the value for money owners are getting.

Owner’s view: “My courtesy car was cancelled an hour before my appointment, so I had to reschedule because of this.” 

26. Dacia – 83.50%

Percentage of owners who had a problem: 9.1% 

With its no-nonsense, budget approach, Dacia has established itself as a popular brand among penny-pinching UK car buyers. Unfortunately, owners get what they pay for, and its dealers also offer an aftersales experience on a budget. Dacia is bottom of the pile for the availability of courtesy cars, while dealer facilities disappoint, even though the network has only been in existence for around six years. The courtesy of staff could be better, as could the standard of work carried out. But perhaps the biggest letdown is the perceived value for money offered by Dacia dealers. Last year, the network placed 16th in the category, but this year it finished behind Renault in 25th.

Owner’s view:  “I had to chase the garage to find out when my car would be finished.”

27. Renault – 83.49%

Percentage of owners who had a problem: 8.6%

A drop of 16 places compared with 2017 is bad enough for Renault, but it’s worth remembering that its dealers were the highest rated in Driver Power 2016. So where has it all gone wrong? Well, owners don’t like the facilities for starters, with dirty outlets, a lack of parking and disappointing waiting areas reported. There was a dearth of courtesy cars for those who wanted them, while owners felt that staff didn’t communicate very well with them and the standard of work wasn’t up to expectations. Being poorly informed didn’t help when cars weren’t ready on time, either, although value for money was small consolation for customers.

Owner’s view: “I paid for a service to find out the filters weren’t changed, even though I was told they would be.” 

28. Land Rover – 82.85%

Percentage of owners who had a problem: 22.5% 

A slide of 10 positions and four last-place category rankings put Land Rover’s franchises at the bottom of the pile. Record sales have seen dealers across the country working overtime to get new cars on the road, but the aftersales side of the business hasn’t kept up with demand. Poor communication, a lack of courtesy, disappointing workmanship and late jobs are all issues that need to be addressed if Land Rover wants to retain customers, especially because owners feel they’re paying over the odds for this lacklustre service. At least there’s a greater chance than most of getting a courtesy vehicle while waiting for their cars to be fixed.

Owner’s view: “There’s next to no room for parking. As a result, my own car has come back with damage on it.”

Now see the best cars to own 2018, compiled from Driver Power data…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *