There are certainly advantages to walking straight into a dealer to buy your next new car. You'll get the chance to look around the showroom, go for a test drive and discuss finance options. You may even get a cup of tea and a biscuit.
On the other hand you'll probably have to haggle hard to extract the best discount and, unless you've done some research first, you may not have a clear idea of what to aim for.
Internet brokers offer a viable alternative to kicking tyres on a forecourt. The best have obtained pre-agreed reductions from dealers and garages on the most popular makes and models. You can get an idea of what's available from their websites, and once you narrowed the choice down to your ideal motor, you can call them direct.
In most cases you'll be referred to a franchised dealer, having agreed a set price, and then deal with them direct. You should get the same level of service you'd expect if you'd dealt exclusively with the dealer in the first place, including part-exchange valuations and finance options.
However, because the broker has been busy hunting down the best price, the garage you're directed to may be hundreds of miles away which isn't exactly convenient. But if you're saving thousands, you may think it well worth the effort.
However, do always take care. In some cases you may be dealing with an importer, or the broker may ask you to pay for the car in full long before you take delivery. Pay a deposit using a credit card (then you'll be covered by the Consumer Credit Act), but avoid transferring the balance until you've seen the car in the metal.
Despite what you read in the papers it's still relatively easy to get car finance from a dealer so long as you dont have a poor credit rating.
At first glance their deals may not look especially competitive, but garages rarely offer their lowest rate straight away. It's up to you to coax them into offering a cut. Try comparing the rate on offer with deals available from high-street or internet lenders, and let the dealer know you're shopping around.
Always make sure you compare rates in APR terms, despite what the salesman may say. That's the only way you can know how much you're really paying. All regulated finance quotes should spell out the total cost of borrowing the money so leaving you in no doubt.