Purchasing a Vehicle from Top Car Dealerships

Consumers who are in the market for a new or new-to-them vehicle are always searching for the top car dealerships in their area. A car is one of the largest investments that most individuals will ever make. That makes finding the best car dealers even more significant.

The best car dealerships can help consumers to find exactly what they’re looking for with plenty of options. New car dealers often carry a large volume of used cars as well, for those who still need to compare the cost of new versus used.

Best Car Dealerships

Award Emblem: Top 6 Best Car Dealerships

Auto dealers across the country are all vying to be known as one of the top car dealerships in their category. Consumers benefit from the competition with the end result being great deals and a wide selection of vehicles to choose from. What perks can you find at some of these used and new car dealers?

In order to prepare you for your next big-ticket purchase, AdvisoryHQ assembled this ranking of some of the best car dealerships nationwide. For more information on what you can expect from these auto dealers, you can begin your search in the sections below. We’ll cover key topics including the makes of cars you can expect, the size of these auto dealerships, and their primary location areas.

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AdvisoryHQ’s List of the Top 6 Best Car Dealerships

List is sorted alphabetically (click any of the dealerships below to go directly to the detailed review section for that car dealer):

Top 6 Best Car Dealerships | Brief Comparison & Ranking

Auto Dealerships

Based in

Number of Dealerships


Richmond, VA


Group 1 Automotive

Houston, TX


Hendrick Automotive

Charlotte, NC


Lithia Motors

Medford, OR


Penske Automotive Group

Bloomfield Hills, MI


Sonic Motors

Charlotte, NC


Table: Top 6 Best Auto Dealerships | Above list is sorted alphabetically

What Are the Main Types of Car Dealers?

If you’ve never purchased a vehicle from a car lot before, you might be tempted to think that all auto dealerships are the same. Even if most of your local car dealers are all the same variety, it doesn’t mean that this statement holds true as you expand your search to other car dealers.

There are certainly different categories to the types of sales made by even the best car dealers. Some car dealerships are categorized by the type of vehicles they sell while others are labeled by their sales tactics.

In this quick review, we’ll cover a handful of titles that you might see assigned to a potential car dealership. Understanding what those labels mean could make the difference between a wise investment and an expensive clunker.

Car Dealerships

Image Source: Pexels

Independent Used Car Dealerships

This is the best way to describe your local car dealers. They may only have one or two locations around town or in your general area. Local car dealers typically reinvest their profits back into the same economy that their used cars came from.

Franchise or Chain Car Dealers

Both of these types of auto dealerships can specialize in either new or used vehicles. Depending on the specific lot, you may even find a wide selection of both options. Franchise or chain car dealers tend to have names that consumers can recognize, such as CarMax.

Because they are a part of a much larger entity compared to small local car dealers, it can often mean a more thorough inspection or stringent standards on used car sales. According to one source, purchasing through a franchise could mean more rigid quality standards that must be met to uphold specific “certified pre-owned” warranties.

Buy Here, Pay Here Auto Dealerships

In our ranking, you won’t find any buy here, pay here lots included in the best car dealerships. These types of car dealerships are advertised to consumers with poor credit. As such, they tend to take advantage of consumers who can’t qualify for the best loan terms available in their market.

Consumers tend to pay more for vehicles purchased at these types of car dealers. A buy here, pay here lot features lengthy loan terms and astronomical interest rates in comparison to loans offered by other lenders.

Because of the overall cost of doing business with this type of lot, we cannot qualify them as the best car dealerships.

In our review of the best car dealers, we will include both franchise and chain car dealers that are available in large sections of the nation. Instead of focusing on local car dealers that may not be applicable to a large percentage of our readership, these larger auto dealerships present more opportunities to consumers around the United States.

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AdvisoryHQ’s Selection Methodology

What methodology does AdvisoryHQ use in selecting and finalizing the credit cards, financial products, firms, services, and products that are ranked on its various top rated lists?

Please click here “AdvisoryHQ’s Ranking Methodologies” for a detailed review of AdvisoryHQ’s selection methodologies for ranking top rated credit cards, financial accounts, firms, products, and services.

Detailed Review – Top Ranking Best Car Dealerships

Below, please find the detailed review of each car dealer on our list of auto dealerships. We have highlighted some of the factors that allowed these top car dealerships to score so highly in our selection ranking.

CarMax Review

One of the best car dealerships for purchasing and selling used cars is CarMax. Available nationwide instead of just in certain segments of the country, CarMax is included as one of the fastest growing car dealerships according to Automotive News.

They are increasingly adding more local car dealers to their already expansive number of dealers.

With more than 143 auto dealerships under their umbrella, CarMax provides plenty of options to consumers who are just starting their purchasing process.

Each vehicle for sale from these best car dealerships must pass a Certified Quality Inspection that includes more than 125 different points. These car dealers allow you to purchase at one set price, effectively eliminating the negotiation process present in most auto dealerships.

They are so confident in the quality of their used cars that they promise a five-day money-back guarantee. Purchasing cars through CarMax car dealers ensures that you can bring the vehicle back within five days for a full refund.

The other attribute that makes CarMax one of the best car dealers to work with is the ability to sell your car. Even if you decide not to purchase your next car through the auto dealership, you can still receive an estimate to sell your current car. It should only take about thirty minutes, and your offer is good for the next seven days.

Appraisals are completely free. These car dealers base the selling price of your vehicle on four key factors:

  • Vehicle condition
  • Features and options
  • Vehicle history report
  • How your car drives

Consumers who need one of the top car dealerships to sell their car or purchase a new-to-them vehicle will want to consider CarMax. There are plenty of location choices and lots of flexibility in what these car dealers can do.

Car Dealers

Image Source: CarMax

Group 1 Automotive Review

Group 1 Automotive offers plenty of choices for those searching for auto dealerships that specialize in both new and used vehicles. Based on sales for the recent years, the Group 1 Automotive Group ranked in third place among car dealerships and groups in the nation. The 2014 sales for these auto dealerships showed a total of more than 350,000 combined unit sales.

Group 1 Automotive Inc. is now considered to be the third-largest car dealership in the United States.

The makes and models available through the Group 1 Automotive group is almost endless. Especially because they also sell a large quantity of used vehicles, you can find most makes that you might be interested in, including luxury cars. When it comes to their new car dealerships, Group 1 Automotive carries 34 brands of vehicles.

These auto dealers also carry used cars with their certified pre-owned warranty. The vehicles included in this category comprise one-third of their current used vehicle sales. Their auto dealerships promise a “heavily-weighted import and luxury brand mix” as well as extended warranties on these choices.

Unfortunately, not all consumers will find Group 1 Automotive in their state. Only fourteen states have these car dealers, the majority appearing to be in the more western states:

  • Oklahoma
  • Texas
  • Kansas
  • Louisiana
  • California

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Hendrick Automotive Review

The Hendrick Automotive Group operates in a very similar manner to one of our other best car dealerships, the Group 1 Automotive Inc. These car dealers are based out of Charlotte, North Carolina, and they are regularly found throughout parts of the Southeast and Midwest. A few of their car dealers can also be found in California.

This car dealer is so large that its locations employ more than 10,000 people. It currently maintains more than 140 auto dealers franchises across the nation, giving consumers plenty of choices when it comes to finding one of the top car dealerships in their area.

These auto dealerships specialize in the sales of certain makes of new cars, including top name brands.

You’ll find luxury brands such as Cadillac and BMW, as well as standard brands including Volkswagen, Honda, and Jeep. These car dealers represent 29 different brands of cars and motorcycles.

In addition, these are great car dealers for consumers who are torn between the purchase of a new or used vehicle. They sell a tremendous volume of used cars, with more than 30% of their sales accounted for by used units. They ranked in sixth place according to the car dealership review posted by Auto Magazine based on total sales volume.

Because their new car dealerships also handle the sale of used cars, consumers can get an appraisal on their current vehicle simultaneously. Their appraisal process consists of:

  • Examination of interior and exterior of the car
  • One mile test drive to test the engine, transmission, and 4×4 systems
  • Inspection for flood, salvage, or frame damage
  • Carfax report inspection

Once your vehicle is reviewed by their purchasing team, the offer made will be valid for the next seven days, similar to CarMax.

Lithia Motors Review

In recent surveys, Lithia Motors has been named as one of the top ten best car dealerships in the country. They maintain a healthy number of auto dealerships (152) across a vast number of states for easy accessibility to new and pre-owned vehicles.

According to the annual report from Auto News, Lithia Motors has moved up from its position in eighth two years ago to the fifth place position for 2015. This past year alone, these best car dealerships sold a combined total of more than 275,000 units.

Like many of the other best car dealerships, Lithia Motors has several auto dealerships to cover the sales of their thirty different brands. Across all of their best car dealerships, they have an inventory that includes over 25,000 brand new vehicles in stock. Popular makes of vehicles include:

  • Honda
  • Buick
  • Jeep
  • Kia
  • Mazda

Pre-owned models for sale at these best car dealerships come with an excellent warranty. You may drive these used cars for sixty days or 3,000 miles with peace of mind for covered parts. If something goes awry during this timeframe, this car dealer will cover the cost for repair.

When it comes to repairs, many Lithia Motors auto dealerships may also have auto body and paint shops. This full-service repair shop makes it easier than ever to imagine moving on from an accident with a car that looks as good as new.

You’ll find Lithia Motors car dealers across the United States, including unlikely places such as Alaska. They also include states that don’t have many locations from the other best car dealerships, including Nevada, North Dakota, Montana, and more.

Penske Automotive Group Review

Penske Automotive Group Inc. definitely qualifies as one of the best car dealerships in the nation. They hold a large section of the market when it comes to both new and used car sales with more than 24,000 employees globally. They have auto dealerships scattered across the United States, Canada, and Western Europe.

One of the best things about Penske Automotive Group’s car dealers is their wide assortment of brands. Their car dealers represent over forty different makes of vehicles. Not only that, but with as many car dealers as they represent, you can choose from close to 40,000 available cars for purchase.

They carry a wide assortment of vehicles ranging from any of the following categories:

  • Commercial vehicles
  • Diesel engines
  • Gas engines
  • Power systems

The Penske name brand allows consumers to make good use of their online tools at PenskeCars.com. From the comfort of your home, you can browse through their available inventory, chat with customer service associates, or call in for questions regarding first-time car purchase and more. This is an easy way to take a look at their new car dealerships.

Once you purchase your new or used vehicle from Penske, this same online tool allows you to schedule service appointments at their auto dealerships.

With all of the options available to make car buying convenient, it doesn’t come as a surprise that Penske Automotive Group is included in our ranking of the best car dealerships. They offer plenty of locations, a wide variety of vehicles to choose from, and convenient customer service.

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Sonic Automotive Review

Sonic Automotive placed just below the top three best car dealerships in the United States, according to the most recent ranking by Auto News. In the fourth place position, Sonic Automotive still boasts an impressive number of sales and growth from their previous position just one year ago.

The Sonic Automotive group has several locations and more than 100 car dealerships located in the United States. Their brand is represented most heavily in the Southeast, but there are several locations in the more western regions as well. Other popular locations for these car dealers include Colorado, Texas, and California.

These best car dealerships represent 25 different brands, including luxury vehicles such as Acura, Infiniti, and Mercedes-Benz. Inventory consists of more than 30,000 different vehicles, both new and used cars included.

Part of what qualifies Sonic Automotive as one of the best car dealerships is their commitment to providing all necessary services to their clients:

  • Replacement part sales
  • Performance of vehicle maintenance
  • Arrangement of extended warranties
  • Financing and insurance
  • Paint and collision repairs

Much like CarMax, you can also use Sonic Automotive to get an appraisal to sell your car without the purchase of one from their auto dealerships. For the early stages of the appraisal process, you can use their online forms and Black Book Online to get a detailed estimate on your car’s current market value. Once those steps have been completed, bring your vehicle into one of their numerous car dealerships to get an in-person offer.

Car Dealer

Image Source: Sonic Automotive

Conclusion—Top 6 Best Car Dealerships

The best car dealerships can often depend on exactly what you are hoping to accomplish. New car dealers can help you to find the ride of your dreams, while other auto dealerships specialize in helping you to sell your current clunker or purchase a new-to-you vehicle.

You’ll need to evaluate what your specific needs are prior to heading out for any of these car dealers.

Search for car dealers that offer a wide selection in your local area. If none of these auto dealerships exist in your area, you may want to ask around for input from your friends and family. Find out which of the car dealers in your area meet the standards set out by those included in our ranking.

Take the information included in this ranking of the best car dealerships to help prepare you for your next purchase. Will it be an expensive luxury vehicle or a basic car with a certified warranty? The top car dealers can help you to make a decision that is the right fit for your lifestyle and your budget.

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Reasonable efforts have been made by AdvisoryHQ to present accurate information, however all info is presented without warranty. Review AdvisoryHQ’s Terms for details. Also review each firm’s site for the most updated data, rates and info.

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