Car Buying Guide: Authorised Dealer Vs Parallel Importer

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You can purchase a new car for your figurative drive one of three ways. You can either self-import, buy from an Authorised Dealer (AD), or from a Parallel Importer (PI).

Most consumers do not have the time or the expertise to self-import a vehicle, so for this piece, we'll focus on the latter duo. 

What's the difference between acquiring your next ride from an AD versus a PI? Which costs more and why? We'll find out in this article!

Breaking Down The Terminology

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ADs are dealers that have exclusive rights to sell a specific brand in Singapore. They usually sign contracts with the automaker, which effectively makes them representatives of the brand in the markets they serve.

What this also translates into, is their need to adhere to the overall brand image of the manufacturer. Often, their showrooms have to be renovated to a strict set of guidelines, and there may be even certain rules governing the attire of their staff members.

PIs are dealers that directly import cars for resale. They do not represent a certain brand, and typically buys cars, often brand new, outright from their native markets, imports them into Singapore to resell. 

Unlike the ADs, PIs do not have to represent any specific brand. Their operations are typically smaller scale than their AD counterparts and with less elaborate showrooms. 

Car Prices

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Anecdotally, the main decision-making factor in terms of this argument is usually the price. 

ADs, being somewhat of a 'de-facto' local extension of the automaker, often have greater parts and warranty support. The cars through this avenue are typically higher-spec too, as they directly order the cars wholesale from the factory with no modifications to the vehicle when it reaches our shores. 

Also, the additional overheads incurred from staff attire and more elaborate renovations will inevitably be passed onto the consumer. 

PIs, on the other hand, will often sell their vehicles for less. The Open-Market Value of these cars will often be lower, as PIs regularly import their cars with basic wheels and no stereo system. Without the need to maintain a fancy office, their overheads are usually lower too. Combined, this makes for a more attractive package for customers. 

However, not having direct factory support means the warranties on these cars are provided by the PI itself. That being said, if you bought your car from a more established company, support can be comparable to an AD. 

Again, each choice will have a difference in aftersales service, parts replacement, and the end price.

Car Availability

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ADs will order your car as you optioned it directly from the factory. They may on rare occasions, however, stock several examples in more common colours.

PIs will often buy their cars in bulk and stock them at various storage facilities islandwide. This translates into quicker delivery times, though you may not be able to have your car in the exact specification that you want.

PIs solve this issue by offering customers the option of modifying their vehicles before collection. They can add aftermarket body kits or perhaps even do complete re-upholstery of the interior before the car is registered. 

Car Quality

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There's a common misconception on the superiority of the car's country of origin. Regardless of if a car is from an AD or a PI, automakers strictly regulate the build quality of the car irrespective of the market the car is originally intended for.

So whilst your typical Japanese AD car could be made in a country with lower labour costs (Thailand comes to mind), parts and build quality would be similar to a PI built-in Japan vehicle.

Car Parts

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ADs have direct access to the OEMs that provide the manufacturer with the parts required. Also, as their technicians are trained by the carmaker, they are able to more rapidly diagnose and replace parts as needed. If an issue stumps said technicians, they can always call on the expertise of the engineers and designers, who may make their way over to try and work on a fix.

PIs can use non-OEM quality parts in their fixes if push really comes to shove. They may not be trained directly by the manufacturer, but by other, more experienced peers. 

If a major defect is detected, PIs will take longer to source replacement parts for rectification. In certain cases, like with the Takata Airbag Recall in 2019, on the grounds of safety, the carmaker may dictate the ADs to support PI cars regardless.

If you are having an issue getting your PI car fixed, ADs will often help out, but only after charging you an 'Adoption Fee', which could be close to the price difference of an AD car in the first place!

Car Models

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ADs carry cars designated by the manufacturer for its intended market. This means region-specific equipment will be fitted to these cars (think English for the user interface, km/h instead of mph for the speedo).

PIs have access to cars never originally intended for use in Singapore. They often have clusters with languages not commonly used here (think Japanese or German), and may come without a factory stereo system fitted. 

This can make diagnosis of car issues tougher, and whilst your car may come fitted with steering wheel controls for your stereo, as it may sport a non-OEM head unit, the controls may not be compatible. 

Spoilt For Choice?

If you are in urgent need of a brand new set of wheels, approach a PI with ready stocks. They have Temporary COEs (TCOEs) on hand that can be used to register the vehicle quickly too. Do your due diligence though - take a look at their track record, and see if you can find reviews from past clients. 

If you are after a greater piece of mind, ADs are the way to go. Whilst more expensive, ADs allow you to option the car the way you want it directly from the factory, free of any aftermarket alterations. 

All equipment fitted will be natively supported, so no unsightly aftermarket stereos or any potentially sketchy workarounds. 

The choice is entirely up to your comfort level and your wallet. If you've bought a PI car and require support services far beyond what your PI can do, head over to our Motor Directory where we can assist you!

If you'd like to save some cash and buy used instead, head over to our used cars listing where we offer various vehicles for sale!

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