A hand is holding an electric car charger.

Electric Car Dealers vs Standard Car Dealerships

If you’re looking at new cars right now, or even just thinking about your options for a new vehicle in the next few years, then you might be trying to figure out the right type of dealership to choose. You could go to a shop that’s exclusively an electric car dealer, or you might be considering a more traditional sort of dealership with a wide range of vehicles. While the right option for you will certainly depend on what you’re looking for specifically, there are some things to keep in mind when making this decision.

Although I can’t exactly tell you what’s best for you, I can say this: in general, a standard car dealership that offers both conventional and Electric Vehicles (EVs) is probably your best bet. Unless you absolutely 100% know that you want an EV-only brand (like a Tesla or a Lucid Air), it’s always best to give yourself more options to choose from. While the major, established brands like Chevy, Ford, and Ram are developing electric options, they also provide traditional types of vehicles still. The more options you have to choose from, the easier it will be for you to find everything you need. Still not convinced? Consider the following, and let’s see what’s right for you.

You Deserve a Lot of Options

I just said this up above, so I felt like it was a good place to start – I want to expand on this, so you understand just what I mean. While there is such a thing as “too many options,” in general, having more options is a good thing when you’re shopping for something you need. When you’re shopping for something as important as a car, then the freedom to look at lots of different models, styles, and trims to find exactly what you need is really vital.

The more freedom that you have when you’re shopping, the easier it will be for you to find that perfect combination of design, features, performance, capability, and options to give you the ideal vehicle. There are so many different models out there; there’s no reason for you to settle for something that sort of works when you can get just right. It’s like Goldilocks and the Three Bears – only instead of three bowls of porridge and three beds, there are hundreds of different beds to choose from and find the right one.

Now, if you go to a lot that is purely an electric car dealer, you’re going to have a fairly limited selection in terms of inventory. By comparison, a standard car dealership with both EV and internal combustion models available is going to have a lot more for you to choose from. So as you’re trying to find the perfect car, being able to look at plenty of options can help you find it.

A silver 2022 Chevy Bolt EUV is shown from the side driving over a bridge at sunset after leaving an electric car dealer.

Electric Car “Dealers”

Let’s take a moment and look at what I mean when I refer to an “electric car dealer.” Well, the term “dealer” in this instance isn’t exactly accurate. Most electric-only car sellers are, in fact, brands like Tesla selling their own vehicles, unlike traditional dealerships that have an agreement with the manufacturer to represent them and offer their vehicles for sale to the public.

These manufacturers also don’t operate out of “dealerships” in the sense of having a bunch of models on a lot. They operate out of showrooms, usually referred to as a gallery, store, or studio, where they have a couple of models on display, and you have to order your vehicle. So, for example, you might go to a Tesla showroom if you’re interested in buying a new Model S, but you wouldn’t really be able to leave with one that day.

The biggest issue that I have with these types of “dealerships” is the limited selection they have to offer. Looking at Tesla (it’s the leading name in this type of manufacturer, so it’s an easy and fair point of comparison), there are essentially four models available: the Model S, Model 3, Model X, and Model Y. Though a fifth model, the Cybertruck, is on the way and will join that lineup pretty soon.

So, if you go to a Tesla showroom, you’re going to find these four or five models to choose from, and that’s it. While there are some motor and configuration options available, you’re still going to be pretty restricted in terms of the types of vehicles you’ll find. So if you’re not sure one of these specific few options is right for you, then you’re going to have a pretty hard time making sure you get the perfect vehicle for your needs. However, if you like the options that the brand offers, then you do have some room for personal customization with your order. Lucid Motors is also planning to follow this selling style in the coming years, opening their own showrooms (called Studios).

Standard Car Dealerships

A standard car dealership represents manufacturers that have been in the industry for a lot longer. These are a third-party seller providing you with vehicles they have ordered, not the manufacturer directly selling the vehicle to you like Tesla or Lucid Motors. That suggests a couple of things for you, but for starters, it means that they have a proven track record as a dealer. While there are some new dealers opening out there, a lot of great dealerships have been in the business for decades. So when you go to this type of dealership, there’s a sense of history and background – this makes it a lot easier to find a dealer you know you can trust.

Just as importantly, however, these types of dealers typically offer a much wider selection of vehicles for you to choose from. Let’s consider going to a Chevy dealer, just as an example. Right now, Chevy offers two cars (the Spark and Malibu), two performance models (the Camaro and Corvette), three different pickups (the Colorado, Silverado, and Silverado HD Series), seven different SUV options (the Trailblazer, Trax, Equinox, Blazer, Traverse, Tahoe, and the Suburban), and two electric vehicles (the Bolt EV and Bolt EUV). So while you can pick from five possible models at a Tesla dealership, a Chevy dealer has more than a dozen different vehicles, including multiple EV options.

See why I made a big deal about having more options and choices earlier? If you go to a Tesla dealer and you want a truck, you better really like the Cybertruck, or you’re going to be disappointed. Meanwhile, a Chevy dealership has a midsize option (the Colorado), a standard full-size pickup (the Silverado), and several different heavy-duty models (the Silverado HD series including the 2500, 3500, and more). It’s really not even close – a standard dealer gives you so much more freedom when shopping for a vehicle.

The interior of a 2022 Chevy Bolt EUV shows the steering wheel and infotainment screen.

Finding What’s Right for You

This is what it all comes down to, having the ability to find the right vehicle for your needs. I assume that when you buy a vehicle, you plan on having it for many years to come. Even if you prefer to lease a car, truck, or SUV, you’re still going to be driving that particular vehicle for a few years. So it’s important to get something that you’ll really enjoy and, perhaps more importantly, that offers exactly what you need.

Having the freedom to look at a couple of different trucks, then move over to SUVs to see if maybe they’re a better choice for what you’re looking for, and to compare options with conventional engines, hybrids, and EV models all at one dealership just can’t be beat. If you have a really clear vision of exactly the model you want, then you might not need this kind of flexibility when shopping for a car. But most of the people I know don’t go into it with such precision; they need to be able to compare their options and figure it out as they go.

So while a dedicated electric car showroom can potentially help you find the right vehicle, it also limits your options significantly. Choosing a dealership with both conventional and EV models available gives you more freedom. And with the old names in the industry offering more and more electric cars, you’ll keep getting more options in the years ahead.