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Difference Between Parallel Import and Dealing with a Car Agent

03 July 2021

When deciding on which car to buy, you’re likely to research the best deals and where to find your dream car in Singapore.

Well, there are two ways to buy your ideal car in Singapore. You can choose to buy it from Authorized Distributors/Dealers (ADs) or Parallel Importers (PIs).

Dealing with a Car Agent

Authorised Distributors (AD) are dealers with exclusive rights from a particular car manufacturer to distribute or sell their car brand.

Parallel Import

On the other hand, parallel importers are small businesses that buy cars directly from the manufacturers and import them to Singapore before reselling them to customers at a profit. As such, PIs are more of car re-sellers than distributors. Also, unlike ADs that deal with only one brand, parallel importers can buy and import any vehicle brand vehicle they wish.


Main differences between PIs and ADs

Below are the main differences between PIs and ADs.

Scale of Operations

Singapore has at least forty car manufacturers, with each car maker having its distributor. Typically, ADs are large companies with a big number of well-trained employees.

There are hundreds of legal PIs distributed across Singapore. The majority of these PIs are small businesses, but you may also find a few established PI companies.


ADs usually set up towering and trendy showrooms with great interiors that ooze professionalism. The showrooms are also equipped with many facilities, such as lounges and discussion areas and can allow for a test drive.

The showrooms for PIs are typically smaller and have considerably fewer facilities.

Car Model

ADs only sell a selection of car models. One advantage of ADs is that they have the latest models and may get exclusive access to some models that may not be available elsewhere in the region.

Usually, PIs can sell any model. This includes those models that are not available in the Singaporean market. For instance, if you want a specific car model, PIs can import it for you.


PIs generally offer cars at a lower price compared to ADs. This is because PIs cut overhead costs by importing cars directly from the manufacturers without the need for third parties. Besides, unlike ADs, PIs do not spend a lot of money maintaining posh showrooms.

Warranty & Servicing

Most AD and PI will never charge you for service, however, expect to pay to have your engine oil, brakes and filters replaced.

Also, ADs invest heavily in their staff so expect them to have quality sales and after-sales service. On the contrary, PIs employees don’t get in-depth training; as such their services quality can be inconsistent.

While both PI and AD offer warranties for their vehicles, these warranties may cover different things.

Country of Production

For the most part, ADs import cars manufactured in countries with low operational costs, for instance, Toyota vehicles can be sourced from Thailand. Since labour quality in these countries is low, the vehicles workmanship can be compromised.

Generally, PIs import vehicles from the original manufacturing countries. For instance, they only import Toyota cars from Japan. This means the cars are of high quality and do not compromise on the workmanship.

Spare parts availability

ADs always strive to offer quality after-sale services and will, therefore, have spare parts several years after they stop selling a particular brand. PIs on their part, do not offer such guarantees. This means if your car breaks down, you may never get the spare parts from a PI.



Now that you know the difference between parallel import and dealing with a car dealer, you should be ready to find the best way to buy your next vehicle. Weigh the pros and cons for each and settle for the choice that best serves your interests.


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