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Dealer vs. Distributor: Examples and Differences

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Are you confused about the difference between a dealer and a distributor? You’re not alone. Many people use these terms interchangeably, but in reality, there are distinct differences between the two. 

A dealer typically sells products directly to end-users, while a distributor purchases products from manufacturers and sells them to dealers or retailers for resale.

Dealer vs Distributor

A dealer typically sells products directly to end-users, such as individuals or businesses.A distributor purchases products from manufacturers and sells them to dealers or retailers for resale.
They sell to end-users, while a distributor primarily sells to dealers or retailers for resale.They serve as intermediaries between manufacturers and dealers/retailers.
Dealers typically have a limited range of products that they sell, while a distributor usually has a wide range of products.Distributors typically carry a diverse range of products from multiple manufacturers.
They generally have lower sales volume compared to distributors.They have higher sales volume due to their wider customer base and diverse range of products.
Dealers typically hold inventory for resale, while distributors hold inventory for distribution to dealers or retailers.Distributors maintain a larger inventory compared to dealers to support their distribution activities.
They typically enjoy higher margins since they sell directly to end-users and don’t need to pay a middleman.They generally have lower margins since they act as an intermediary between the manufacturer and dealers/retailers.
Dealers are directly connected to customers and focus on building customer relationships.Distributors focus on building relationships with manufacturers and dealers/retailers and play a critical role in the supply chain.

What is a dealer?

The term “distributor” refers to a person or company that provides products or services to dealers. Distributors typically have relationships with manufacturers and provide inventory to dealers. They may also provide marketing support and other services to help dealers sell their products.

In business, the term “dealer” refers to a person or company that sells products or services to customers. They may be the middleman between the customer and the manufacturer, or they may buy products from a distributor and then sell them to customers. Dealers typically have brick-and-mortar locations, but some may also sell online.

What is a distributor?

A distributor is a company that sells products or services to retailers, businesses, or other organizations. A distributor typically handles a wide range of products and services from multiple producers. 

A distributor’s primary role is to bridge the gap between manufacturers and customers. By working with multiple manufacturers, distributors can offer their customers a one-stop shop for all their needs. This convenience allows customers to save time and money by not having to source products from multiple providers. 

Advantages of using a dealer

  • You can often get better prices from dealers than distributors because they purchase in bulk.
  • Dealers typically have more knowledge about the products they sell and can provide helpful advice to customers.
  • You can build a closer relationship with dealers since they are usually smaller businesses.

Disadvantages of using a dealer

  • Dealers may not have as much access to new products as distributors.
  • It can be difficult to find good dealers who are reliable and honest.
  • Dealers may not be willing to sell your product if they already carry a similar product from another manufacturer.

Examples of dealers and distributors


1. AutoNation: One of the largest dealership groups in the United States, AutoNation operates over 300 dealerships across the country.

2. Sonic Automotive: Another large dealership group, Sonic Automotive owns and operates over 100 dealerships in 14 states.

3. Troup Motors: A much smaller operation, Troup Motors is a family-owned dealership group that has been in business for over 50 years. They operate 15 dealerships in Texas and Louisiana.


1. J&M Distributing: A national distributor of aftermarket automotive parts and accessories, J&M Distributing has been in business for over 30 years.

2. Worldpac: One of the largest distributors of OEM (original equipment manufacturer) automotive parts in North America, Worldpac has over 250 locations across the United States and Canada.

Advantages of working with a dealer or a distributor

1. Access to More Products and Services: Dealers and distributors typically have access to a wider range of products and services than businesses that go it alone. This can be a major advantage when it comes to finding the right solution for your business needs.

2. Lower Cost of Goods: Because they buy in bulk and have negotiating power with suppliers, dealers, and distributors can often offer lower prices on goods and services than businesses who purchase individually.

3. Support and Expertise: When you partner with a dealer or distributor, you gain access to their team of experts who can provide valuable support and advice. This can be especially helpful if you’re new to the industry or don’t have much experience with the product or service in question.

4. Risk Mitigation: By working with a reputable dealer or distributor, you can mitigate some of the risks associated with buying from unknown or untested sources. They’ve already done the legwork to vet suppliers and ensure that their products meet quality standards, so you can feel confident that you’re getting what you expect.

Key differences between dealers and distributors

  • Dealers typically sell products directly to consumers, while distributors usually sell to other businesses.
  • Dealers usually have smaller operations than distributors.
  • Distributors typically offer a wider range of products than dealers.
  • Dealerships are usually located in one specific area, while distributors may have multiple locations.
  • Distributors typically sell in larger quantities than dealers.
Differences between Dealers and Distributors


Dealers and distributors both play important roles in getting products from manufacturers to consumers, but their respective functions differ greatly. Knowing which type of business partner is best suited for your company’s goals can help you make the right decision, whether that means working with a dealer or distributor.

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