Should I use an Independent CRM system or one that comes with my DMS system in my car, van, caravan or Motorhome dealership (pros and cons)

Written by Simon Verona

I get asked this question a lot.

In this article I will try and explain the pros and cons of going one way or the other, with no specific bias to either.

Many dealers will choose to use an Independent CRM system whilst others are more than happy to use the built in CRM systems that come with their Dealer Management Systems.

Within the users of our Navigator Dealer Management System, we have a mixture of customers who use our Sales 360 CRM and others who go with a separate independent solution.

But, what are the pros and cons?

Why should you go one way or the other...?

Lets discuss to help you decide.

Core CRM features

It would be expected that all CRM systems would fulfil the basic functionality of taking a lead a following it through to making or losing the sale.

This will involve managing the customer data, logging all customer contact and communication including email and SMS.

However, even in this standard functionality, different dealerships will have differing expectations and work flows. Maybe they have a call centre or multiple sales teams for differing types of product or differing enquiry types.

Some DMS integral systems will provide some of this in depth functionality - the Navigator Sales 360 CRM will certainly cope with the above.

However, by opening up to the specialist CRM marketplace it is likely that one of the CRM systems available will support the functionality a specific dealer requires whereas the DMS CRM is somewhat of a "Hobson's" choice - it either does what you need in the way that works for you or it doesn't!

So, if the DMS built in CRM does all you need then the two options are equal.

Otherwise, it may be necessary to consider one of the specialist systems.

Integration with the DMS system

Perhaps it would be obvious to state that you would expect that the DMS supplied CRM system would be an integral part of the whole DMS solution.

But, many of the Independent systems aren't at a complete loss here, many provide some integration possibilities. However this varies between the Independentsolution and the various Dealer Management Systems.

This is actually a critical part of the story and should be considered very carefully.

So for example, most CRM systems will have the ability to import a stock list daily from the DMS and generate a sales order.

However, it may be that the sales order generated might then be needed to be keyed into the DMS to remove the vehicle from sale, and build the deal ready for invoicing etc.

This is additional administration...

But again, this isn't the whole story. It may be that a vehicle may be sold on the CRM system on one day but not keyed into the DMS until the day after. This means the vehicle is still in the stock list the next morning, and may be still showing for sale on your web site - if this is driven from the DMS (which it should be).

Many CRMs may not import customer and their vehicle data - which means that to the sales team, every prospect is new to the dealership. Even if they do import, if the customer updates their details eg a new email address does the specialist CRM system push this back.?

These are not issues with the DMS as you would expect this sort of data flow to be inbuilt. Again, this isn't always the case and it's important to understand this workflow even on the integral CRM.

On the plus side for the Independent system. They may provide better sales order generation where the downside of rekeying is more than offset by the better quality of document produced.

Overall, its important to understand how data and workflow is "handed off" between the systems - in both the Independentand Integral systems.

  • What additional rekeying might be needed between systems?
  • How much customer information from the DMS is available in the CRM? Or is every prospect a new prospect?

Even when customer data is available, can your sales team see other department history (eg when was the car last serviced and were there any problems?).

Whilst in systems such as Navigator's Sales 360 it is possible to see full customer history, it may be surprising that not all DMS based CRM systems allow the sales team to view this level of information - even though it's logically available.

Think of the consequences of the above and whether this works with your working practices.

Integration with other third party solutions

This is another area where the specialist systems could be a better choice. In the sales process there are a variety of "other" systems and services which form part of the sales process.

Don't forget that your Dealer Management System is not just a CRM system. When considering your CRM system, consider what other systems do you require to run your business, for example do you have an accounting package or need software to run your dealership - many of these will be part of your DMS solution and will form part of the whole decision process.

Some examples.

FCA compliance - many dealers will be Appointed Representatives of a specialist compliance company such as ITC or Automotive Compliance. They often provide their own systems which require the entry of customer, vehicle and part exchange details to complete the compliance process.

Many of the Specialist systems and some DMS based CRM systems will integrate with the FCA compliance system to remove this rekeying. Navigator for example supports ITC and Automotive Compliance.

This is just the start. Parts exchange valuations may come from companies like CAP-HPI. Some of the specialist systems and also some of the DMS based systems may integrate with your chosen valuations partner.

Ditto Provenance, you may use Motorcheck, Cap-Hpi or Experian for example. This is more straightforward if your CRM has one button provenance integration.

For franchised dealerships, it may be required to have a system that integrates with their OEM partners to download leads and send back updates on the enquiry. Again there will always be some of the specialist systems that support your franchise partners but your DMS either will or won't!

You'll always find a specialist system with the integrations you need. The DMS based systems will also have integrations but may have less choice compare to the whole of the marketplace of specialist systems.

In reality, it is possible you won't find a single CRM system that supports every integration you need.

Some might have the compliance, valuations but doesn't integrate with your web site provider to automatically download your web site leads.

You will need to define what is the closest fit to your process.

You may even choose to change your third party to fit with your CRM eg move from CAP to Motorcheck for proven experience as an example.

It's all about getting the best fit.

But, the Independent systems may often win here, simply because you have more to choose from!


The price of a DMS + a specialist CRM system is likely to cost more than a DMS with the CRM built in.

Be careful of just viewing this as a cost issue though. It may turn out that when you consider the whole business process that the specialist system delivers may offset any additional cost.


Whilst it may be natural to assume that, if a DMS has a built in CRM it will be a better option, in reality the equation is far more complex.

It's important to look at the whole solution, the data and work flows and integrations to see which solution - or combination of solutions - works best.

Of course, this becomes part of the overall decision as to which DMS is best for you. In reality when comparing DMS systems there is a similar but more complex list of pros and cons to consider.

You will need the DMS and CRM combination which fits your dealership the best - your selection will likely be different to other dealers, with all getting a solution that is best for your dealership.

If you'd like to find out more about the Navigator Sale 360 CRM then click the button below

Many dealers will choose to use a specialist CRM system whilst others are more than happy to use the built in CRM systems that come with their Dealer Management Systems.

Within the users of our Navigator Dealer Management System, we have a mixture of customers who use our Sales 360 CRM and others who go with a separate specialist solution.

But, what are the pros and cons?

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