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All too often this question arises from dealers looking to gather some insight as to whether the time has come for them to pass on the reigns. Unfortunately, there is no simple answer as no 2 dealerships are created equally.  Below I have provided a couple scenario’s that would present 2 similar stores selling for different multiples.


Dealership A was just sold for 5 times earnings.  The store was underperforming in its market, had a poor management team and was in a good metro market and a great brand. Dealership A was making $500,000 EBITDA on a normalized basis.


Dealership B was just sold for 3 times earnings.  The store was exceeding its manufacturer targets, had a great management team and was in the same metro market and the same brand. Dealership B was making $1,500,000 EBITDA on a normalized basis.


Though Dealership B is better performing store requiring less effort to maintain, it is running very efficiently and their upside potential would be minimal if any.   Dealership A however, sold for a higher multiple based on a significant upside potential, though the price was lower based on the risk and effort that will be required to turn it around.   


Considering both of these scenario’s, ultimately the multiple will be determined by what ROI and effort the potential purchaser is expecting and willing to put in.  



The base-line calculation used when determining the value of your dealership is:


Assets + Real Estate + Good-Will



Determining the value of your assets can be done by reviewing the fair market value (FMV) of your furniture, fixtures and equipment.  Even though you have likely depreciated your assets, they may still be worth more than the depreciated amount. 


Real Estate

This is determined by 2 factors.  

  • The appraised value of your store

  • The affordability of the cap rate relative to the profit of the store



Determining the goodwill multiple value of your store, simply put, will ultimately be determined by what an independent 3rd party sees as a fair value based on their expected return on their investment.  Goodwill multiples are usually a major point of negotiation in your sale. Knowing your normalized average annual income should be known prior to engaging in a offer situation.  Below is how to start.






The calculation most commonly used in determining the baseline value that will be used in the multiple value is as follows based on the average of your last 3 years of year end financials: 




Earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation & amortization


Owners/non-operational salaries

(Usually executive or family salaries where the new owner would not assume that role and/or at that pay).


Special Contributions/Memberships

(Do you donate to charities or have a golf membership that the owner would not assume?)


Non-recurring losses/Income

(manufacturer/customer settlements/Legal/significant severance etc)




Additional Items That May Increase/Decrease Good-Will


Real Estate

Is your facility CI compliant or is there a pending change to your CI? 

Are you charging yourself a realistic cap rate?  On average, cap rates for dealerships in Canada range from 7-8% with more compression for markets like Vancouver & Toronto (5.5%-6.5%).  

It is common to see dealers charge their business’ lower than market average cap rates so it is important to take this into consideration when determining the real estate value.


Management Team

Are they staying or are they going?  Are they a strong or weak management team?  Is the key driver or primary operator the owner or a family member?



All dealers know that recovering from a poor market sentiment/reputation can take years and lots of dollars to repair.  Are you rated at or near the top on Google, Dealer-Rater, Yelp and your manufacturers CSI?  Knowing that your market and your customers are speaking positive about your store can offer significant upside to a potential purchaser.



Over the years, multiples have always been higher in Metro/fringe metro dealerships for many reasons.   Availability to find or replace key management, strong economies, larger market potentials and immediate access to urban amenities all increase the upside/multiple of your store.   Whereas smaller towns usually provide logistic issues getting to, are harder to attract top talent to and usually have limited upside potential.




Is your brand strong?  Are the margins good?  How is the manufacturer to deal with?  Are they investing in the future?  Is your manufacturers market share improving or decreasing?  How many dealerships with your brand come available and how frequently (supply & demand)?


Gordie Gerbrandt

Canadian Director 

Tim Lamb Group



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