Buying a car while female is different than buying one while male.
Read an article in any magazine and you’ll find evidence that women pay more for cars than men do. Almost all of these articles quote a study done in 2001. In the study they found men were initially offered better deals than women (and especially black women). But when you look at more extensive research reviewing actual car sales data, it’s not a given that women pay more than men. Yes, I have spent all day reading car sales data because I believed it was a given that women pay more, but that just isn’t a foregone conclusion. It appears we just have to work harder for our deal.
Regardless of sales statistics, most women are less comfortable on a car lot than men. Edmunds.com did an experiment with two “buyers” one male, one female. In the majority of the dealerships both of the fake buyers entered, the man was treated with more respect and given more information. In one example, the salesman told the female buyer that he was “out of business cards” and made no effort to give her his phone number, despite the fact that she was requesting it.
Here are a few tips to help you feel confident walking on to a car lot, choosing the right car for you and negotiating the deal. Women influence 85% of all car sales, and car manufacturers are finally starting to realize this by both marketing and catering to us. However, the slick car salesman can still be found on most lots, don’t get flustered, use these tips and drive off with the car you want and the deal you deserve.
Tips for Buying a Car While Female
Trust your gut. If you don’t feel great about the connection with the sales person, or the dealership, ask to speak to someone else or leave. The power is all yours, you are not stuck with whoever walks up and asks you “what’s it going to take to get you into this car today.” As women we are raised to be polite, even when we aren’t comfortable. If you have a bad feeling, it’s because your intuition has keyed into something you aren’t even consciously aware of. Use your inner dude, buy from someone else.
You can get a better deal on older models when the new cars are coming on the lot. The last week of the year is a good time to get a deal. Want to ask lots of questions? Try going on a weekday when it’s not as busy and the staff have nothing but time to answer you.
Know What You Want
A new website, Car-Ed.com is a unique resource for car buyers. The founders are former car guys who “started to realize that there is this gap in the industry – no one does this initial assessment (a quiz to match cars you may never have considered to the needs ascertained through the quiz). Most car buyers are not aware of what universe of cars they might want to consider…and even if they are, they may be missing an alternative or two they should consider.”
You start with an 11 question quiz. Not questions like “do you need an SUV?” But rather “do you like to be first off the line at a stoplight? Do you own a passport?”
I took the quiz and learned that I could afford a Jaguar SUV (which I didn’t even know existed) for far less than I expected. The cars are then laid out in a grid and easy to compare in terms of both price and features. The site also has some great reviews.
Know Before You Go
Monroney: Ask for the Monroney. This is the sticker information that every dealership provides for their cars. Just using the technical term lets the sales person know that you mean business. Invoice price is never listed on the Monroney, but you can find it on Truecar.com
Dealer Prep Fees: Charges—usually negotiable—added to the purchase price of a new car to cover the cost of prepping the car for sale it comes to the dealership.
Documentation Fee: Charges intended to cover the cost of processing the paperwork involved in the sale of a car. If they try to charge you more than $100, challenge the fee, it’s negotiable.
Early Termination Fees: Penalties paid for withdrawing from a lease or loan ahead of the scheduled end date. Typically these penalties are very large—akin to simply paying off all remaining payments without the use of the car. These may apply if a vehicle is stolen or totaled and you don’t have gap insurance. Know what these are, and decide if you want to buy gap insurance.
Gap Insurance: Insurance that covers the difference between a vehicle’s depreciated value in a loan or a lease and the amount owed on it in case it is stolen or totaled.
Walk-Away Lease: A lease that gives the lessee the option of either buying the car at the end of the term at a set price or walking away without liability for any unexpected reductions in the vehicle’s value (other than those resulting from damage or modifications). Walk-away leases are what nearly all car companies and banks offer, but ask the question to make sure that is what you are signing, they are also known as “closed-end leases.”
Bring With You
Your driver’s license, you can’t take a test drive without it.
Proof of insurance for the new car. Depending on how busy your agent is, this can take time, call them ahead of time so they are ready for you. You can call your agent from the dealership and give them the VIN, but getting proof of insurance can take a few hours depending on your company.
Title, registration and loan number (if applicable) of the car you want to trade in. But negotiate the price of the car you are buying before you ever discuss a trade in.
Make Sure it’s the Right Car for You
Don’t just test drive the car, life drive it. Put the baby seat in, and the stroller in the back. Have your long legged teenage son sit in the middle seat. Speaking of teens, if you are the proud owner of a teen driver, check the insurance rates for the teen on the car you are considering, trust me on this one. Ask to take it home and make sure it fits in your garage, or take it for an extended test drive, sometimes it’s the only way to know if a car is truly comfortable. Yes, the dealership will let you, you just have to know to ask. We had briefly considered a convertible Mini-Cooper, but after renting one for a weekend we realized the seats just aren’t comfortable.
Are you all about the music? Bring along your favorite tunes and try out the stereo system. Unless you are a gear head dude, the specs that are listed don’t mean much. But if you’re like me, the music matters. Same with all of the technology features, try them all. Is the navigation system intuitive? If you are often lost, that matters. Have the sales person show you every single feature, it’s their job, don’t feel bad for taking all the time you need to make sure you are buying a car that is right for you.
Do Your Homework
The sticker price is easy to find on the Monroney, but want to know the invoice price? You can find that on Edmunds.com. Wondering what other people are paying for the same car in your area? Go to TrueCar.com, this might be the most important resource to give you confidence that you are paying a fair price. But remember, the invoice price is rarely what the dealer really paid. They receive incentives from the manufacturer, so don’t be fooled when they insist they can’t sell it for less than they paid for it.
Consider a lease, but run the numbers. We have always paid cash for our cars and then driven them until the wheels literally fall off. But if you want the latest safety features, and that non-dog/boy/old coffee smell, a lease is a better option than you might think. My new Subaru is costing me about $5,000 per year, I spent $55,000 on a Cadillac 10 years ago, so I spent $5,500 a year for it. I was able to trade it in for $10,000. So for an extra $1,000 per year I have all the new safety technology and a fresh clean car. I paid up for the extra warranty, I know it’s not always the most financially prudent choice, but EVERYTHING is covered, door dings, windshield replacement, etc. I won’t have any unexpected expenses and I am more willing to hand the keys to my teen.
Looking for really great reviews written by women for women?
Go to A Girls Guide to Cars. I have partnered with A Girls Guide to Cars for car reviews and recently spoke at their conference where I met the founders of Car-Ed.com. The site is chock full of great reviews of almost every make and model on the road, and they are all written by women for women. Which shouldn’t be as groundbreaking as it is, because again, we influence 85% of car sales.
This post is not compensated, it is my best advice to the car buying women of the world.