In the Driver’s Seat

In the Driver’s Seatfrom_our_columnists

The Female Car Buying Experience

By Kara Stefan

kara_stefanI remember the first time I haggled to buy a car. It took 6 hours, and I had my 6-year old son with me. He was an active little guy, racing around the showroom making car sounds. I’m proud to say he made the process as trying for them as it was for me.

Actually, having my son there helped me stay focused on two things: Not committing to higher payments than I could afford and getting out of there as quickly as possible. Notwithstanding the 6-hour ordeal I endured, I did walk out of the dealership with both the car and price I wanted.

I looked at several cars that were similar to the one I was seeking, so I picked the one with the lowest mileage. Then I announced that I could afford no more than a $200 monthly car payment. That’s when the sales guy started sweating. First he suggested $300, then $250, then $225. I glanced over at my son and told the man I’d have to cancel my son’s swim lessons for that extra $25 a month (which was true).

His next tact was to talk me into taking one of the other cars with higher mileage. I wasn’t exactly up for another test drive so I didn’t budge. What seemed like an eternity later, he came out of his sales manager’s office, held out his hand, and congratulated me–I owned the car.

But it wasn’t over. They sent me to another office where I had to haggle with a contracts guy about service warranties and a long list of “extras.” I had no idea there was anything else involved and felt very confused.

I called my father from outside the contract office. He wasn’t home, but after hanging up the payphone and mustering my conviction, I announced that my father advised me not to purchase the warranties. I suddenly felt more confident, and the contract guy seemed to understand that father knows best.

When I finally drove the car off the lot, I didn’t even know if I got a good price or not, but one thing was for sure: Never again would I go through that living hell.

A Better, Brighter Future
Come to find out, I’m not alone in my harrowing car-buying experience. Women comprise 54% of new car buyers, and studies reveal they pay an average of $200 more than men for new cars. And women are also 40% more likely to pay the dealer’s asking price. Now if that’s not marked discrimination, I don’t know what is.

Finally, we have the means to level the playing field with men. It’s called the Internet, and if you’re reading this article, you’ve tackled the hardest part of buying a car (learning to use a computer). One of the more popular car-buying sites for women,, recently conducted a survey of women car-buyers. It found that women’s greatest concerns when buying a car are:

  • Convenience
  • Being in control
  • Being discriminated against when buying and servicing their car

Taking your car to a mechanic without a man with you is still a monumental challenge, but with the help of the Internet, at least the car-buying process is gender blind. You can shop for your preferred model, color, accessories, and even name your own price.

Plus, you can find out everything you need to know online–and get answers to all of your questions–before you make your decision. And you can do all of this in your bathrobe over ice cream at midnight.

One site you may want to check out is It has a “For Her” section that’s just for women and provides articles and information covering many of the questions that women typically ask, as well as stuff about which you may not know enough to ask.

There’s even a “My Garage” section that helps you manage maintenance on your car after its purchase, with service reminders, safety recall notifications, and a repair cost estimator so you can gauge when you’re getting ripped off.

So take advantage of what the Internet has to offer–it may well prove to be more reliable than having a man around to do it for you.