Advice to women on how not to get taken by car salesmen

 Madison Avenue has clearly noticed the increased buying power of women, and nowhere is this more evident than in automobile advertising.
Women are now depicted in control of impressive machines, passing rows of semi trailers and skillfully avoiding sudden dangers on the highway.
These women make their own purchasing decisions, and are shown accepting the keys after successfully concluding their deals.

    Sadly, this view of women ends with the advertising image. The auto showroom is still an extremely sexist environment. While other workplaces have slowly moved to include more women, the auto showroom, with few exceptions, remains an exclusive mens club. Saleswomen are rare and female managers are almost nonexistent.

    This attitude may even extend to female customers. Salesmen can be slow to take women customers if they see a wedding ring on the assumption that the final decision wont be made without the husband. Unmarried women too, are frequently avoided. They are gaining a reputation as price shoppers-not a good bet for a quick sale.

    The problem for women and some minorities is further exacerbated by the fact that prices and sales tactics may be determined by how the customer is seen by a salesman. Recent surveys seem to show that women are frequently quoted higher prices, and on average, pay more for their cars. This is probably because they are perceived to be less sophisticated consumers. Unfortunately, there may be some truth to this view. Car lore is typically a part of male upbringing: fathers are less likely to discuss the topic with daughters.

    Even on a level playing field the stakes are high; dealer profits on mid-priced vehicles can run between $1000 and $5000. Modern sales systems are intentionally overwhelming in an effort to control the outcome. The following information will put you back in control, and enable you to negotiate your next car purchase with skill and confidence.

    The Game Plan

    Preparation for your purchase should begin long before you ever arrive at a car lot. Without some kind of plan you are virtually guaranteed to buy more car than you need, and at a higher price than necessary. Impulse buying is the number one reason for budget collapse. Most people simply fall in love with a car and follow their itch. Its easy to justify the extra expense when that glorious new set of wheels is right in front of you. As that glow wears off, however, you may find that you would have been just as happy with a less expensive car. Its too late to change your mind once the reality of those larger payments sets in. Consider the following before going shopping:

    1. Determine your budget and stick to it. Consider all the costs of car ownership when setting a budget. This includes insurance costs, tags and taxes. Fuel expenses can also impact your monthly budget. If you find that a new car is out of reach, consider a well maintained used car. Depreciation is greatest during the first few years of a cars life. Carefully choosing one of these can significantly lower your average cost per mile, and still provide dependable service.

    2. Determine your transportation needs and choose according to those needs. Cars are an expense, not an investment. The more you spend on a car, the more you will lose to depreciation. The clearer you are before you start shopping, the less influence a salesperson will have on your choice.

    3. Find out the dealers cost on any cars you intend to see. Be sure to add in all options and freight. Consumer Guides, Consumer Reports, Pace and Edmunds all publish books containing this information. This information will help you choose cars that fit your budget and give punch to your price negotiations. These books are the best and least expensive sources of pricing information. For around $5, one of these valuable references can be your companion throughout the entire buying process. You will also find auto buying guides in the reference section of the larger public libraries. For up-to-date price listings, make sure to use the most recent edition. There are editions for domestic cars and imports, as well as pickups and vans.

    4. Shop several banks or credit unions to determine current auto loan interest rates and the loan amount you are qualified to borrow. If possible, get pre-approved for your loan before to the dealer. This gives you negotiating power when comparing interest rates. If you dont like the dealers rates, you can always go back to the bank.

    After spending hours negotiating a good price, many buyers turn around and give it all back by accepting an inflated dealer financing package. Dealer finance departments often generate greater profits than their sales departments. For this reason, they are sold with the same high-pressure sales techniques used in selling cars. When all the figures are added up, you will usually pay more for your loan at a dealer than at a bank or a credit union.

    5. Avoid anything that creates pressure to rush your purchase. If your current vehicle has expired, rent a car to go shopping. Its well worth the $25 - $50 dollars a day it will cost. If you are short on time, take a day or two off work to do your research and shop around. Spend the time wisely and you will be well compensated. Remember that good preparation coupled with effective negotiation is worth a minimum of several hundred dollars, and you will be more satisfied with your choice.


Having done all your homework, youre ready to start looking at cars. Shop around. Dont get too excited about one specific car. Look at different brands or models in your category. Youll have more conviction when working your deal if you know theres another car waiting down the street.

    Avoid price discussions until you have narrowed your choices. Your price questions may be answered with an offer to see how it looks on paper. This, of course, is an attempt to get you negotiating. If you agree, you are shown the full list price of the vehicle including any markup and/or dealer-added items. You are then asked to make an offer on the car. If you take the bait and throw out a figure, the dealer maintains the advantage-unless youve first done your homework. Dont be drawn into any negotiation until youre ready. Be up front about your plans to look around and stick to them. Initial price quotes are almost meaningless anyway.

    What To Say (Or Not To Say) To The Salesperson

    Never tell a salesperson how much money you plan to spend This includes sidestepping questions about down payments and monthly payments. Talk about different models, colors, or whatever; just dont talk about your specific spending plans with the salesman.

    Give vague answers to specific questions about your budget. If you are asked how much you plan to spend or what monthly payment youre looking for, say something like: "Im not sure. I guess it really depends on which car I end up buying." If they persist just say "I just dont know yet." Salespeople hate ambiguous answers like these. They are masters at meeting objections, but they need material to work with. This type of answer offers them little.

    They should never know your specific spending plans until youre ready to sign on the dotted line. Once you reveal your budget, theyll be sure to get all of it. The pertinent axiom among professional negotiators is "She/he who talks first loses."


    When you have done all your preliminary shopping and are prepared to sit down and deal, tell them that youre ready to buy today if they meet your terms. Its important not to be seen as a price shopper when making your final rounds. Dealers know that once you have that rock bottom price, you only need to take it down the street and the next dealer will beat it. Of course, thats exactly what you plan to do.

    Once you start to negotiate, dont focus on price alone. Complex negotiations are often designed to distract you from important issues like trade value and auto loan interest rates. Insist on discussing one issue at a time. Dont be bullied. If you dont understand something, keep asking until you get a clear answer.

    Knowing what the dealer actually paid allows you to make an offer below their cost and force them into a realistic negotiation. Dont be afraid to make your initial offer as much as $1000 below dealer cost. Manufacturers sometimes offer unadvertised rebates to their dealers. You may never know about these unless you make that low offer. Negotiate hard and keep your offers below cost until you are sure you have seen the best offer. That "today only" price will be good tomorrow no matter what they tell you. Dont be pushed into an impulse decision.

    If, after a reasonable period of time, things dont move quickly enough, force the issue by making a show of your intent to leave. Be convincing, experienced salespeople have seen it all. Pull out your notes, and start mumbling about a competing model down the street. Theyll get the message. Stand firm and you will eventually see what amounts to a serious "bottom line" price quote. To be certain of the best deal, you must go through price negotiation at several dealers before signing. Emphasize to each one your intention to buy at the right price.

    During negotiation, you may be offered a variety of dealer installed options, warranty plans, and insurance plans. Most of these items are considered to be a poor value or are available elsewhere at a better price. Decide away from showroom pressure. Refuse to pay for items like "Paint Sealant" (a glorified wax job), Pin Striping, Undercoating, or "Lifetime Rustproofing"- even if these things are already on the car. These cost the dealer almost nothing and any warranties attached to these products are of questionable value. Ditto for extended mechanical warranties and loan life insurance.

    Once you have negotiated the lowest possible price, you may find other charges sneaking into the deal. Little gems like advertising fees, dealer association fees, and dealer prep charges are all bogus. These are normally included in the manufacturers sticker price and should not cost extra.

    Buying Used
    Its difficult to compare prices on used cars because of variables like mileage, condition and model year. The price guide books described earlier also come in editions for used cars. These can be a great help in establishing a used cars value. The average gross profit on used cars at most dealers is $2000 or more, so dont be bashful about making a low offer. Take any potential purchase to a good mechanic for a thorough checkup before finalizing the deal.

    A dealer will virtually never give you more than the wholesale value of your car - no matter what they tell you. You will almost always get more if you can sell the car yourself. Learn the value of your used car from newspaper ads and the used car price guide books. Write an ad emphasizing your vehicles positive qualities and put it in the paper and on the bulletin board at work. Screen potential customers by asking for a phone number and calling them back. If you do decide to trade, wait until you have negotiated a firm price on the new vehicle before mentioning your trade. This is the only way to know what you are really getting for your car.

    In spite of slightly lower monthly payments, a lease is one of the most expensive ways to buy a car. Lease payments are figured on the full list price of the vehicle with little room for negotiation. Record keeping for business use is slightly easier when leasing, but business transportation expenses are tax deductible whether the car is leased or purchased. Those payments may seem more attractive, but unlike buying, at the end of the lease term you dont own the car.

    You Hold the Power
    You hold the two strongest cards in the deck. The first is your ability to walk. If you dont like the way the deal is going, if you feel pressured or bullied, leave. Its your money; only you should decide when to part with it! Allow yourself plenty of time to eliminate any pressure you may impose on yourself. The second card is knowledge. The more time you spend on preparation, the better your deal is likely to be. The payback is truly enormous.