survival guide to buying a car
When it's time to buy
a car, what's the first thing that goes through a woman's mind? Not MSRPs or power
train warranties. Typically, the first thing women worry about when they head
to the dealership is "What man can I take with me so I'll get a fair deal?" That's
because women are treated much worse than men when they hit the car lot. But even
if you grab your dad, brother or boyfriend, the headache has just started.
actually met a woman who went into a dealership to buy a car, filled out the paperwork
and when she got it home and reread it she found out she had actually leased
the car," says Donna Kane, public relations manager for Hyundai Motor America.
who teaches empowerment workshops for women car buyers and owners through a Hyundai
program called "Power of the Purse," explains that the female customer wasn't
stupid, just totally misled. In fact, many women car buyers get no respect.
As an experiment in
gender inequity, Bankrate.com sent me, a 22-year-old female reporter and John,
a 34-year-old copy editor, to a local Nissan dealership. We weren't picking on
Nissan -- it could have been any car lot.
drove onto the lot, and I began to check out the new Nissan sports utility vehicle,
the Xterra. On looks alone, I'd call it a "hottie." But I knew better than to
be seduced by a great paint job.
the salesman in a cheap shirt and cheaper tie, not that John and I held it against
him. I walked up to him with all the confidence of Austin Powers on a shagadelic
groove, baby. But the dealer had other plans ... making me feel like John's "Mini-Me."
He introduced himself by shaking John's hand -- then mine. I explained I was there
to see their Xterra. He immediately showed me the color palette for the SUV. I
immediately wondered if that would be the main selling point if I had more testosterone.
he showed us -- or I should say, John -- the top model. He talked about the storage
space and all the nifty things you could do with the seats. He showed me the "pretty"
titanium controls that were white in the day and turned blue when you put the
headlights on. Oh, goody.
had to ask to sit in the Xterra and was never offered a test drive. This may be
the sports utility vehicle of my dreams, but Mini-me is not a happy camper!
then took us into his office and spouted technical information about the warranties,
engine and gas mileage -- all the while looking right at John. When I said, "I
really like it, I'm surprised how affordable it is." And he responded "Yeah, it's
real neat isn't it?" Then he was back to specifics with John while I stewed in
silence. Where's a laser beam when you really need one?
we started to leave, the salesman asked for John's phone number, but not mine.
Again I was out of the loop. Then the salesman mentioned he was surprised how
many women were buying the SUVs and pickup trucks. John piped up, "Yeah, my next
purchase will be a pickup" That was music to our salesman's ears.
thing we knew, he was doing his sales-warrior's song and dance to sell John a
new truck. My co-worker was shown every truck in the showroom. I wandered off
to look at another vehicle, and our dealer didn't seem to notice my absence.
the way out, the salesman again shook John's hand first and told him to come back
when he wanted to buy that truck. Xterra? What Xterra?
two of the experiment:
So -- if
a salesman talked to John instead of me, the salesman at the next showroom would
talk directly to me if I were alone, right? Ha! I parked in front at a local Volkswagen/Mitsubishi
dealership. There were no other customers on the lot. I had time to thoroughly
read the stickers of the Passat, Jetta and Beetle, and the Mitsubishi Montero
for good measure. The reason I had so much time is because I wasn't approached
by a single salesman. No welcome, no handshake, no nothing. Had sales tactics
changed so much that I needed to stand in the middle of the lot screaming and
waving my checkbook around?
I drove to a Chevy dealership down the street. I again looked at several cars
on the lot. And again, nothing. It seemed my hormones were making me Captain Invisible.
went back to my office and called the general sales manager of the Volkswagen
dealership. He informed me that his dealership liked to give customers a solid
two minutes to look around, explaining: "We don't want to be waiting on the curb
for you when you drive in."
I was there for more than 15 minutes and told him so. I also explained that I
was a reporter. His response: "Well, don't you think your story is about 20 years
too late? Women represent about 85 percent of our sales. Times have changed and
women are treated just the same on a car lot."
disagrees. She says: "When are [car salesmen] going to get it? They just don't
understand that women make 80 percent of all car-buying decisions. Over than 70
percent of everything sold in the U.S. is bought by women."
problem is, Kane offers, "old habits die hard. Years ago, the man made all of
the decisions when it came to buying a car, and the sales training manual teaches
the dealer how to deal with men. I don't care what the manual says. They are dummies
if they aren't respectful to women."
Jack Nerad, author of "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Buying or Leasing a Car,"
says the most important weapon women have to combat discrimination in the car
dealership is their feet.
out," Nerad explains. "There is plenty of competition out there. Continue shopping
until you find someone who will treat you right.
"Things are changing, but
they are changing slower than consumers would like. It's really self-defeating
for the dealer to treat a woman badly. [Women] have a lot of purchasing power.
They should use their immense leverage."
respect is one option you won't find listed on the sticker of a new car.
of Rights for female car buyers