3 Ways Women Can Drive a Hard Bargain at the Car Dealership

Photo (cc) by David Hilowitz

It sounds like the beginning of a bad joke, but it’s actually the beginning of some good research…

A man and a woman walk into a car dealership. Each wants to buy the same make and model of car, with the same trim and option package. Who walks out with the better deal?

Answer: The man. But not as often as you might think. Last week, online car marketplace CarWoo! released a study on just this topic, and it showed that in 80 percent of the purchases it studied, ” There is no difference in either offers extended or negotiation styles based on the gender of the buyer.”

Of course, that means in one-fifth of the cases, there is a bias.

“What is surprising in this data is not the 20 percent of the cases where there is a significant difference,” says Peter Chiu, a CarWoo! vice president. “The eye-opener is that 80 percent of the time, there is no difference at all. That is certainly not what people commonly believe or expect.”

And when Chiu studied the reasons behind why 20 percent of women getting a raw deal, he found…

“Beyond the raw data, we also interviewed a number of dealers, and in the cases where there was a consequential difference in the offers, it seems that this was not a case of gender bias, but rather was a case of a skilled negotiator making a judgment about how best to close a sale.”

If Chiu is to believed, women can wrangle the same deal as men if they just learn to negotiate better. Here are three easy ways to do that…

1. Pretend to be a guy

These days, you can shop online, and no one will know what you look like, much less what gender you are. I may be a guy, but I’m not any good at face-to-face negotiation. So here’s what I did when I bought my Toyota pickup truck a few years ago (before all the problems)…

I logged onto Consumer Reports and paid the $5.95 for one month’s access to its awesome and objective car reviews. I checked that against Edmunds and some other sites, then I emailed dealers in my area and told them exactly what I wanted. I made sure each could see the email addresses of the other.

Sure enough, I had a deal in place within hours. When I came to the dealership to pay for and drive off with my Tacoma, it was the first time I met my dealer – who was a woman.

2. Hire a guy

Before my pickup truck, I drove an Oldsmobile – which I bought sight unseen. I had hired a car broker. Simply put, I retained an individual who makes his living haggling over car prices.

If you’re not careful, hiring a car broker can be swapping one set of problems for another. As CNN reported a few years ago, you definitely save time and aggravation by short-circuiting those painful hours on the sterile dealership floor room, but you may not save money unless you haggle with the car broker first.

Edmunds has some excellent advice about what to look for in a car broker, but here’s mine: I found a reputable broker by calling my car insurance agent. Then I met with the broker in person – he came to my office – and told him what car I wanted and what price I was willing to pay. (I had already consulted Consumer Reports.)

“Anything under that price, you can keep,” I said. “But if it’s anything over, I’m not interested.”

One intriguing piece of advice he gave me: This would be relatively easy to do if I didn’t care about the color of the vehicle. Since I care about cash more than color, I said sure. (I figure I spend most of my time inside the car, so I don’t really care what it looks like on the outside.)

The car was delivered to my office. The only reason I didn’t buy my latest vehicle the same way is that the broker had moved out of state.

3. Think like a guy

Perhaps our society is to blame, but it sometimes seems that women go into new situations full of doubt, while men go into them full of bluster. And when it comes to buying a car, the guy way might be best. CarWoo! put it best on its blog

“You should be cognizant of the self-fulfilling prophecy. If you walk into a negotiation with the belief the dealer is biased you’ll find something (truthful or not) to substantiate that belief and that will poison a negotiation. Approach each deal under the assumption that people are fundamentally good and ultimately it’ll work out.”

Happy hunting! And don’t forget, the best days of the year to buy a car are fast approaching. See our recent story How to Get the Best Deal on a New or Used Car

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.

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