By: Hayley Ringle
Women buy 45% of all vehicles at new car dealers and have independently purchased 38 million new cars in the past five years, said Anne Fleming, CEO and founder of Women-Drivers.com, a website that connects women and families to certified car dealers.
Fleming has the pulse of what women want and what women should know to feel comfortable when they buy a vehicle at a local auto dealership.
Here are Fleming’s top tips:
- Do your research and take your time.
When it comes to the vehicle: narrow your choice to two or three cars, list the features you want on your new vehicle, and ask your friends and family for suggestions. Today’s cars are like computers on wheels, so if you have not bought a car in eight to nine years it is important to know all you can about the vehicles you’re interested in, Fleming said.
When it comes to the dealership: Women should vet the dealers they want to visit to look for the best reputation scores and reviews. It’s not just the nearest dealership you should consider. Fleming said six out of 10 women go to a branded dealership that is the farthest from their home.
“It’s all about trust, comfort, and a welcoming experience,” Fleming said. “We become hunters. We rank trust first and price fifth. That’s not to say that the price is unimportant, but trust is first because it’s relational, not transactional. We’re looking for an experience, to be treated in an exceptional manner.” Reviews by previous customers of their experience with a dealership give others insight into what to expect.
Research those dealer reviews to find a dealership you trust. See how issues get resolved. Read good reviews and bad ones and especially note how the dealer responds to negative reviews. Did the dealer get defensive or look for ways to resolve the issue? Consumers can also reach out to sales advisors directly. Look for bios on the dealer’s website and call the salespeople directly to see who you might enjoy working with. Make an appointment to meet and work with a specific sales representative at the dealership or if you want to shop from home ask that they send a video of the vehicles you’re interested in.
When you’ve found a vehicle you’re interested in, make sure you take it for a test drive, which Fleming said is imperative.
“You want your butt to be in the seat to see if you like it,” she said. “You have to feel yourself in it. It’s all about the experience. Test driving is really important. If you have a family, bring them to also test drive the car and get their experience as well.”
- Figure out what dealership amenities are important to you before choosing a dealership.
Most people don’t investigate what amenities a dealership has, Fleming said. As a buyer, are you interested in a loaner car when you’re getting your car serviced? Sixty-seven percent of women, according to Women-Drivers.com. Do you want the dealer to pick up your vehicle from your home or work for service? Does your local dealership have full childcare available when you’re buying a car? How long can you test drive the car you’re interested in?
“It’s imperative on the buyer side to find out what amenities are available and important to you before you sign on the dotted line,” she said. “What are your big asks you want in a dealership when buying your car? Do they have a return policy if you don’t like the car after 72 hours?”
- Be prepared when negotiating the vehicle deal and payments.
Now that you’re talking numbers, if you come in prepared the experience will go a lot smoother. There’s a good portion of dealers that offer just one price for each vehicle, but most do not, Fleming said. If you want to negotiate, make sure that the dealer is not a one-price facility. Research what other cars in the area have sold for. Bring a print-out from another dealer or from your research with a quote, that shows you have the purchase under control and are empowered. That puts you in the driver seat, Fleming said.
“Women are empowered and independent,” she said. “We’re talking about major influencers and major dollars going into this sector. If at any time the negotiation isn’t going to your satisfaction, you can ask to speak to another salesperson or ask to speak to a manager, someone you feel more comfortable with or someone who will listen to you better. If that doesn’t work, you can always choose to leave and go to another dealership. You’re in control.”
Good reviews are important to a dealership. Women can use reviews proactively in the negotiation stage. If the numbers are close, and your salesperson needs a nudge, buyers can offer up that they will write a positive review on the various platforms to get the deal done. This means something to the dealership. But if you do this, make sure you honor your word, Fleming said.
- Have a clear idea of your car’s trade-in value.
Do your research and know what your car is worth. Bring in that trade-in quote so you have something tangible to show the dealer. Make sure to keep that trade-in conversation separate until the vehicle price has been set, Fleming said.
“If they press you before you’re ready, just say you haven’t decided yet if you will be trading in your car; otherwise, the numbers get murky,” she said. “It’s to the buyer’s advantage to keep those conversations separate.”
- Know what your credit score is and the financial offers you qualify for before walking in.
Everyone is entitled to a free credit score and it’s important to know yours before purchasing a vehicle. You can get a free credit report from the three national credit reporting agencies: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. Also, check your bank and credit card companies for your free credit score.
Research beforehand what your bank offers and how much you can finance for your new vehicle purchase. Also, consider your local credit union for financing options. The more options you have, the better it is for you, Fleming said.
“You might get a much better rate if you come in with your own financing option,” she said. “Dealerships today are recognizing the Finance & Insurance experience should be faster. Many dealerships have F&I departments online so the transaction is faster.”
Some dealers use credit prequalification technology on their website so buyers can discover what they can afford on the lot before they even reach out to the dealer either online or in person. This is an effective way to know what cars you qualify for and what your monthly payment will be.
“It’s best to be as prepared as possible,” Fleming said. “Make sure you educate yourself first.”