For many women, going into a car dealership and negotiating on their own can be daunting. Many ‘car guys’* are still unfortunately, patronizing and dismissive to women buyers.
So I decided it was time to get over this fear and for the very first time, I leased my car on my own. Like almost every one of my friends, I would always take a guy with me, as if that would protect us from getting ripped off.
Finding a good car guy is not unlike finding a good doctor, hair stylist or therapist. I was lucky, I found an honest and down-to-earth car guy. Its more than just liking him– you have to trust him in order to ultimately feel good about your purchase.
Here are 7 things I learned during the experience:
How do I find Mr. Right?
It’s the luck of the draw who you get. A car guy will randomly come over to you or you get assigned someone from the Reception Desk. Either way, if in the first 5 minutes, you don’t like him, you can absolutely request someone else. They really don’t care if you switch, so trust your instinct and get someone you like.
Does it matter what I wear?
Many car guys are sexist and not used to dealing with women buyers by themselves, so what you wear can matter. But it’s how you carry yourself when you walk into that dealership that matters even more. I even carried a notebook to show I was serious.
The car guys are making snap judgments on you, like you are on them.
Exude confidence (even if you’re faking it), know what you want and be realistic about what you can afford.
How do I negotiate?
We’ve been conditioned to think we have to haggle with the car guy, spend hours going back and forth and then get approval for the final price from some mysterious Manager. This is not how it works today. It’s all in the computer. You figure out what car you want, 2 or 4 door, color, options and how much mileage you need per year (if you’re leasing). Then you tell car guy your budget per month and how much you want to put down and then it’s all calculated and he gives you your monthly payment. This is where trusting your car guy comes into play.
How do I know if I got the best deal?
Do your homework. Look on websites and see special leases and what’s included. Know the MSRP (the sticker price). Be realistic. You’re not going to get an 80K car for $400 a month unless you put down a huge down payment.
No one is trying to rip anyone off. In a perfect world, the car guy wants to sell the car at the sticker price. But this is the only business where you walk in and don’t want to pay what’s on the price tag. Can you imagine going into Nordstrom’s and saying I don’t want to pay this price for this jacket.
This mistrust goes back years when car guys used to ‘add on’ all this stuff and by the time you were done, you were paying way more. Nowadays, almost all the options you would want are included in the sticker price. But the mentality still exists that I absolutely cannot pay what’s on the ‘price tag’.
Don’t be afraid to commit!
It helps if you make the deal right then and there. Programs change month to month, sometimes the car guy gets incentive cash from the manufacturer. So if you get a quote and you go back a week later, the deal might not be available. Many people think if you buy on the last day of the month you can save a ton. It’s true that at the end of the month some Managers might get a little more aggressive, but in the end, the day doesn’t really matter.
How important is my credit rating?
The best thing to help you negotiate a good deal is your credit rating. If you have a high score, this can reduce your monthly.
Credit scores are based on the amount of credit you have and what the balance is. If your cards are maxed out, this is red flag, but if your cards have high limits and you have a low balance, that is a good thing. The best way to get a high credit score is to pay your bills on time. Car credit is the best credit you can have because it has the most risk. If you pride yourself on not having credit cards, you might actually be hurting your credit score.
What is one thing women should always ask when leasing/buying a car?
You need to ask if the tax, DMV fees and first month are included or additional. This can make a big difference in the final amount.
Most of us work for companies where our jobs require us to negotiate every day—and we’re great at it. So once you get over your insecurity and learn how to buy or lease a car on your own, you’ll get a real sense of accomplishment. And if enough of us start doing this– then maybe, this will change the attitudes of car guys everywhere. One could only hope.
*Note to Reader: I used ‘car guy’ as a ubiquitous car salesman/saleswoman term.