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Are Men and Women Treated the Same When Buying a New Car?

By Natalie Josef, November 9, 2011

Walking onto a dealer lot to purchase a new car is daunting. All of us worry about whether or not we will get a good deal and if we are being treated fairly. We all want the dealer to be direct with us and the less haggling, the better. We don’t want any surprises and we all want to feel like we are getting the best price possible.

But do women have more to worry about?

It is widely believed that women get treated worse when buying a car because they know less and get taken advantage of by salesmen, who use that lack of knowledge to pull the proverbial wool over women’s eyes.

But is it true?

A recent study by CarWoo.com, a company that helps consumers anonymously get fair quotes on automobiles from local, vetted dealers, says no. The CarWoo! analysis shows that “in 80 percent of the cases, there is no difference in either offers extended or negotiation styles based on the gender of the buyer or the gender of the dealer.” Of course this means that in 20 percent of their cases, there was a significant difference ($500+) in the offers extended to men versus the ones extended to women.

The problem I found with this study is that it only focused on the bottom-line price and included no findings about how women are actually treated. If a woman has to fight tooth and nail and haggle and bully her way into a fair price—when a man can walk in and snag the same deal—that’s hardly a sign that all things are equal. The study also suggests that the problem could be a self-fulfilling prophecy, meaning that if women expect to be treated poorly, they will be. According to the study, "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."

Meanwhile, this issue has been studied extensively by Edmunds, a company that has been providing consumers information about buying cars since 1966. Their studies (which include secret shoppers) have concluded that men and women received different treatment in nearly every instance. A study they conducted of Hyundai dealerships in Los Angeles found unequal treatment at two out of the three dealerships that were studied.

The issue has also been studied by economists Ian Ayres and Peter Siegelman, who examined 200 dealerships in Chicago and found that women are consistently quoted higher prices than men.

I find the self-fulfilling prophecy suggestion by CarWoo! hard to swallow. If most studies show that women are being treated differently, then I think it’s reasonable they will find signs that they are being treated differently. If I walk into a dealership, as a woman, and find the salesman to be condescending, I doubt the salesman is being that way because I expected him to—he probably just is that way.

I do agree with CarWoo! in their belief that most dealers are decent, honest people. I know a few bad apples can give a whole lot of weight to a stereotype and I am sure that most dealers just want to sell their cars, and it doesn’t matter to whom. But there is no denying that the car industry is still a man’s world. One study's findings that men and women are treated the same does not magically undo decades of sexism.

When going to buy a new car, come armed with information and quotes from websites like CarWoo! and Edmunds so you can be as informed as possible about the car you are looking to buy. You should also be prepared to walk away if you feel the dealer is treating you poorly or quoting you too much. This goes for guys, too. Buying a new car is stressful and a huge decision—go in there informed and ready!

2 User Comments

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By , November 09, 2011
I believe women are treated unfairly in a lot of cases when purchasing a new or used vehicle. In my opinion the unfair treatment also happens in auto repair shops too but this article does not address that problem. There are just to many unscrupulous sales people out there to deal with. There are ways to get around the problem. A division has to be made first on the kind of car and what options you will want. The first way is to get new car prices online. Edmunds.com and kellybluebook.com both offer new car pricing on their websites. While you are in the site, find out what your old car's trade in value is. There are other sites to preprice a new car. In some cases dealerships will compete for your business. The other way is the old fashioned way. Get written quotes from two or three dealerships telling the first ones you are going to by a vehicle and you are shopping around. Ask each for their best price without a trade in. Go to the dealership where you would like to actually buy the car last with the quotes in hand and ask if they will beat the prices without a trade in. After you get there best price ask them what they would give you for your old car. That way you have control not the sales person. Then you can decide if you want trade your old car in for that price or sell it yourself. Inflated trade in prices is where they get you if you do not know what your old car is worth. I have been in the auto business for over 50 years. If you have more questions email me at knucklebuster44@yahoo.com.
By , November 09, 2011
Anytime a car is involved in any type of circumstances (even a car wash!) and a woman is present instead of a man, she is treated differently and lied to. Men think we are stupid when it comes to cars and we will believe any bunch of crap they tell us. I love Repair Pal because I can trust the estimates I get from them for repairs and service charges.