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Buying Car As A Woman: Is Sexism Still An Issue

Updated on January 3, 2018
JynBranton profile image

Jennifer Branton is a nerd by trade most often writing about books and video games. She has a BA in Journalism from Lewis University

Downgrading And Saving

When I decided to lease my 2015 Corolla S Plus almost three years ago, the decision to get a Toyota had been a no brainer. One of the most reliable brands, mostly maintained their value for years after their purchase date according to all my research, it was odd that when my husband and I decided to downsize as we saved for a house that I would even research other brands.

I grew up in a family that had no brand loyalty when it came to vehicles. My parents went through a series of trucks ranging from Chevy to GMC before their series of Camrys. They had station wagons when I was child and in the age of the mini van, they had chosen to go against the grain and have smaller cars rather than the family grocery-getter being large enough to haul half the team to soccer practice.

The only thing my parents did care about was the classic cars in their possession and tended to favor Mustangs, Camaros, 442's, and Corvettes as their favorite playthings for the weekend.

When my husband and I decided to get something that was basically "just a car" as my snob of a brother had said, it was laughed at that we wouldn't want the most extravagant vehicle.

Actually, we felt that my Corolla was a little too big for our needs and explored the subcompact world.


My snob of a brother couldn't believe that I wanted just basic transportation to get to work.

The Frog Butts

In the decision to downsize to a subcompact. I instantly started to comb Auto Trader, Kelly Blue Book, and Edmunds for their recommendations. I liked everything from Yaris to even something nostalgic like a Volkswagen Bug to do the job of the next car that could drive me back and forth to work. Yes, my brother was right that none of these were very flashy options, but with a new job I was interviewing for potentially as close as the ten minutes from our home, I wasn't so much worried with being first off the red light.

None of these cars had the appeal of the Camaro I faithfully drove in college, but I kept reminding myself this was just a "to work and back car."

I began to call and send inquires to dealerships to plan test drives. Admittedly my husband who knew nothing more of cars than his high school auto body class only had two requirements: That it cars reliably and That it cars safely.

The rest was up to me.

He loved the idea of a subcompact which we nicknamed The Frog Butts after realizing most of the subcompacts seemed to come in that cute Kermit the Frog like hue as well as a collection of other colors that would be comfortable in my son's crayon box.

I don't know if the experiences that I had in my efforts are still typical of the shopping for a car as a female driver or if somehow I managed to find the last of the most chauvinistic car salesmen, but what follows in the quest for the perfect Frog Butt was ridiculous.

I don't know if I managed to find the last of the cavemen of sales people, but they really didn't seem comfortable dealing with a woman consumer.

Emails and Test Drives

My phone rang off the hook with dealerships looking to have me in for a test driver after I had filled out the offer portion on Kelly Blue Book to find out if it was worth trading in my lease a little earlier if the numbers made any sense. Technically I did have until the spring, but with end of the year incentives plus dealerships like Chevy having the same as Employee Pricing Event, I decided to put in some face time behind the wheel.

At one dealership they seemed to not take me seriously when I asked about any of stats on safety equipment on the car. I had done my homework well and knew all about the difference in the trim levels and wanted to see what carried over. Due to the current incentives, I tried my luck and what price I could get going up a trim to have options for blind spot monitoring and collision avoidance systems that were standard on some brands. I had my numbers and had priced out similar cars at different dealerships saying that I would consider buying a lower trim with just a backup camera per say if they would price match so and so up the road but no one took my bluffs seriously and one actually sent me off on my way with a handful of pamphlets.

I had another dealership seem to dodge returning my calls when wanted to talk numbers on what my trade would bring with its payout amount which I knew off hand and wanted to know how that compared to what they currently had a car priced at with several choices in financing and money down.

It was if the neanderthals of the car world had never dealt with a woman before, asking such ridiculous questions as if I needed a bigger car with more of a backseat for child seats and safety features so my offspring couldn't roll down the windows. Here I am asking you about horsepower and you want to show me cup holders and USB plugs. What is next how many vanity mirrors come in the car?

Then there was the most unbelievable experience that was so baffling that even my father in law and husband were in dismay of what had actually taken place.


Do your homework ahead of time: know the value of your trade and get the certificate from Kelly Blue Book for your trade ins value. Research the reviews and IHS safety rating of the car you are looking at. Test drive and be satisfied with your pick and don't be swayed by used car sale men tactics. Know what you are talking about and be a force to be reckoned with.

We Only Have The Blue One

Slow to accelerate but snazzy enough to get in the ring with cute little subcompact competitors like the ever youthful Kia Soul, I went to test drive my husband's favorite of the Frog Butts, the Chevy Spark.

This tiny little ride was dwarfed by my father in laws 2009 Aveo and I could hear my brother laughing in my head long before we pulled on the lot.

We had called the dealership days before and the internet manager had told me that he had the Brimstone green one that we liked the most in stock. I had doubts. It's color was funky and it had less safety features than what comes standard on cars like the Yaris with its Toyota Safety Sense standard on the base trim, but as a consumer I needed to rule out if I wanted to go back to Chevy. I had owned my Camaro for years as well as a Cavalier that was destroyed when I got T Boned by a drunk driver in 1999, but I harbored no animosity for the brand. The Cavalier saved my life and the Camaro was a big part of my life in college.

So we pulled on lot. My father in law and husband with for moral support. Once we had gotten into the dealership, my father in law took off to give us the illusion of privacy. My husband made it clear that this was my venture. Despite being told that I was the customer, the sales man had decided two things on the spot: He wasn't going to make enough commission on this sale to take any of this seriously and he wasn't going to humor the men I was with into thinking that he was here to serve me as the sales person when there was men afoot and neglected asking me any direct questions from the start.

Once the sales goon was reminded he was to answer to me he finally got the info of the car I was there to see and was to get a porter to move the car. Now granted its a Chicago winter, but as soon as the report came back the car I was actually there to see wouldn't start and they couldn't change the battery as the hood was frozen shut, this should have been my cue to go.

But I wasn't there to buy that day remember. It was just a test drive to see if we even liked the Spark.

So I let the sales guy go onto attempt to get a silver one going that he said they would have to jump start.

"We only have the blue one that is going to run," He said this annoyed, I looked around his desk at the plaques. My brother was a finance manager at another dealership and how many awards on the desk told you a lot about the sales person and their performance and time at the dealership. I saw one dating back three years.

I decided to give Barry the sales guy another try leading down the rabbit hole of misadventure.


The Shortest Test Drive

Barry the sales guy had no interest in selling me this car.

Maybe he knew I wasn't there to buy it. I hadn't even come with my checkbook. I was there to test drive and leave and give myself time to think about my feelings on old Sparky. Barry must have known this from the second I walked in.

It wasn't just that my brother worked in the auto industry, I had bought and leased cars before. I know how it goes.

Barry was so low on the level of caring once the Blue One had finally fired up he never asked me for my license or proof of insurance before leading me to the car adrift a mound of snow. He never told me anything about the features of the car, as basic as they were on the 1 LT trim. Maybe it was because I had said in passing I had owned Chevy's before but by God Barry wow me a little here. Not a single "Oh did you know it does this?"


Aside from turn left, turn right, he said nothing to me. Nothing to my husband crammed in the back. He let me drive about and sent me back. Maybe out of boredom, maybe because he hadn't gotten my proof of insurance copied.

We returned and without asking me anything about my trade in, Barry just nodded and went to the center podium to talk to whoever was in charge up there. I knew enough about dealerships that there was no actual conversation about selling cars and they were discussing their weekend for a bit to make me sweat before returning.

I mentioned when Barry returned again, a gentle reminder to do his job, that I had a trade in and a KBB certificate and they were welcome to look over my trade as I had never had it evaluated but instead he ran back to podium and made himself look busy awhile.

I had liked the car and the peppy little thing would have been a possibility we would consider if the model we actually came for was ever available as the Activ that I had inquired about wouldn't start.

Barry came back with his figures that apparently he was waiting for the podium guy to print off.

"With 3,000 down it will be between 237-277 for 72 months," He said flatly.

"I never gave you any info to run my credit, you still haven't inquired about my proof of insurance. or what I even wanted to put down." I started zipping my coat. "You didn't do anything to get to know the customer. How do you even know I'm currently employed? And You didn't even show me the car I'm here for."

Barry looked puzzled. "Should I tell my manger you aren't interested?"

"Now your'e getting the idea."

Barry followed me looking confused.

My father in law high-fived me for knowing that I was about to be taken advantage of if I had been serious about the purchase.

It made me wonder how many other women had fallen victim to such tactics.

There will always be predatory sales people, male or female customer alike so always do your research. Times have changed a little with so much power to know prices and get pre approvals online so take the time to know what is good deal going in to avoid the Barry's.

I worry if I was more ignorant or hadn't known about these tools if I could have fallen for the bait and switch and instant price they had come up with at the dealership. I hope not but it made me worry someone in the past had.

I went on the Facebook page for the dealership and was sure to tell them about the experience in hopes it shied a few women out of their dealership. In fact I had seen another woman review something in a similar fashion.

I haven't found the right car for me yet. Next week I will be test driving again until I find the right deal.


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    • bradmasterOCcal profile image


      2 years ago

      Interesting article.

      Living in S Cal there are lots of cars, and car dealers.

      Last year my wife and I bought two late model cars, as both of ours died of old age.

      My point is that, I did the search for the replacement cars, and found them. At that point it is my wife that test drove them and negotiated the financing for Both cars.

      And she even negotiated a nice discount on both the car and the financing.

      This wouldn't have been possible before the Internet pricing was available. The Internet pricing gives the fair car price, or at least a target price. This avoids the hours of negotiation to determine the price, even the ballpark price.

      Financing was and is still a major stumbling block for the car buyer, men and women.

      Anyway, that is our story.


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