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My History of Car Buying and Why it Needs to Change

Dealership Culture, Women in Automotive, Nextup
A very brief internet search told me that people would buy seven cars over the course of their lifetime. At 30, I am nearly half way there. However, each time I have purchased a car, I’ve had very different experiences.

When the time came to buy my first car

I went through the whole routine. Searched the papers for sales, looked online (a little), and decided I was ready to go to a dealership and test drive something. Next, I did what all female car buyers are trained to do. I took a man with me so that I wouldn’t get duped by the slimey car salesman.

So, my uncle was the one to set the precedent on how I should be buying a car. He was aggressive. He played games, firmly haggled, told me not to fall in love with the car in front of the salesperson, and we even walked out of the dealership a few times when he wasn’t getting his way. Four hours later, I had my first car.

As a result, I felt pretty intimidated and relieved that I didn’t have to do that on my own. If this was what car buying was about, I didn’t want anything to do with it. Buying my second car wasn’t much different.

1. Aggressive person at my side.
2. Haggling over suspicious line items.
3. Several hours at the dealership.
4. Walking out.
5. Finally coming to an agreement and signing.

Time goes on, cars give out

Last year, I purchased my third car. Alone. Since I was on my own, I researched online for months. I had more information at my fingers tips than I did 15 years ago and even with two car deals under my belt. Finally, I was ready. My stomach twisted with anxiety on the way to the dealership.

I didn’t want to be aggressive and walk out. But I knew it was a possibility. I played scenarios over in my head and had firm responses to fake conversations that I thought I would be facing.

From the moment I walked in, I was completely caught off guard.

Larry, an older gentleman who talked slow, greeted me at the door. He was friendly and took his time. We looked at car after car. After 3 test drives, I made my decision. When it came time to talk about price, there was no haggling, no suspicious “mud flap charge”. It was easy. Moreover, I felt my anxiety subside. I was in and out of finance in under an hour. It couldn’t have gone better if I had planned it. Thanks Larry!

That was lengthy, but there is a point.

Autotrader says that 73% of consumers would drive out of their way for a great salesperson over the lowest price. I would agree. I don’t know what percentage of that is women.

But here’s what I do know.

1. Women play a leading role in 85% of auto purchases.
2. Women make up 65% of all new car purchases.
3. 89% of women are more likely to choose dealers based on referrals from friends.

It’s not exactly the Pythagorean theorem. If women are the primary influencers of car buying, and they have a good experience with a dealer, they will tell their friends. And their friends will go to that dealer to buy a car. It’s in the stats!

The dealership culture, as it stands, is not good. Less than 1% of people LIKE the car buying experience. And I think that 1% didn’t read the survey thoroughly. My last car buying experience was a good one, but I think I lucked out. Many people, let alone women, don’t even get one.

With 3.5 cars to go, I am hopeful that I can squeeze a couple more positive experiences. If only Larry can make it that long.

Finally, dealerships need to change the buyer’s perception. It’s not okay to feel like your going into battle just to buy a car. Buyers should be able to trust that a dealership has their best interest at heart or at least take the time to understand their needs.

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