Damsel in a Dodge

by Leina Ussin


My current car I got roughly four years ago, so I accurately remember the purchasing experience. It was the first time I would be buying a vehicle on my own without my parents, so excited was an understatement. I remember checking cars out online and feeling like my options were limitless.

I remember going to the dealership by myself and stating very clearly what I wanted. At the time, it seemed so simple. I needed a car no older than a 2012, with no more than 75,000 miles on it, for under $10,000 (R152 722,00). I remember thinking I would be shown an abundance of cars and I would have to struggle to chose. I couldn’t wait to do a test drive and get the one that felt the best for me!

Imagine my disappointment when the sales associate told me it would be impossible to find what I was looking for. He immediately gestured me towards the newer cars and told me for a few thousand dollars more, I could get a brand new car. I’d be the very first driver and wouldn’t have to worry about any previous wreck history! I listened as he explained about credit scores and possible co-signers. I listened as he continuously tried convincing me what car would be best for me.

I didn’t get a car that day. As a matter of fact, it took me a little over two weeks to get a car. Not because I was being picky, but literally every single dealership I went to attempted to divert me from what I was asking for. I remember thinking maybe the car I wanted wasn’t realistic. Maybe they were right and I needed to just get a brand new car and pay a high car note. I was well into week three, sitting at another dealership, this time 45 minutes away from my home town thinking, this was it. This was my last chance. If I couldn’t find something today, I would suck it up and spend a little extra. I mean, these people worked at the dealership, right? They knew better than me what my chances would be to get the car I was looking for. If they said it didn’t exist, it didn’t exist.

I remember walking with the salesmen as he showed me all the newest cars and how he could get me the best deal if I put something down today. I remember that anxiety rising within me as I felt like this was my best option, even though I wasn’t looking forward to a $400 (R6 104,08) car note. And just when I had given up, a notification came to my phone.

A 2012 Nissan Versa with 72,000 miles was on sale for $8,000 (R121 966,88). I immediately dialed the dealership’s number to call and verify this was accurate. I remember the look on the current salesman’s face as I ended the call, and felt a wave of empowerment take over me. I looked him directly in his eyes and said, “I’m sorry, the car you said doesn’t exist just became available!” Now, I won’t sit here and pretend that purchasing my car was a breeze because it wasn’t. But I stuck with it because it was the car I wanted, and not one the dealership told me I needed.

I’m sharing this story because surprisingly, most women dread the idea of purchasing vehicles for this reason! As a matter of fact, I conducted my own personal survey to see exactly how many women feel uncomfortable going into a dealership and buying a car. Out of thirty women, 73% are uncomfortable buying cars because they feel they will not be heard or treated fairly.

“I don’t like purchasing from dealerships,” says Mary-Kate Clark. “I’m a side of the road/parking lot gal. It’s all too much. There are 100 pages you have to sign that you don’t know what the terms and conditions are. The price is never the price and there are so many add-ins. I just don’t trust salesmen and dealerships.”

And there’s no argument here. That $8,000 (R121 966,88) car I was interested in soon shot up to $10,000 (R152 722,00) when all these additional fees were thrown at me. Now, I am completely aware of sales tax and other fees that come with a car, but it was like every time we had stated what the price was going to be, the next day it seemed to change. I finally had to put my foot down and demand they take $1500 (R22 920,78) off of the car or I would take my business elsewhere. Though my voice sounded sure and convincing, deep down inside I was petrified. I knew if they called my bluff I would be forced to try and find something else, or look like a hypocrite and pay the price they were asking for. Much to be a relief, they took the $1500 (R22 920,78) off.

It’s no secret that sales associates get a commission from the cars they sell, so I won’t sit here and bash them for doing their jobs. Even if it creates a horrifying experience for most women. I will say though, ladies, it’s up to us to know what we’re getting into.  Before we try a new product, we do our research. We check reviews, we ask around, we do our due diligence. And shopping for a car shouldn’t be any different.

Like I said, yes, 73% of women are uncomfortable buying cars, but that 27% that are comfortable have some pretty good reasons why! “I’m not intimidated with negation,” Rain Warren states. “I know exactly what I’m going in for and what I’m willing to spend. I do my research before going so I can’t be played since it’s known that they get over on women. “
“I do my homework about what I am looking for. I also check the blue book value and if it’s used I make sure it hasn’t had any previous problems,” Cyrille Nash shares.

Two very simple suggestions, but ones we sometimes overlook. And hey, I get it! We have this vision of what we want, what we want to spend, and we expect to have it. We can treat going to the dealership like we treat getting a manicure. We tell you what we want to get done, and it should simply be done, right?
Wrong!

As simple as we’d like this process to be, it’s not. And ladies, it’s time we take on some extra responsibility. Yes, it’s important to know your budget and what you’re willing to spend. But there are extra things we need to look into as well.

“It’s very important to know where you are as an individual with everything as well. Such as your credit score,” says Briana Bernal. Briana is a sales consultant at Silsbee Nissan, located in Silsbee, Texas. From previous conversations between she and I, she’s made it quite clear her role is to give genuine customer service to women by being honest and letting them know what their options are. “My best advice is to be as informed as you can about rebates and incentives, interest rates, and selling price. You have to do your research. Don’t just believe what you’re being told.”

Asia Williams, a former employee at a car dealership, calls the selling of cars to women, how most of us see it. “First of, it’s already a shiesty business to start off with. As a salesperson, you have to be dishonest to make money. Men ‘usually’ come in and know exactly what they want, engine size, the Kelly blue book value. . . allat! Women usually just want a dependable, inexpensive car. We would go in with a price in mind instead of the car.”

And just like that, ladies, we become a target. Yes, it sucks, and yes it’s totally unfair, but it’s up to us to break this stereotype of women being naïve about buying cars and demand to be treated equally!

With that being said, KNOW YOUR CREDIT SCORE! This is important for a million reasons! It gives you the upper hand when it comes to negotiating about car prices. You may literally have to put absolutely nothing down when you buy a car, based upon your score. Or, you can know how much to put down and how much to the pocket because your interest rate won’t be high!

Which brings me to my next important tip, KNOW YOUR BUDGET! If you don’t want to spend over $10,000 (R152 722,00) on a car, do not spend over $10,000 (R152 722,00) on the car. That salesperson is there do one job, make the sale. Once that car is off the lot, they have done their job. You’re the one responsible for paying for this vehicle monthly. Don’t let anyone talk you into a financial bind!

DO YOUR RESEARCH! As stated previously, ladies, we often walk into a dealership with a price in mind. We haven’t done much investigation on cars because we just know what we’re willing to spend. Stop that! If you’re looking for a car for looks or durability, do your research! See what cars are long-lasting even with higher mileage. Look into how much similar cars cost and compare. You have the right to walk into the dealership with all of this information and state facts when you’re being told otherwise. Plus, it would be nice to catch a salesperson in a lie!

Never let anyone make you feel like you have to make a decision right then and there. If they are offering you a deal on the spot, chances are, they are just as anxious to sell, as you are to buy. Don’t be impulsive! It’s another stereotype we’re trying to shake, ladies!
And for my ladies with not so great credit scores, don’t feel like these tips don’t apply to you! Dealerships will use this against you and can end up having you stuck with high-interest rates, just because you feel like this is your best option. And it’s not! You have just as much right to get the car you want, like anyone else! Figure out your budget, what you want to spend, get the details on the car, and do not be swayed otherwise!

Now, I definitely don’t plan on being in anyone’s dealership anytime soon, but, with this newfound information, I am glad to say that the percentage of uncomfortable women has dropped down 1%. And I am definitely glad to say, when I do step foot into a dealership again, I will be a force to be reckoned with!

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