We know what it takes to secure a promotion and are more confident than ever talking about money, so why do women still shy away from negotiating when buying a car? A Capital One study found that four out of five women take a man with them when shopping for a vehicle, and for good reason: Research suggests white women could pay as much as 50% more than men when buying a car, while African-American women could be hit with a 100% higher rate. Women who don't negotiate repair costs are also slugged with a higher fee. Yes, we're fed up with it, too. It’s time to tackle the taboo and find out how to secure your new set of wheels without a man—here’s how.
Skilled negotiators know there's research to be done before you even step foot inside a dealership. If you’re looking to have your dream car financed, Rod Griffin, director of public education at Experian, says it's imperative you check your credit score before falling in love with a car you can't afford. "Just like you research safety and luxury features, buyers need to ensure their credit and finances are also up to par so they can get the right car, and at the right price," he explains. "Credit scores are used by lenders to determine a borrower's ability to repay a loan. The better the credit, the more financing one may be able to obtain, and at better rates." If you have an excellent credit score, you may be able to use this to negotiate a better financing deal through the dealership, although many have hidden markups, so be sure to visit your bank for a quote before committing to a loan.
We love vintage finds when it comes to home décor, so it's no surprise that the secondhand trend is on the rise in the car industry, too. A recent Polk study reveals that Gen Z are among the biggest fans, buying over six times more used cars than new thanks to the "fashion statement" subtext, says Carroll Lachnit, features editor at Edmunds. While a retro ride might seem stylish, it could also be laden with maintenance issues. "Have a budget not only for the car itself, but also for repairs and maintenance. This is really important for an older car," she says.
If you're concerned about the state of a secondhand vehicle, hone your search. "If you are not a DIY person, try to limit your car search to very, very reliable makes and models. You may pay more, but you'll save money on constant repairs," she says. If you're interested in a model that's no longer being manufactured, check the price and availability of spare parts, and take that into account when vying for a lower sale price.
Every used car should come with a vehicle history report, a detailed log that chronicles the car's accident records, past ownership, maintenance, and any issues it's incurred, like flood damage or a faulty odometer. While a car dealer might not readily offer you the report, Lachnit says it's imperative to ask for one and thoroughly read through it. If you notice any inconsistencies or issues in the log, you may be able to leverage this information to get a better price.
You've reviewed the car's maintenance costs and thoroughly read through the vehicle history report, but don't stop there! While it might seem over-the-top, Lachnit says a common mistake people make is not booking a third-party mechanic to inspect the car before buying it. We're all for being confident enough to buy a car on your own, but enlisting expert help is a non-negotiable. She recommends looking for other consumer reviews to find a reliable mechanic to offer sound advice. "Search Yelp and other sites to find independent mechanics that people love and trust," she recommends.
"You can only intelligently negotiate if you know what a car is actually worth," says Lachnit, so searching comparison sites and visiting neighboring dealerships is a must. "Car dealers have a better idea of what the car is really worth, and will be more willing to negotiate if they see that you know [too]," she says. If you don't feel comfortable calling out that you've seen a similar vehicle advertised for a lesser price, she recommends bringing comparison information with you when you inspect the car. "If you can show your research on your phone or with a print-out of the appraisal, that says more than any amount of talking you'd do."
For private sellers, a used car can be a treasure trove of memories and emotions, but it's important to draw a distinction between perceived and real value when negotiating. "Private-party sellers may be more wedded to their asking price. Sometimes there's an emotional aspect to this; as humans, we tend to ascribe more value to an item if we own it," she explains. "The way around that is to show that you've done your homework, and you know the going price for whatever car you're looking to buy."
If the seller tries to tie a sentimental value to the sale, by discussing the personality of the owner or irrelevant activities it was used for, try to veer the conversation back to facts. Rather than discuss what the owner was like, ask where the vehicle was parked each day and what type of trips it was predominantly used for. If the car was kept undercover and only used for local trips, that could drive up the price.
If you find yourself shying away from negotiations, consider the context of the situation. "A negotiation can have a big impact on the sale price, and both car dealerships and private parties expect there will be some negotiation on the price," says Lachnit, so don't feel guilty for playing hardball. Like a job offer, it's foolish to simply accept the first offer.
In fact, she says the first price you're told likely has a buffer amount built-in, in anticipation that you’ll ask for a better deal. While there's no standard markup, it's safe to expect a dealership has added a 10% profit to the original asking price, says Matt Jones, a salesman with over 12 years of experience.
Finally, learn to have fun with the process! Buying a car is a milestone, one that can be seriously satisfying. If you know your budget limit, articulate that you've done your research, and aren't afraid to walk away from the sale, you're sure to be proud, regardless of the outcome. Remember: You're the driving force when making a deal, and you can secure your dream ride, solo.