Asking if women are better than men at buying cars is sure to spark as much debate as asking which sex is the better driver. The answer might boil down to who more enjoys negotiating.
The differences are relevant to marketers as more women are appearing on the road as well as in dealerships.
Brandy Schaffels, editor of female-focused auto site AskPatty.com, said, "2012 was the first year during which at least 51 percent of drivers were female. Women influence the buying process 80 to 90 percent of the time. Usually, the woman is the one who will take the car in for service. This is influencing the buying process."
A recent Swapalease.com survey found women like to negotiate more than men: 33.3 percent of female respondents and 25.1 percent of males said it "makes it a fun process."
But as Schaffels sees it, "We do not prefer to negotiate more than men, but we do our research better than men and are better armed.
"Car salesmen know they are going to get grilled."
According to Gabe Greene, general manager of Ed Martin Acura, women are buying vehicles more online, then coming in to take delivery. "They do their research and it saves time," he said.
"Men see negotiation as a battle; for women, it's more about the relationship," Schaffels said. "She may not negotiate as much because she's made a relationship. Women look for a more consultative selling experience. They also reach to social media to tell her peers when she's had a good or bad experience."
Schaffels and the Swapalese.com survey agree that men tend to focus on overall price, while women focus on monthly payment. That's usually because the woman is the one who is managing the budget and watching how much disposable income the family has.
Still, she's not going to go for an 84-month payment to make it work. Price ultimately matters.
The Female Appeal
The dominance of female customers is driving change in the retail space. And, notice how many females occupy automaker promotional photos.
"Dealerships need to be concerned about overall presentation," Schaffels said. "It should be comfortable and have a place for kids. Some dealerships have video cameras so parents can see what their kids are doing in the play areas while they complete the buying process."
As more women, like GM CEO Mary Barra, have ascended the corporate ladder at automakers and dealers, understanding women's unique wants and needs has become part of doing business. Showrooms, boardrooms and repair shops are no longer the exclusive realm of men.
"For kids, we've got a play area with interactive toys and a play station," said Mike Driver, general manager of Tom Wood Volkswagen. "Our upstairs VW museum is popular with kids."
The dealership has two female service advisers and one female salesperson because, Driver says, "Over 50 percent of our business is female; we're trying to mirror our customer base."
Greene said that salespeople who think women aren't involved in car buying are fooling themselves.
"We try not to focus on gender, but rather saving the customer time and providing value," he said. "We have a play area for kids and a business center shut off from noise. Recognizing mothers are busy, we have free service loaner cars."
He also said they keep later hours — open as late as 8 p.m. on Mondays — for those who work during the day.
No matter your negotiating style or gender, there are timeless tips for getting a good deal.
According to Shopalease.com, 31.8 percent of men and 36.8 percent of women feel like the dealer will always win. But both sexes can stack the odds in their favor.
"Always do your research first," Schaffels said. "Understand features and trim levels; know what you're willing to pay for. Dealers are entitled to a fair profit, but 'buy-it-now' is going away.
"There will always be another car on another lot."
This story originally appeared at the Indianapolis Star, and was written by Casey Wiiliams.
Casey (pictured on the right with his husband Jarrod and their daughter Amelia) has been writing automotive stories since he was a student at GMI Engineering and Management Institute 20 years ago and is a regular automotive contributor to the Indianapolis Star, Chicago Tribune, Denton Record-Chronicle, Dallas Voice, gaywheels.com, car-data.com, and Metrosource Magazine.