Let's face it, for women buying cars, there's a gross stereotype that we don't know as much as men. Some salespeople exploit that the second we walk into a dealership. But the joke's on them because women influence over 80% of car-buying decisions in Canada. Are you sick of being patronized and getting screwed in negotiations? We've got you covered.
Before you even set foot on the lot, arm yourself with knowledge if you want to be a car-buying baddie. We'll guide you through the entire process, from pre-dealership prep to negotiating like a Pit Bull in heels. Get ready to drive away in a car you practically stole! Just kidding – I mean a car you worked hella hard for at a price you deserve.
- Pre-dealership prep for women buying cars
- How to deal with dealerships
- Negotiating tips for women buying cars
Pre-dealership prep for women buying cars
Before stepping foot into a dealership, do your homework to ensure you're well-prepared and confident. Research the cars you're interested in, including average market prices, available options, safety features, etc.
Then get to work on short-listing your options and getting your finances in order. Assuming you already know what you want and used a car loan calculator to figure out what you can afford, here’s how to prepare for your car purchase like a boss.
Get insurance quotes
To shortlist the types of cars you’re interested in, get and compare multiple car insurance quotes for the different makes and models you're considering. This will help you calculate the insurance costs associated with each option so you can factor those expenses into your decision-making process.
Comparing insurance rates can help you identify vehicles that are more affordable to insure, potentially saving you a ton of money on both the initial purchase and ongoing insurance premiums. Taking this extra step empowers you to choose a car that aligns with your budget and overall financial goals.
Get pre-approved for a loan
Assuming you’re not paying cash for the car, get your financing squared up before you step foot on the lot. Ideally, you want to get pre-approved for a car loan at your own bank or credit union before you start shopping.
Not only are they more likely to give you a better rate and term, but now you know what your top-end budget is and can shop within it. Even then, loyalty is not your friend.
Shop around and compare interest rates and terms from other banks and credit unions besides your own. Once you find the best possible offer, get your pre-approval in writing. Women buying cars need every possible tool during negotiations (more on that later!).
Keep it short
When it comes to the length of your car loan, shorter is better. Opt for the shortest term you can comfortably afford in order to pay less interest over the life of the loan and build equity faster. Shorter car loans reduce the risk of ending up underwater on your loan by minimizing the impact of depreciation. Plus, you’ll be payment-free that much sooner, giving you a lot more financial freedom to reach your other goals.
Why is this important for women buying cars? You may need to leverage your pre-approval to see if the dealership can offer you better financing terms – but you need to compare apples to apples. If you opt for dealer financing, pay close attention to the term outlined in the quote to make sure you’re not signing up for a longer loan than what your bank quoted.
Research preferred pricing programs
Once you’ve decided on a few different cars you’re interested in, research preferred pricing options from the manufacturer as well as local dealerships in your area. There are tons of discount opportunities available based on who you work for, if you’re a student or newcomer to Canada, you recently graduated from a college or university, you’re a veteran, etc. There are even discounts available to the disability community if the vehicle will need to be adapted to your needs.
Where to look
For example, the Toyota Mobility program will reimburse up to $1,000 for eligible customers who require adaptive driving aids or mobility assistance equipment installed. Some Honda Dealerships in Alberta offer special pricing for members of the Alberta Teachers Association.
Nationwide, Honda offers a special financing program to help international students, post-secondary graduates, and newcomers to Canada qualify for their first new car.
General Motors (GM) has partnered with major employers across the country to offer special pricing for employees. You can search your employer’s name to find out if you are eligible for any discounts.
Stack those discounts
Many preferred pricing programs can be used in combination with other deals and promotions. Make sure to do your homework and discuss what other discount options are available and if they can be stacked with any preferred pricing programs you qualify for.
Shortlist the dealerships
Next, women buying cars should do business where we'll be treated the best. Ask friends and family for recommendations, read Google reviews, check out their Facebook pages, and look them up on the Better Business Bureau website. Look for positive and negative reviews of the dealership overall, as well as specific salespeople so you know who to ask for and who to avoid.
Visiting reputable dealerships with above-board employees will eliminate a lot of stress during the sales and negotiation process. It also helps prevent you from falling victim to shady or downright fraudulent sales tactics.
Consider shopping outside your area
Pricing is a function of demand, which means the cost of certain makes and models could vary significantly depending on where you live. For example, sedans and compact cars might be more expensive in big cities where demand for that type of car is higher. While trucks and SUVs might be more expensive in smaller towns and more rural areas. If you’re able to travel a few hours outside your area to buy a new car, you could snag a much better deal than if you had bought locally.
Dust off your printer
The first place you’ll probably start car shopping is online. So print off the advertised prices and special offers for the different vehicles you’re interested in and take them with you to the dealership. Why? Because the price online can differ from the price in the showroom (more on that later).
A physical cheat sheet can be a game-changer for detecting BS. Printing out info on prices, deals, and your must-haves will not only empower women buying cars, but also help us stay confident and relaxed during the entire car-buying process.
How to deal with dealerships
For many women buying cars, the dealership is where things can really go off the rails. Remember to stay focused and assertive while keeping your researched information on hand. Your preparation and badass negotiating skills will help you stay in control of the car-buying process and ensure you drive away with a deal that suits your budget and preferences. Here’s what to do when you get to the dealerships.
Beware the Bait n’ Switch
Some dealerships use to-good-to-be-true pricing or financing offers they have no intention of following through on just to get you into the building. It’s called the “bait n’ switch” where the dealership advertises a vehicle at an extremely low price or with an attractive financing offer, usually online. This is particularly problematic for women buying cars because we tend to be less assertive and more accepting of “explanations” that don't add up.
When you show up at the dealership, they tell you the vehicle has already been sold, is out of stock, or the offer only applies to the base model unlikely to have the features you want. The salesperson will then try and persuade you to look at the more expensive model or another vehicle altogether that is more profitable for them and a worse deal for you. Don’t fall for it! This is precisely why you should print everything out ahead of time and bring it with you.
Do not test-drive cars that are not on your list
You’ve done extensive research, know what you want, and what you can afford. By this point, you should have at least 3 different models you want to test drive. But keep in mind, the salesperson is incentivized to increase the profit margin for the dealership and fatten their own commission.
So they’re going to try and get you behind the wheel of a more expensive car so you fall in love with it. Stick to your guns and refuse to test drive anything that’s not on your list to avoid buying something outside your budget and scope of needs.
Never discuss the monthly payment
This is one of the most important rules for women buying cars: never tell them your desired monthly payment! Instead, negotiate the total purchase price of the vehicle so you know the true cost. This will save you thousands of dollars in the long run. Why?
Focusing on the monthly payment serves only to distract you from the final sale price and the total cost of financing your car loan. Dealerships use several sneaky tactics to structure the deal in their favour such as extending the loan term or adjusting other factors to make the monthly payment appear affordable, while you end up paying a ton more in the long run.
Negotiating tips for women buying cars
The negotiating process can be especially daunting for women buying cars. Before you go, eat a good meal, hydrate, and bring snacks. Dealerships have been known to intentionally drag out the process to frustrate you into hastily accepting their “best” offer. Keep calm, be assertive, and use these tips to stay in control.
Exploit that end-of-month magic
Waiting to purchase a car at or near the end of the month is a boss move. Salespeople and dealerships often have monthly quotas and targets to meet, which can help you negotiate a much better deal because they’re desperate to hit their goals. By timing your purchase accordingly, you could save thousands and close the sale hell faster. This is an especially handy trick for women buying cars because it shifts the power dynamic in our favour without any effort.
Pit the dealerships against each other
Some women buying cars are intimidated by the negotiation process. So make other people do it for you! Reach out to each dealership on your shortlist and request a detailed quote, including any fees, discounts, or incentives that they may offer. Once you've gathered quotes from multiple dealerships, compare them to identify the most attractive offer. Then, reach out to the other dealerships and let them know you have a better offer on the table, asking if they can match or beat the price.
This puts dealerships in a position where they're competing for your business, which can help you get better pricing and incentives. Always stay polite and professional throughout the process, emphasizing your genuine interest in the vehicle but also your desire to find the best possible deal. By encouraging dealerships to compete with one another, you can increase your chances of getting the best possible price on your car purchase – but they did all the leg work for you! #winning
Leverage your pre-approval
Remember that pre-approval you got from your own bank? Now’s the time to leverage it. A car loan pre-approval is your secret weapon walking into negotiations with the dealership – shifting the power dynamics in your favour.
After you’ve squared away the final purchase price and any special offers in writing, it’s time to talk financing. Let them know you've been pre-approved for a car loan and ask if they can match or even beat the terms and interest rate.
It's like a friendly challenge for them to win your business! Take your time comparing both options – think about the interest rates, loan terms, and any extra fees. Crunch the numbers and choose the option that saves you the most money.
Get everything in writing
Verbal agreements can be easily forgotten or overlooked and are rarely binding. To protect yourself and ensure that all negotiated terms, discounts, and features are honoured, request that everything be documented in writing. This will also provide you with a clear reference point in case of any disputes or misunderstandings.
One tactic you can use is to start the process by emailing dealerships closer to the beginning of the month. You can go back and forth about what you’re looking for, pricing, promotions, preferred pricing programs, financing rates, etc. Then wait until the end of the month to physically visit the dealership to test drive and potentially close the deal. You’ll have a chain of communication on hand as proof of what was offered.
Don’t buy the extended warranty… yet
Dealers often push extended warranties during the car-buying process, but it's not always the right time to purchase one. Instead, take the time to research and compare warranty options and prices from third-party providers. You can always purchase an extended warranty later on, typically just before the standard warranty expires. Doing this can help you snag a much better price.
Read the fine print (every single word!)
This part can be especially stressful for women buying cars because that's when most of us are pressured into moving quickly and signing on the dotted line. Dealerships will try and push a ton of bogus fees that are not actually mandatory, despite what they tell you. Before signing any contract or agreement, carefully read all the fine print. You need to be aware of any additional fees, conditions, or terms that may be hidden within the documents.
Then scrutinize everything. Ask what each fee is for and if you are legally required to pay it. For example, you have to pay for things like sales tax, freight, and pre-delivery inspection (PDI) fees. However, the amounts can vary between dealerships and should be listed separately on the invoice.
Fees that are not mandatory and are open for negotiation include things like administrative fees for processing paperwork related to your purchase, dealer fees or dealer preparation fees, and sometimes loan origination fees and other costs related to financing the purchase.
Carefully scrutinize the disclosure statement. Make sure optional, and often unnecessary, add-ons like scotch guarding, VIN etching, rust-proofing, and creditor protection insurance have not been added to the deal without being properly disclosed and discussed with you.
It's crucial to ask questions, research, and understand all fees associated with your car purchase and financing to ensure you're getting the best deal possible. Women buying cars should be especially assertive about getting clarification on everything, especially if something seems off.
This stands for Bring Your Own Calculator. Luckily, there’s one on your smartphone. Having your own calculator on hand can help you verify any calculations or financial figures presented by the dealer. This power move allows you to double-check all the numbers and ensure that all discounts, incentives, and negotiated terms are accurately reflected in the final price. If something is amiss, you’ll be able to suss it out with math.
Walk away (if you have to)
Don’t make empty threats. Be prepared to actually walk away from a deal if it doesn't meet your needs or budget. This will give you the confidence to negotiate more effectively and it prevents you from getting pressured into a crappy deal.
Remember, there are always other dealerships and options to explore if the current negotiation isn't working out. You might be surprised how quickly the salesperson changes their tune or calls the next day with a better offer.
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About The Author: Heidi Unrau
Heidi Unrau is the senior Finance Journalist at Hardbacon. She studied Economics at the University of Winnipeg, where she fell in love with all-things-finance. At 25, she got her first bank job as an entry-level teller. She moved up the ranks to Credit Analyst, Loans Officer, and now a Personal Finance Writer. In her spare time, you'll find her hiding in the car listening to Freakonomics podcasts, or binge-watching financial crime documentaries with a pint of Häagen-Dazs. When she's not chasing after her two little boys, she's in the hot tub or arguing with her husband over which cash back card to use for date night. She’s addicted to coffee, crypto, and obsessively checking her credit score on Borrowell.
Fun Fact: Heidi has lived in five different provinces across Canada, loves her free Tangerine bank account, and will never cut back on Starbucks. Like ever.
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