Effectively Haggle a Fair Price for a New Used Car, avoiding Sexism

Many men won’t admit this, and many men aren’t able to SEE this, but it’s true — your dad or husband or brother can negotiate better deals at the dealership than you, if you are a woman.   Just as white people (such as myself) have a hard time fully recognizing the privileges they receive as white-skinned people, males have a hard time recognizing the privileges they receive because they look male.

This is part of the ‘How to Be an Adult – Things I Wish I’d Learned in High School’ series.  To learn from all of my past mistakes and breeze through various parts of adulthood, click here.

When I shopped for a new used car, not one of the sales representatives would negotiate price with me much, and if they were willing to haggle, I still wasn’t able to get the AVERAGE Kelly Blue Book price.  Not only that, but when I test drove a car I wanted at a dealership and asked them to run a specs test on the heat output because I thought it was weak, they waved their hand in dismissal, telling me ‘everything was fine.’  I said it was not fine, and asked them again to conduct the manufacturer’s spec test.  They reluctantly agreed to conduct the test, but based on their answer, I knew that they didn’t actually do the test.  I truly feel that if I was a man, they would have treated me differently.

Until a few years ago, I was oblivious to the pervasive superior mentality many men have to varying degrees (like everything, there’s a spectrum, right?) and learn from early ages in our society.  My eyes were forced open when I read Lundy Bancroft’s book “Why Does He Do That? Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men“.

After test driving several cars at a several dealerships, I was despairing a bit and was ready to settle on an overpriced Honda Civic in which the heat wasn’t working properly.  But then, I told myself ‘this isn’t right’.  I went home, got back on Autotrader, and entered my search parameters again:

  • Make/Model: Honda Fit
  • Year: 2013
  • Price: $12,000 maximum
  • Mileage: $40,000 maximum
  • Transmission: Automatic
  • Filter: Closest to Me
  • Colors: all the colors except black (yuck), and red (trouble)

Then I saw it – the perfect car with 12,500 miles at United Auto Exchange the next state over.  It really seemed too good to be true, but I decided to take a risk.  I called United Auto Exchange and spoke with a sales rep, saying “I want to buy this car, and I would like to negotiate a deal.”  The sales rep replied “sure, what are you thinking?”

I was shocked.  This was the first person that had been willing to negotiate with me, and he was making it seem like no sweat.  I suddenly realized that because I was negotiating VIA PHONE, I had new leverage I hadn’t had previously.   The sales rep couldn’t see me – he couldn’t see that I look like I’m 23 years old, even though I’m almost 30.  He couldn’t see how small I was, how short I was, etc.   I spoke with command and confidence.  I asked for the exact average selling price I had found on Kelly Blue Book.   The sales rep sounded pleasantly surprised — almost as if I had asked for too little.  He said “Great!  Most people make a lowball offer that is unrealistic — but your proposal is no problem – we can totally do that.”

Since I had this experience, I’ve talked to several other women, single as well as married, of varying ages, who have validated my experience with their own similar experiences.  I really do learn something new every day!  I feel like there is so much to learn….all. the. time.

I bought a train ticket, crossed my fingers, and after arriving, I took the car for a test drive to the closest Honda dealership, where they conducted a complete Honda inspection, since the car was not a Pre-Certified used car (you can only get a pre-certified used Honda from a Honda dealership).  Everything worked out and after a new pair of Trico Onyx Beam windshield wipers, the car is running great – and I’m getting an average of 35 miles to the gallon (it’s advertised as 33 city/40 highway)!!!!

Moral of the story – if you are a woman, and you want your best chance at negotiating a good price for a new used car — do so OVER THE PHONE!!!!!  Have them email you a copy of the purchase contract, and once you have that in writing, go there in person to test drive, etc.

** Update after about 8 months – best car ever.  And it’s first on the list of recommends cars by Mr. Money Mustache.

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