It’s harder for women to buy cars. But who is to blame?

I thought this article would be a hot topic of debate, but after chatting to many women and having done quite extensive research, it doesn’t look like there is a debate at all. In fact, everything points in the direction of my headline…it is harder for women to buy a car. But are we, as women, maybe to blame?

Who is to blame?

I am in an industry that is, as you know, dominated by men. Most assume I don’t not know as much as my colleagues, based purely on my sex. Sometimes, I don’t know as much as the men in this industry, but sometimes I know more. The only person responsible for whether I know more or less, is me!

I believe the same goes with buying a car. Having interviewed a number of women (my besties and family), a common theme started to emerge. Lack of knowledge led to a harder and more frustrating buying experience. This was woven in with a lack of confidence and together, this all makes for an easy target for a dodgy sale.

What are the fears?

Just about every woman I interviewed and all the research I conducted led to these common fears when buying a car:

  • Being ripped off
  • Not being taken seriously
  • Dealing with a shady salesman

And just about every woman experienced all of these things. One friend, let’s call her Mildred, ended up buying a car that was overpriced and not in great condition, all because she felt intimidated.

The entire time I felt like I was being hustled, constantly haggling over prices, being pushed into finance that I didn’t want, hidden costs etc. I actually felt like I was being taken advantage of but didn’t know how to back out of it, so in the end went with the deal on offer and it was a poor choice.”

Another friend, let’s call her Mallery, got charged a ludicrous interest rate and got sold a bunch of useless optional extras that one doesn’t need. When it came to selling the car, she realised just how much she’d been over charged, and that she never needed any of the stuff she was told she needed.

Mildred and Mallery are my age (young spring chickens, obviously). They are well educated, hold executive positions in their respective companies, and can present themselves in any situation with complete confidence. Except, when buying a car, it seems.


Well yes and no. I think there are far too many salesmen (and people in general) who assume that a woman will lack the knowledge needed to purchase the right car. Confident or not. And this is where they may try and take advantage. However, I do believe that if you are confident and present yourself as such, you will be in a better position to get what it is you really want.

But even those with the confidence in buying a car feel they may have been ripped off at some point. This is from a family member of mine when I asked her if she thinks that being a woman makes a difference to the car buying experience, “I have to say that it probably would make a difference if you’re the timid sort and are bamboozled by over enthusiastic car salesmen. But to be honest, I have bought too many cars over the years to feel like I am falling for their tricks!  Meanwhile, they could be having a total laugh at my expense, due to my lack of knowledge on anything other than the appearance, look, feel, comfort and ride!  I wouldn’t have a cooking clue on the inside workings, engine, etc!

What should be done?

I don’t think one side is to blame here. I think women should arm themselves better when it comes to buying a car. Research! Research! Research! Know exactly what it is you want and get exactly that. Take charge.

But I also think that manufacturers and dealerships need to do more on their side too. Ensure that your salespeople, whether woman or man, treat every single customer, whether woman or man, with the same respect. And make your dealership a comfortable place to be. No one likes to feel intimidated when they walk in to a place.

According to the 2019 Women Car Buying Report, in a study across all dealerships, most women chose to purchase a vehicle because of the sales advisor. Sales advisors that were successful were those who had a high understanding of their job and decided to guide female buyers to their final choice instead of pressuring them to buy.

Also, the sales consultant’s greeting and listening skills also played a part in the female buyer’s overall satisfaction with the dealership experience. The second most influential component to buying was a mix between dealer reputation and best price.

Creating an atmosphere where the buyer feels welcome, understood, and has the experience of being in control of their buying experience are the ingredients to a successful sale. Confident buyers ask questions and
reach a decision more quickly.

My final say

It all seems pretty obvious and clear cut doesn’t it? I know it is far more complicated than this. Fear and a lack of confidence can result in really poor buying decisions. And even if you have done your homework, you might still feel intimidated by an overbearing salesman.

But here’s the thing, if you constantly remind yourself that YOU are the customer and that YOU are the only one who makes the final decision, you might just find yourself asking all the right questions and walking away from a deal you know is not good enough for you.

The sales person wants your business! Every time. Make them work for it. There really is no such thing as a stupid question (ok there totally are stupid questions, but we will pretend there aren’t any). Just do what it takes to land the best deal that suits you.

I want to hear your stories. Please tell me about your car buying experience either in the comments section below or on my Facebook or Instagram pages.

I’m Julz, South African motoring journalist with a passion for cars and a questionable sense of humour. I am not your average motoring journalist, and this is not your average motoring website.

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