Canadian Markets closed

Why women still pay more for cars

The famously unpopular pink and white Dodge LaFemme came with makeup, an umbrella and a rain hat

Am I a typical female car buyer? When I bought a new car last year, I had one in mind after admiring a newly designed model on the street. I read about the car on the auto maker’s website. I compared similar models, making sure this one suited my needs. I crunched the numbers every which way. It wasn’t until I was 99% sure I wanted this car that I set foot in a dealership to test drive it.

The current research says yes, that makes me typical in today’s car buyer market. The car I purchased, a compact hatchback, was exactly what I set out to buy, down to the trim level and colour.

Women are the primary decision makers for 75 per cent of households when it comes to selecting the make, model and colour of the vehicle, says Radek Garbowski, COO of Unhaggle.com.

But even if they’re buying a new car for themselves, 69 per cent of women will still bring a man to help with negotiations, says Garbowski, recounting a story of a real estate agent, well versed in the art of negotiation in her work, who still brought her father or brother along when buying a car.

What have auto makers learned since the famously unpopular pink and white Dodge LaFemme? A commercial disaster, the ladies’ car came equipped with makeup, an umbrella and a rain hat. It was introduced in 1955 and quickly discontinued in 1956. If they’re smart, car companies have learned to not underestimate women.

The Internet is helping to level the playing field, with more people, and especially women, doing their research before walking into a dealership. Men think buying a car is something they know a lot about, but I don’t think that’s the case, says Garbowski. Websites such as Unhaggle.com and CarCostCanada.com allow buyers to learn the dealer’s invoice price on cars and options, and get help with negotiations.

Do women pay more?

Unfortunately yes, according to Linda Babcock and Sara Laschever, who write in their 2003 book “Women Don’t Ask” that because they typically don’t like to negotiate, some women pay as much as US$1,353   more than men for new cars.

When asked to pick metaphors for the process of negotiating, the men they talked to picked "winning a ballgame" and a “wrestling match,” while women picked “going to the dentist.”

But men are more likely to be up-sold at the dealership, says Garbowski. Women are more practical, buying a car that fits their budget with the minimum options they need, while men are more likely to be sold upgrade packages with extra bells and whistles.

What cars do women buy?

Women are 67 per cent more likely to buy crossovers than men, but when it comes to luxury sports cars, men are four times more likely to own one of these flashy rides, and three times more likely to drive pickup trucks. Men and women purchase both minivans and hatchbacks equally, says Phong Ly, CEO of iSeeCars.com in a press release.

What do they spend?

When it comes to price, men are four times more likely to buy high end cars, $45,000 U.S. and up, than women. There was only a small gender divide in low priced cars, with women five per cent more likely to purchase vehicles under $15,000, according to iSeeCars.com’s study.

How do they Research Cars?

Samantha Kohn of CarProof.com says that women are more likely to read reviews on social media and consult online forums, and that they will visit an average of two dealerships before buying, and that “72 per cent of women who leave a dealership without purchasing won’t return.”

At Porsche and Maserati, they call their customers “Mr.”

High end brands skew dramatically to male buyers, with men more 10 times more likely to purchase Maseratis, and 4.6 times more likely to buy from Porsche.

Women gravitate to Kia at twice the rate of men, and 67 per cent more women choose Hyundai models.

Do women care about the colour?

Men and women don’t always agree on colour choice. iSeeCars.com studied hundreds of thousands of inquiries about used cars, and found that men prefer red (12.3%) and orange (11.8%) more than women, who picked silver the most, at 9.2%, and then brown (9.1%) and gold (7.3%). They found that red and black were the most popular colours for used sports cars.

The colours most chosen by women are the colours most often seen on minivans, sedans and wagons, reported the company. “These study results could suggest that women are more practical in their choices. For the most part, they may just want to buy a reasonably priced car that safely drives them around,” Phong Ly co-founder and CEO of iSeeCars.com said in an email. “On the other hand, for men, perhaps they may be a bit more idealistic about cars, preferring something that has speed and is fun to drive.”

Tips For Buyers

  • Shop (online) until you drop: Know what you’re buying, compare prices, and know what you want before you visit a dealership.
  •  Buy what you need: Don’t get up-sold into a larger vehicle or add on extras you don’t need.
  • Don’t get hung up on the monthly cost, look at the overall price of the car. Focusing on the monthly bill lets costs ride up unnecessarily.
  • Don’t tell the dealer what your top payment is. If you’re uncomfortable with negotiating, consider using a third party service such as CarCostCanada.com or Unhaggle.com.
  • If you’re buying a used vehicle, you can order a detailed car history report from companies such as CarProof.com
  • If you’re trading in another vehicle, shop around for a good price too. CarProof says that low trade-in value is one of the top reasons women walk out of a dealership.