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Yes, women can buy cars and get a great deal. In fact, being a woman can work to your advantage as we are often underestimated in these situations. Knowledge is power, and you gain this by research, research, research. Your computer is your best resource to gather all the information you need. It can seem daunting and a little overwhelming when you first begin to “shop” for a car online, but a few strategic websites will provide you with most of the information you need to make a great deal! Your research should take prior to even stepping foot into a dealership. I can’t stress this point enough. All the information you need to make a great deal is available online. Making a rush decision without being well informed can be costly! The entire car buying process can get a bit stressful, but we are here to help. We want to share our knowledge on car buying tips for women. We will post a series of articles on the car buying process, including negotiating price, getting the most money for your trade, and used car buying tips.
What kind of vehicle are you looking for?
This is the first thing you should ask yourself. Usually we have an idea what we want, sedan, sporty car, small crossover utility vehicle (CUV), full size sports utility vehicle (SUV), truck, etc. But sometimes you have a couple styles or brands that interest you. This is the first part of your research. See what is out there. Of course, you can do this by going from dealership to dealership, but if you are like me, with very little free time and way too much traffic in your area, then the internet is your first step. You can find tons of information and reviews for every type of vehicle online at sites such as Edmunds.com, Kelly Blue Book KBB.com, Carsdirect.com, and many more. You can also go to individual manufacturer websites (Ford.com, Chevy.com, Honda.com, BMWUSA.com, etc) to price out their models and get full details on each vehicle, available incentive and more. If you are a member of warehouse clubs like Costco and Sam’s club, you can use their car buying programs for both pricing and a negotiation tool. We will go into more detail on incentives a little later. The organized woman in us would set up a spreadsheet for notes on different vehicles. The realistic me uses a pen and paper to write it all down. Whichever way you go, these notes will come in handy as you delve further into the buying process.
How much vehicle can you afford to buy?
Notice I did this after you choose the vehicle you are interested in? That’s because now you have looked at what’s out there and you can see what fits into your budget that you actually like. Affordability and budget are the ultimate determinants of what you can buy. For most of us this is a purchase that you will have to make payments on for 5 years or more. So do not buy something you don’t like! I can’t stress this enough. If your budget doesn’t allow for that shiny turbo Porsche (mine either, lol), maybe it does allow for a shiny turbo Ford. If you have looked at everything, you will see what does and does not work for you.
So how can you decide what you can afford? Only you know your budget, so only you can ultimately decide, but there will be many factors that can affect this number. I want to caution you here to think in terms of how much overall you can afford to spend, and not just a monthly payment that fits your current budget. Call your insurance company and get an approximation of your insurance costs and think about fuel price. How much are oil changes and tires for those optional 22-inch rims? To give you an example, perhaps that new ride takes premium fuel and your current one takes regular. You will need to factor how much more your fuel costs will be each month. If you only look at monthly payment, you may not realize how much more the vehicle will actually cost. Set a budget and stick to it with the understanding that affordability is how much will the car cost with insurance, fuel costs, and maintenance factored in. Financial institutions, banks/credit union and lending companies will decide how much they will lend you and how much they require you to put for a down payment. Most bank and credit union websites will have affordability calculators and their loan rates posted. Your own financial institution is a good place to start. They have a financial relationship with you already. Other places such as Bankrate.com, cars.com, and the manufacturer websites will all have easy to use calculators.
Once you have a vehicle (or two) in mind, you can start comparing them in terms of value, features, and overall cost. Add this information to the notes you have already. Take note of the features or options that you must have vs. the ones you want. Many vehicles these days come well equipped with power window and doors, automatic transmission, backup cameras (mandatory as of 2018) and multiple air bags. Some have moonroof and navigation standard. This will vary greatly between manufacturers, but in general, the higher the trim level of a vehicle, the more standard features it has. Trim level makes a difference in affordability. Let’s face it, the highly optioned premium version is nice, but do you really “need” cross ventilated seats (cooled seats, I’m not a fan), self-parking capability, and an in-arm rest chill compartment? Yes, this is really a thing, Iol. You may be able to find a lower trim car with the features you like added on already. Similarly, you may find that manufacturers will have special pricing on higher optioned cars, making them more affordable. This information should help you narrow your search even further.
Incentives and pricing
While doing your research, you will undoubtedly look at local dealership websites. In fact, you should look at several dealer websites for the vehicles you like best. They will often have special offers such as promotional interest rates, free gift cards for test drives, and various other perks. While these are nice extras, don’t let them detract you from the overall cost of the vehicle you have in mind. If you want more information about any specific vehicle, go ahead and submit your name, phone number, and email. Just know that someone from the dealer will call you as soon as possible. And email you. If you don’t respond, they will call again, and email again, and so on. This can get annoying, so don’t put your information out there unless you want to be contacted. You should also look at the prices being advertised for the vehicles you want. Pay very close attention to what is included in the price. Does an advertised price seem too good to be true? Then it probably is.
Most dealerships will advertise the lowest price less all rebates not including destination charges. No price shown will include tax, tags, title, and dealer processing fees. You should pay attention to which trim level the price applies to. If you are comparing vehicles/prices, this is something you need to know. There are many rebates that reduce the price of a vehicle that you may not qualify for. Military/first responder and recent college graduate rebates are almost always factored into these super low advertised prices. If you don’t qualify for them, you must add that amount back into the price. Destination charges are also not generally included in the price. These are charges that are averaged over a manufacturer’s vehicle line up and represent the average cost to get any particular vehicle from the manufacturing plants to the dealerships. The destination price is the same for all vehicle from a manufacturer no matter how far they are from the plant. It seems hard to imagine, but a vehicle sold to a dealership across the street from the place it is manufactured pays the same amount in destination charges as one clear across the country. This charge is passed on to consumers. This number also goes up almost every year, so “older” cars may be a few dollars cheaper if they have lower destination charges. This charge will also need to be added back into the lowest price if it was not included in the original advertised price. For example, a car advertised at 29,999 may include the above rebates for military/first responders and recent college graduates (usually $500 each) and have the destination charges ($1000 +) removed. Once you add those back in, the vehicle actually costs 31,999 or more.
If you have done your research you should know what rebates are being offered, which you qualify for, any incentives available from the manufacturer (cash rebates, special financing), and destination charges. Armed with this information, you can estimate what each vehicle would costs. Here is an example of a new car with Manufacturers Suggested Retail Price (MSRP or sticker price) and Invoice Price (price manufacturer charges dealer, or dealer cost). You can use this to compare the price to what you might find advertised at a local dealer website. Using the information about incentives (rebates) and destination charges, you can get a more accurate view of what the dealership is actually selling the vehicle for.
Car pricing example:
2020 Ford Mustang GT Premium
Base MSRP $39,639
*Customer cash $250
*Inventory Cash $750
+First Responder cash $500
+Military Cash $500
+College Recent /Graduate $500
+Farm Bureau $500
+Ford Certificate $1000
Automatic Transmission $1595
Equipment Group 401 $2200
GT Performance Package $3995
RECARO leather Trimmed Seats $1595
Active Valve Performance Exhaust $895
Total MSRP $51,005 (with the options but no discounts taken)
Invoice Price $48,405 (what dealer paid for car)
*Incentives to customer from manufacturer
+Incentives to applicable customers from manufacturer
As you can see, there is about $2600 between dealer invoice and MSRP. Many times dealerships will offer cars below invoice. How is this possible? They receive different incentives from the manufacturer that allow them to sell cars for less. We will talk about all these optional price concerns in a separate post dedicated to pricing and incentives, but you should know they factor in to super low prices. So, if a dealer offers this same or comparably equipped Mustang GT Premium for a price under the invoice price after rebates and including destination, this is probably a good deal. But you need to be sure the price includes destination (sometimes called freight), and whether or not rebates are included. The websites you researched will have shown you average prices these cars are selling for, which will let you know where your price point should be. You may also find a dealer selling this car for way less than the invoice price. Again, please read the small print to see what the price does or doesn’t include. All dealers will charge an extra fee called a “processing fee”. Although this is not a mandatory fee, dealers will always charge it. It is a built in fee for profit. It is almost impossible to get them to remove this charge. Confused? Don’t be. We will go over each point involved in the price you offer prior to sitting down at the dealership.
Now that you have a vehicle/s in mind, know your price range, and what incentives are included, you can go for a test drive. Check which dealership has the vehicles closest to the ones you like best and go there. Don’t worry about their price just yet. I highly recommend you take a tast drive for many reasons. You need to see if you like how it drives, comfort, interior and exterior aesthetics, and more. You may think you want the model with the cool “sport” trim, but the ride and handling may not be smooth or comfortable enough. When you are buying a vehicle already on a dealer lot, you get what on the vehicle already. Most dealers will have several of the same vehicles to choose from, so one may have all the features and trim level you are looking for. If you don’t find exactly what you want, you can always order a vehicle, but this takes time, and in some cases costs more. When we were talking about affordability earlier, options/trim factored into your final vehicle choice. I mean who doesn’t want those black painted 22-inch rims? Well just remember, that means you buy 22-inch tires when they wear out, and those are not cheap. It is also a good idea not to be too eager to buy. This can start the car salesman sharks to circle. By test driving and leaving, you show you can’t be pressured into buying a vehicle. So, drive a few vehicles, and closely look at trim levels, options, and prices. Remember, chances are you will own this vehicle for a long time. Make sure it is exactly what you want! You can do a little test to see if you really like a vehicle. After you parked it did you turn around to look at it? If not, you may want to keep looking. If you really like one, you will probably turn for one last look : )
Next Article in the Series: Negotiations
We hope these car buying tips for women to get you started on your car buying quest. Ready to buy now? Please get started on your research and narrow your choices so we can begin negotiations. If you have questions, please contact us. We are happy to provide more personal help and details. You can also purchase a customized research and pricing package from us for a small fee. Please contact us for details.