Smart SpendingSmart Spending

Send Mom to buy your next car

Men tend to be less rational than women when it comes to picking a model and sticking to a price.

By Karen Datko Oct 20, 2010 8:53AM

This post comes from Catherine Lutz and Anne Lutz Fernandez at partner blog Wise Bread.


Some people just shouldn't go car shopping on their own -- like Chris, who drove home to his horrified family in the garish chartreuse coupe on which he got "a great deal."

Chris should have never walked alone through the auto dealer's doors, not only because he is colorblind -- but because he is a man.


In generations past, buying the family car was considered Dad's job, but women now account for just over half of all automotive buys and play a big role when the family chooses a car. And that's a darn good thing for the household budget.

Ahead of your next trip to the new car showroom or used car lot, you'll want to know what the automakers and dealers know about gender differences when it comes to buying a car:

  • Although on the whole more knowledgeable about cars -- how they work, who makes what model, how Road & Track rated a new vehicle -- men tend to be less rational about their purchases than are women.
  • While men in a recent market research survey put "styling" on the top of the list of attributes they found most important in a car, women ranked it 11th. Women placed practical items like "visibility from the driver's seat to both the front and rear" high on their list.
  • Men are more likely to carry into adulthood an unshakable desire to own their childhood "dream car." Whether or not it is a practical or affordable purchase, they may well go ahead and snap it up. A man can overlook the difficulty of getting the kids in and out of rear car seats when he test-drives the gleaming model whose poster was on his bedroom wall as he grew up.
  • Unlike women, who approach salespeople with a set of questions, men are more likely to display their knowledge at the dealership rather than test or build on what they think they know.
  • Women are more focused on cost, using dealer incentives like rebates to reduce the overall amount they will pay, while men generally use them to buy a more expensive car.  (See also: "How to cut car ownership costs.")
  • Men fall out of love with vehicles at mach speed. Research shows that it takes only four months for the average man to grow bored with his car and become susceptible to advertising and sales pitches to buy a new one. Women bask in the pleasure of their new purchases more than three times longer (though still not terribly long).

Knowing all of this, you may decide it's sensible to send Mom, not Dad, to the dealer next time. Of course, these are generalizations. There are men who buy cars pragmatically and women who buy them impulsively. (Unsurprisingly, it is an industry goal to turn women into more emotional purchasers.)

Nevertheless, car shoppers of both genders would benefit from following a dispassionate process that involves these steps:

  • Ask yourself whether you really need a new car or just want one. Owning your current car a year or two longer could save you thousands of dollars.
  • Make a checklist of realistic, everyday needs before researching models that fit those criteria. Avoid buying for peak cargo, passenger, or terrain needs; instead plan on renting a vehicle for these occasions.
  • Conduct research online and view vehicles at an auto show before entering the high-pressure setting of the showroom. Try to avoid the pitfall of using research to justify an emotional decision rather than to help make a reasoned one.
  • Rely on trusted sources for comparative information that don't accept advertising from the car companies, such as Consumer Reports.
  • Take your most frugal friend or family member with you to the dealer to help you stick to your needs checklist.
  • Know how much a car will cost you to own, not just to buy. A car with a higher sticker price can cost you less to own over the first five years based on, among other things, its depreciation rate, repair costs, miles per gallon, and cost to insure. A good site for this data is Edmunds True Cost to Own.
  • If you cannot save up before buying, secure financing before going to the dealer. Understand how much you need in total (roughly two times the monthly loan payment) to own your car. Dealers know how easily payment shoppers can be convinced to buy more car once in the showroom.

More from Carjacked, Wise Bread and MSN Money:

Oct 20, 2010 6:07PM

Horrible advice...the idea of not planning for peak usage such as storage space or passenger space is the absolute dumbest thing I've ever heard. I can agree with some of this advice if the car is new, but when buying a used car, men are much more likely to ask about the service records on the vehicle than women. This is the number 1 or 2 most important question right up there with price.

Oct 20, 2010 6:53PM

Don't Send Nobody To Buy Your Next Car. Just Order Onine.


P.S. Last Time I Send A Vampire To Buy A Car, I Am Still Wondering Why My Car Color Is So RED.

Please help us to maintain a healthy and vibrant community by reporting any illegal or inappropriate behavior. If you believe a message violates theCode of Conductplease use this form to notify the moderators. They will investigate your report and take appropriate action. If necessary, they report all illegal activity to the proper authorities.
100 character limit
Are you sure you want to delete this comment?


Copyright © 2014 Microsoft. All rights reserved.

Fundamental company data and historical chart data provided by Morningstar Inc. Real-time index quotes and delayed quotes supplied by Morningstar Inc. Quotes delayed by up to 15 minutes, except where indicated otherwise. Fund summary, fund performance and dividend data provided by Morningstar Inc. Analyst recommendations provided by Zacks Investment Research. StockScouter data provided by Verus Analytics. IPO data provided by Hoover's Inc. Index membership data provided by Morningstar Inc.


Smart Spending brings you the best money-saving tips from MSN Money and the rest of the Web. Join the conversation on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.