The Women's Guide to Family Car Buying


More than half of vehicles sold in the US are purchased and driven home by women. Women also have input into over 80 percent of all vehicle sales. Given those statistics, you would think that car shopping ranks up there with shoe shopping — but women reportedly dread the task. A Capital One study indicated that four out of five women take a man with them to shop for a car, a hedge against feeling intimidated and pressured. 

“We understand the reservations some women have when it comes to making a large purchase,” says Shana Snowden, a sales consultant at Diver Chevrolet in Wilmington, DE, a Certified Women-
Drivers Friendly Dealership. But she also notes that women who shop with a male partner “have a lot to say about whether they purchase or not,” proving that moms have more purchasing power than they may realize. Follow our tips to harness that (horse)power and drive a deal home.

Do your car-buying research.

Start online. and allow you to compare vehicles, options, prices, financing options and deals. You’ll want to know the market value — not the MSRP or invoice price — of the car you’re considering. Market value is the average price the car is selling for in your area. Also know your credit score and set a budget — then stick to it.

Decide what kind of car you want.

What kind of car will you choose? Have an idea before you visit the dealer, then test-drive several models to narrow down your choices.

Thinking of a minivan, the 21st-century pinnacle of family car-dom? According to Edmunds, focus on the second-row seat and go with the car whose second-row configuration (does it rotate to face the third row or fold down flat?) and features (are there built-in footrests?) best benefit your family’s size and kids’ ages.

Next page: The pros & cons of new vs. used, lease vs. buy + great features every driver want


The Pros & Cons of . . .

 New vs. used

  • New: Higher cost; zero mileage; newer features and safety technology; comprehensive warranties; higher insurance premiums.
  • Used: More affordable; lower insurance costs; less depreciation. Caveat emptor: Before buying, always get a mechanic’s recommendation and research the car’s history at sites like, or

Lease or buy?

  • Lease: Lower monthly rates; higher overall cost; life-of-lease warranty; mileage restrictions; 
    higher insurance premiums; strict maintenance requirements. 

    “Leasing is not only a dollars-and-cents question; it is also a matter of personal taste, lifestyle and priorities,” says Anne Fleming, president and CEO of “For example, if you want 
    to experience the pleasure of luxury driving but the car you want exceeds your budget, then leasing may be the best way to finance your car.”

  • Buy: Higher monthly rates; lower overall cost; down payment necessary; longevity; limited warranty; no mileage restrictions; ownership.

If you’re financing . . .

  • Know your credit score.
  • Set a budget.
  • Check with banks and credit unions for financing deals. 
  • If possible, set up financing prior to purchasing. 

 If you’re doing a trade-in . . .

  • Shop dealerships for offers.
  • Know what your trade-in is worth. Sites like, (Kelley Blue Book) and allow you to calculate a fair price for your trade-in based on its features. 
  • Always negotiate trade-in separately from car purchase. Don’t let dealers bundle trade-ins or extras. 

Luxury features everybody wants: Heated seats, remote entry, in-car WiFi, automatic temperature control, in-car navigation, sunroof, leather seats, power sliding doors.

Sweet safety features: Backup camera, curtain and console airbags, electronic stability control, anti-lock brakes, safety alert systems, Driver Easy Speak (so you can clearly talk to passengers in the back of a minivan), motion-activated liftgate, advanced parking assistance, blind-spot monitor, lane-keeping assist, carbon dioxide sensors.

Family faves: Coolers, built-in booster seats, strategically placed USB ports, charging stations, built-in vacuum cleaners, entertainment system.

Freelancer Janet Tumelty is a South Jersey mom.


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