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Women's Car-Shopping Tactics Steer Them Toward Better Deals

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When it comes to buying cars, women do their homework — and it pays off. A recent report from LeaseTrader.com finds women generally get better deals than men when they buy cars.

John Sternal of LeaseTrader tells NPR's Sonari Glinton on Morning Edition that women's participation in car buying is changing.

"Our data specifically says that women not only have a larger interest in cars overall, but women today are taking a more active role in the negotiating process of a vehicle and in the car-shopping process in general," Sternal says.

An emailed press release from LeaseTrader says female consumers "also ask different and more thorough questions than [male] buyers."

Safety performance, incident history and vehicle functionality topped women's list of concerns, while driving performance, engine performance and aesthetics were among men's primary concerns.

Sternal says women do more research than men beforehand, particularly on the Internet, which helps them get better deals. Sonari reports that according to Kelley Blue Book, women are more likely to decide on a price before they go shopping for their next car, which also translates into savings.

Rebecca Lindland, a senior automotive analyst with IHS Automotive, tells Sonari she's often ignored or talked down to while car shopping:

"We know that people expect us to fail, to some extent. That people think that we're not going to know what we're talking about. So we overprepare, we overcompensate. We don't go into a dealership to browse. We go in, and we know exactly what we want."

The Time Moneyland blog reports the survey "demonstrates that the assumption that women are clueless pushovers easily taken advantage of by car sellers couldn't be more wrong."

Another indication of the growing influence of women in the car market might be the first annual "2011 Heels & Wheels" event in California, a gathering of media and automotive professionals. The organization, according to its Facebook page, was founded in February 2011 to "honor women as a major force in the automotive purchase decision."

A blog from Polk, an automotive research firm, mentioned Heels & Wheels in a recent post:

"Women have more to say when it comes to the design of future vehicles, and organizations like these will probably grow in popularity."

Polk also points out Cars.com, which provides "Mother Proof" car reviews geared toward moms. For example, a Jan. 25 review begins:

"I can't help but smile when I see a child-safety seat in a small car's backseat. I like to think of these folks as rebels proclaiming to the world that having a family doesn't relegate them to a life of minivans."

As Sonari has reported for NPR in the past, women are still working on breaking through the car industry's glass ceiling. Christine Park, 28, is one of a small number of women in the car design industry.

Sonari has also glimpsed into the world of female product specialists, who stand next to cars during auto shows. Often, one former specialist says, attendees assume they're models without any knowledge of the cars:

"It's pretty funny when a guy comes up and says, 'Well, you don't know much about this car,' and then I rattle off the horsepower, the torque, what the camshafts and the pistons do and when they fire,' she says. 'I like to put people in their place."

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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