Sexism: Alive and Well on the Car Lot

I bought a new car this weekend. I also came close to slamming my head on the table of most of the dealerships we walked into.

I haven’t purchased a new car in 14 years. I bought my truck when I was 21 years old and have driven her everyday since. On Friday, she hit 250k miles, on her original clutch, engine, transmission, pretty much everything but tires and brake pads. I love my truck; some might say I am more emotionally attached to her than is healthy. I don’t care. That little baby has moved me nine times, been through substantially more relationships than that, and gotten me everywhere I needed to go safely and with fewer problems than her make and model (Ford Ranger) would have most people believe. When I bought her in 1999, I probably dealt with people treating me like a know-nothing kid because, well, I kind of was. Buying a car was a whole new thing to me, and I’m sure I accepted the mild condescension as part of the deal. Now, however, I am no longer a 21 year old college student. Now I am a – what is they like to call us these days? Ah yes, a feminazi-boner-shrinker, if you will. And I don’t take kindly to that kind of treatment any longer.

I took my dad with me to go car shopping for a number of reasons, the top two being that he LOVES car shopping and I love hanging out with him. He revels in doing the research on comparable models, pricing, options, and all the other pieces of the car buying puzzle. I have been swamped with work and volunteer projects, so it was a huge help to have him in the process. I did not bring him along because I am a meek little girl who doesn’t know anything about those fancy motor vehicles and negotiating is hard and not lady-like. This came as a surprise to all the men I dealt with.

The Honda dealer was the worst. We pulled up and had the swarm of salesmen send out their chosen one. A super tan, pressed polo, boat shoe-wearing salesman. A grown-up dude-bro if ever I saw one. As I got in the car to start the test drive, he made a great show of making sure I knew how the mirrors worked, which told me immediately he viewed me as a simple woman incapable of adjusting a side mirror. It went downhill from there. After the test drive, he actually asked, “Do you want to hear about the features, or do you care?” I replied, “Seriously? Of course I fucking care. Were you just going to show me how the vanity mirrors worked?” Even if I had liked the Honda, I would have left and bought it from somewhere else. You know how sometimes you can feel the misogyny oozing out of certain people? It was coming off this guy so badly that even my dad noticed.

After test driving a few more cars, I decided on the Nissan Versa Note. I told the salesman what color and options I was looking for, and he came back with a pricing worksheet. He sat across from me and my dad and placed the paperwork directly in front of my father and started explaining the numbers to him. I cut in, telling him that since I was paying for the car, he should be directing the information to me. Taken aback, he changed course. He then started to ramble on and on about the different payment options and how the numbers would change based on how much I put down. I informed him that there were a lot of numbers on the page that were going to need to change in order for us to get to the point we needed to discuss payments. I gave him my price, which was based on vigorous research and more than fair, but it was $1000 less than the car he was trying to sell me. He brought in his sales manager who tried to appeal to my compassionate side (little did he know I don’t have one of those when it comes to spending my money on things I don’t want to), with talk of being able to feed his kids. Fucking seriously?

I eventually got the car I wanted for the price I wanted to pay. The process was disheartening, though. Aside from the Honda guy, none of the men (sorry guys, but everyone I dealt with was male until I got to the rockin’ finance woman) seemed particularly misogynistic. They seemed like pretty nice guys, in general. Unfortunately, they still seem to operate under the assumption that if a male is present, he is the person who is in charge, even if it has been made clear that the purchase is for the woman. Even after I gently (and then less gently as my patience waned) made it clear they needed to address their questions to me, they still couldn’t seem to help but default to my dad.

Blatant sexism is one thing. Open misogyny is out there for the world to see. They are easier to fight or dismiss because of their obnoxiousness or lack of reason. It’s the deep-rooted, almost hidden sexism, the “male is the default” that is so hard to push back against. I’m sure some of the men I dealt with came to the conclusion that I was a total bitch because I expected the respect and consideration they were showing my dad. I wasn’t asking for anything more, just the same level of treatment, and yet that still makes me the bad guy, somehow. All I can do is hope that maybe, just maybe, the next time a woman walks into those dealerships, someone might think twice before automatically assuming the man she is with is the one making the calls.

16 replies on “Sexism: Alive and Well on the Car Lot”

Nothing against boyfriend Freckle, but I love when I can butt in because I know more about a subject.
It’s pretty hilarious when it comes to sports. He actively dislikes (watching) sports while I’m rugby girl. So his face just goes blank while I do a monologue on rugby being the best thing in the world. It scares the dude-bros away very fast.

I never purchased a car because I can’t drive. However, buying laptops are also interesting,
When I wanted to buy a laptop, my mum always persisted I would ask advice from my (ex) boyfriend. Which is fine, because two know more than one. However, going for laptop shopping was hard because my mum kept suggesting things that she actually wanted to have, so she assumed that I wanted to have one as well – e.g. ”a nice little pink netbook” instead of ”a decent computer with a fast processor and good brand that can handle enough heavy statistics programs because I’m starting with this masters programme in research”. The salesmen still assume you don’t know shit, even though I did fairly enough research (my laptop, my money!).
In the end, I purchased one in a tiny shop in which both salesmen really listened to me and took me serious. They even asked whether or not I played a lot of online games because one of the laptops would be perfect for that. They understood my need for a fast processor and didn’t suggest any netbooks to me, like most salesmen did before.
It might have been an advantage that both were about my age and that I live in a city with a large student-population.

I HATE when sexist assumptions are correct! ARGH!! I will admit to lying, on occasion, just so jerks don’t have the satisfaction of knowing they were correct. Little white lies are okay when done to combat rampant sexism, yes?

I bought a car with the money my grandparents left me at 19. I knew what I wanted. I did six months of research. I drove 260 miles out of my way to avoid dealerships that tried to talk me out of a manual transmission/the model I wanted. It was the sporty version of another car. It ONLY came in manual. My mom ultimately ended up stepping on my toes negotiation wise(she’s TERRIBLE at it and seems to think you can’t pit dealerships against each other), but I actually liked my salesman so that was a small victory. He didn’t bat an eye at what I wanted and did his best to get me what I requested without coming off like a scumbag.

Bought my first new car in 2011. I kinda knew going in that it was going to be an interesting experience, so I made sure I had thoroughly researched each and every car I was planning on test driving. I knew cost, packages, horsepower and the deal of the month.

What I didn’t expect was the invisibility. If I went in with my dad (another single girl shopper here), there was someone there right away. If I went in by myself, three people would be approached before someone came near me. I turned it into a bit of a game, how long could I stand in the middle of the showroom before someone asked if they could help me.

And even at the dealership I ended up going with, I had to go back three or four times before I took possession and it was the same thing every time. If my salesman wasn’t there, I would have to hunt down someone to help me.

Thank goodness I like my car and I know I’ll (knock on wood) have it for 10+ years if the last car is any indication.

Ohhh, that is frustrating shit, the invisibility. It’s like they think you’re standing there waiting for your man to come lead you along and pat your pretty little head. Ugh. I actually didn’t get the call back that was promised to me after we went in the first time – they were supposed to look for the car I wanted and get back to me – so I called and spoke to the general manager and let him know how disappointed I was in the situation. He was on top of his shit after that. I WILL NOT BE IGNORED!

I went looking for a used car with my mom once, and this one salesman… sauntered up wearing a pastel-striped oxford cloth button-down shirt that he’d ripped the sleeves out of, shorts, and wrestling shoes.

When I told him I didn’t want to look at anything red/burgandy and No Ford Tauruses, he took me straight to a maroon Ford Taurus. ???

I’m not even sure it was “I know best, little lady” stuff with that guy. He may have just seriously been on something heavy.

Ugh. I’m hoping to go buy a car soon and I dread it’s going to be like this; I’m hoping I can at least make a statement if it comes to it…

Years ago, I was married & went to buy a car. My car, my money. My husband saw a car he liked & thought maybe he’d get one too. Whatever. They ran both our credit scores; his was too bad to qualify, and so he couldn’t get a loan (and would have messed up my loan if he was on it), but they INSISTED that he be on MY car’s title. I said no and they argued as to why I wouldn’t want it on there, and refused to process it without his name even though they wouldn’t put him on the loan. So I was responsible to pay for a car that I couldn’t own by myself. Was that the 50s? No, that was the 90s. Now, maybe that wouldn’t be so bad in some marriages, but we did not have a particularly harmonious relationship.

My last car I bought when I was single, and it wasn’t a bad or good experience; the car I wanted was very popular, so there wasn’t much haggling – I didn’t get a great deal nor a bad one, really. The salesperson was okay, but he really didn’t have to sell me on the car since I already was ready to buy (I’d been test driving out of town for a few months). The salespeople I test drove with were pretty sexist, because I had a guy with me, so it felt good to be ‘just looking’ until I was alone :)

Seriously?!? They forced you to have him on the title? Oh man, I would have lost my shit. I had to deal with a few people who couldn’t understand why I hadn’t brought my husband with me, and then the looks of confusion when they found out we didn’t have the same last name.Like you said, is this the 50’s? I am not required to take his last name. It does not mean we are not happily married (which was implied by one person), it does not mean anything that I need to explain to anyone. Deal with it, people!

Ugh. I’m sorry to hear that the whole car-buying process hasn’t changed since I graduated from college (1996). I went to purchase my first car after graduation and walked out of at least 3 dealerships because they talked to my dad and not me – after we both said I was the one with the money and I was the one buying the car.

On a different note, do you think the Nissan Versa Note has enough space in the back/trunk area for a doggie? Specifically a husky mix?

Sorry for the delayed response- a dear friend passed away last week and everything has been shitty.

I think it would be a perfect car to have a pup in the back. It is pretty damn spacious, I must say. I have been pleasantly surprised by the amount of shit I have been able to pack in there already, so I think there would be plenty of space. It really is an awesome little car. I’m super happy with it.

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