Female Members Can Master the Used Car Lot, Despite Feeling at a Disadvantage

Evaluating strategies that will ease the anxiety of credit union members when shopping for a used car.


Meeting toe-to-toe with used car dealers on their turf, where members can feel sales people sizing up their business savvy, could intimidate almost anyone, but it’s a feeling that seems to be strongest among women.

A recent survey by Capital One found that nearly seven of 10 women said they feel a greater disadvantage than men when it comes to purchasing a vehicle, and 77 percent of 1,000 women surveyed planned to take a man with them the next time they purchase an automobile.

These are startling statistics in 2006, when women are spending $300 billion annually on car sales, maintenance and repairs. Indeed, women have a great influence on the automobile market and are learning to master the art of knowing what they want … and actually getting it.

Car safety, dependability, functionality, environmental, and economic issues are the big items for women. They also tend to consider maneuverability and step-in height, sharpness of door edges, and the texture of the seat fabric. Identifying purchasing considerations like these is only one step, however. There are strategies to ease the anxiety and concerns of female – and male – credit union members who are weary of used car shopping, the goal being to go home with the vehicle they want for a fair used car price.

  • Do the research. Members should use the Internet to search for crash test ratings, used car reviews, and dealer invoice pricing on vehicles for which they have interest. Annual maintenance costs for the vehicle should also be considered. It’s also wise for members to research the value of their current car if they’re looking to trade it for a newer model. Kelley Blue Book is one good place to start researching used car prices.
  • Know what to look for. Deciding on body style, price range, and discerning between the features the member really needs vs. those they “want” are important decisions that should be noted prior to visiting a used car sales lot. This homework will make it much easier to deflect the temptation of bells and whistles, or a vehicle that doesn’t really meet the member’s needs.
  • Consider insurance. A quick call to an insurance agent is a good idea once members have a few ideas in their head. Just because the monthly vehicle payment might fit the budget doesn’t mean the insurance bill will. For instance, switching from liability coverage on a member’s current 1995 Honda to full coverage on a late-model Acura would create quite a hike in insurance costs that members need to include in the purchasing decision.
  • Evaluate buying style. Members who are leery of the stereotyped used car dealer might feel more comfortable going to a dealership with set pricing. For example, Enterprise Car Sales offers no-haggle prices below Kelley Blue Book value on all of its more than 120 makes/models of used automobiles. Additionally, Enterprise backs its vehicles with a seven‑day/1,000-mile repurchase agreement and a 12-month/12,000-mile limited powertrain warranty. Used car packages often hold added value to a used car purchase.
  • Get pre-approved. Having pre-approval from their credit union when car shopping enables members to know exactly how much they can spend. They also are likely to receive a better interest rate by securing the loan through their credit union.  

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July 10, 2006


  • This article refers to Kelley Blue Book pricing on 2 occasions. If members visit Kelley's web-site they will have offers to finance & refinance with Capital One Auto Finance. Other products are also available that will compete with the credit union. Vehicle crash test ratings are also questionable since NBC rigged a General Motors truck to explode a few years ago on one of their phony programs. The best advice for credit unions is to shop for a link to their web-site that doesn't promote products the offer, such as GAP, and never to link with sites that offer financing through competitive sources. NADA offers financing through E-Loan, Kelley through Capital One and edmunds.com through Lending Tree. The best advice to give any used car purchaser is to have the vehicle inspected by a mechanic of their choice.
  • In reference to the earlier comment, CARSCUSO was formed to answer jsut such issues. Credit Unions needs partners that keep the business within the family, hense, why CARSCUSO was formed. For CU protected Car services; rwagner@CARSCUSO.org
    Rob Wagner, CARSCUSO