Originally Published: Slate • August 5, 2013
When I wrote in March about the ways the auto industry still fails to understand women—especially at car dealerships—I didn’t realize that a few months later I’d actually be buying a new car myself. But recently my husband and I brought home a baby blue Mazda 5 that can tote kids, bikes, in-laws, and the occasional minifreezer with ease. It’s surprisingly zippy, takes corners well, and isn’t nearly as uncool as the term “microminivan” implies. But the best part was buying it.
I bought online, which made negotiating the price for this cross between a minivan and a hatchback actually fun…Given how unpleasant the car-shopping experience is for women, who find walking into a dealership to be like landing on an all-male, vaguely hostile planet, buying online is something tantamount to a feminist act.
…Part of what’s so crazy about buying a car the traditional way is that the Wild West pricing means there’s no way to know whether the deck is stacked against you from the outset merely because you’re a woman. Studies conducted in the ’90s by economist Ian Ayres showed that Chicago-area dealerships routinely quoted blacks and women higher initial offers than white men, so that even after haggling they wound up with higher prices…There’s one factor that does away with a ton of these gender-based problems. According to the work of DePaul professor Alice Stuhlmacher, women consistently do better when they negotiate virtually.