Not true in most cases, says at least one company that analyzes sales data. Perhaps you don't need to bring 'the man' along, or change your name on those initial e-mails. It might be a myth, or a relic from another time when shoppers didn't come armed with vehicle market pricing reports.
Turns out today it could also in some cases be the self-fulfilling prophecy, suggests CarWoo.com, impairing your ability to negotiate. Though men and women still might be treated differently on the lot, you should be able to negotiate close to the same price.
CarWoo, a site that solicits competing bids from dealerships for a particular model customers want to buy, looked at sample general-market deals initiated by both men and women, and limited them to the same metropolitan area, for the same make and model vehicles, within the same 2-3-week period, and to cars with relatively small option sets—like the Toyota Corolla. Men overwhelmingly more than women purchase premium luxury vehicles, while women tend to purchase more affordable, sensible models, so CarWoo also limited its look to vehicles priced under $40,000.
The result? Only about one out of five dealerships offered a significantly different ($500+) price to one gender versus the other.
Sixty-five percent of the dealers surveyed offered the exact same price to men and women, while 15 percent of the dealers showed a price difference of less than $500 ($100 typically). Just 20 percent, or one our of five dealerships, overcharged (or offered a better deal to) one gender by more than $500.
The issue has been extensively studied by Edmunds—even with secret shoppers—and the outlet found that men and women received different treatment in nearly every instance. An Edmunds survey found that 66 percent of female purchasers perceived a pricing difference between men and women.
CarWoo however is confident in that 20-percent figure, which focuses on bottom-line price rather than treatment, but recommends that you should assume people (include dealership salespeople) are fundamentally good: "If you walk into a negotiation with the belief the dealer is biased you'll find something (truthful or not) to substantiate that belief and that will poison a negotiation."