I have been in the auto industry for a little over six years now, and I can say that without a doubt the automotive world is very much a man’s world. It is changing, but its changing slowly.
Walking through the front door of a car dealership is incredibly overwhelming -- even for some men. I believe that the most important thing women need before taking that first step towards buying a new car is knowledge.
It doesn’t have to be a lot, but you at least need to know what you want and what you don’t want. We might go and wander aimlessly through our favourite department stores, but we all know that when we have a mission (i.e., shoes to match that dress for our special dinner) we usually have a more positive outcome at the end of the shopping trip.
The same basic principal can be applied to buying a new car.
Before you step into the dealership, think about a few basic things to get you started. Write them down. My suggestion is to take them with you so you don’t forget anything important.
You might want to discuss a loan with your bank and/or get an idea of what loan amount you could qualify for, as well as what the bank would charge for interest, etc. When you walk in to make your purchase, you'll know in advance exactly what you can afford, and right away that makes you a more powerful buyer with knowledge.
If you decide to get financing from the dealership, know what the maximum is you can afford on the sticker price and/or what you can afford each month for payments.
I could go into more detail about buying vs. leasing, but this can be a very personal choice based on your financial situation, past finances and where you see your future going. My rule of thumb is to decide what you can afford to pay per month and, based on that number, choose whatever works best so that you can meet your payments.
Also, make sure you know how much you'll want to put as a down payment or how much your trade-in is worth.