Does being a man mean you’re more likely to get some money off a new car? Or do women have the real power of persuasion for making a saving and getting some optional extras thrown in by the salesman?
We staged our own battle of the sexes to find out, pitting man against woman in a car dealer haggling contest. We sent our two reporters – Chris Ebbs and Claire Holden – to the same showrooms representing 10 different manufacturers. Their goal was simple: go in looking to buy a new car, in exactly the same spec, and see what discount, or extras, they could get.
But we didn't just score dealers on the savings they’d give us. We also looked at how long it took for staff to approach us, and then we rated their manner when they did. Were they friendly, welcoming and polite? Or stressed and surly about making a sale?
Were they informative, patronising or even uninterested? And would they respect the fact that we knew exactly which model we wanted, or try to sell us something different?
Finally, we scored the salesman on the negotiation process based on how open they were to doing a deal, how aggressive they were in their sales tactics or whether they were going out of their way to keep the customer happy.
Our undercover reporters used similar tactics in trying to negotiate on the same models, but the results were very one-sided.
Claire got a better deal than Chris at six of our 10 showrooms, while Chris had the edge at two, with dead heats at the other two. So dealers clearly seem to favour the fairer sex with their discounts. But while women may be able to negotiate a better deal, they may find – as Claire did – they’re subject to long, patronising discussions in showrooms, with some sales staff even resorting to sleaze. The worst Chris had to contend with was uninterested or cocky sales staff.
In addition, our investigation highlighted the gulf in customer service between the best and worst dealers, no matter what sex you are.
To find out how our reporters fared at each dealership, check out the full feature in this week's issue of Auto Express (out 6 February 2013).