5 Smart Car Shopping Tips (That Extend Way Beyond Car Shopping)

Last week I attended the Boston Auto Show via a partnership with Chevrolet and SheBuysCars and it was a truly fascinating experience. I’m by no means a car freak, but I do use a car daily and think about design and usability daily. I learned so much about design research and urban mobility (Chevrolet designer Wade Bryant had me hinged to his every thoughtful word!), and a Women in Automotive panel especially struck a chord with me.

During the panel, moderator Scotty Reiss asked Betsy Flegg (Chevrolet), Michell Lander (General Motors), and Tina Mahoney (Best Chevrolet in Hingham) about their best car shopping advice for women. As these ladies shared their advice, it struck me that their tips extended way beyond car shopping and into the domains of work, parenting, and relationships. Here were the key takeaways I thought you might find helpful.

1. Do your research

A car is a big investment (obviously) -- one worth researching! The panelists recommended using resources such as Consumer Reports, Edmunds.com, and SheBuysCars for comparative research. They also recommended Google’ing dealer reviews (brilliant...never thought of that!), crowdsourcing friends and family, and also asking complete strangers you see driving a car you're interested in (e.g., at a coffee shop, parking lot), given that they'll likely be candid since they have no relationship with you. Similarly, research is so key with many parenting/life choices, though I do advise against driving yourself crazy via the quest for the one perfect solution -- it usually doesn’t exist (totally speaking from experience here)!

2. Know what your needs are

As with many work and personal situations, it's important to outline and make explicit your needs/priorities when car shopping. I'm a big fan of writing down your priorities so you don't lose sight of them in the face of other incoming information and options. Tina Mahoney (who totally awesomely rose the ranks from cashier to sales manager at Best Chevrolet) made the smart recommendation of bringing key things you usually travel with (e.g., stroller, luggage) to make sure your car fits your needs. Super smart.

3. Take a test drive

Related to #2, it’s important to take a test drive to figure out if a vehicle is right for you, or whether there are options that may be right that weren’t even on your radar (here's where the needs/priority list comes in handy...a car dealer could help you learn about other options depending on your needs). It made me think how enormously helpful it was for me to “test drive” careers when I was in college via internships and mentoring programs; the processes of which helped me rule out law, child psychology, and politics! I’ve also heard -- particularly from women exploring new careers after leaving the workforce to raise kids -- how helpful it is to go into a new employment situation with a 3-6 month test drive period.

4. Be confident

Like many things in life, confidence goes a long way. If you're armed with the knowledge, experience, and reflection from tips #1, #2, and #3 above, you will be in a good position! However, if you're really nervous about a situation (car shopping or otherwise), I recommend practicing your opening line/asks out loud. Having a loose script -- so you're not fumbling for words -- helps a lot!

5. Know what your deal breaker is

I loved Michell Lander’s advice to know what your deal breaker is when shopping for a car. And I find this to be 150% relevant to work negotiations! In fact, whenever I'm negotiating a new client project I always explicitly map out the expectations, deliverables, and ideal compensation...and internally make note of my deal breaker line so I'm ready to negotiate if there is push back on my proposal.

It was so interesting to be on the floor at the auto show and to engage with the Chevrolet and SheBuysCars teams in depth. In addition to clearly putting a lot of thought and resources into their work, I love that Chevrolet also commits to social responsibility, and it's wonderful that SheBuysCars is working to help women gain the confidence and experience in a consumer domain that is often male dominated!

Image credits: Christine Koh

Disclosure: I attended the Boston Auto Show as a compensated ambassador of Chevrolet and SheBuysCars. All expressed opinions are, of course, my own.