An Internet connection can be a woman's best friend when it comes to buying and financing a car.

Marilyn Monroe may have that felt diamonds are a girls' best friend, but today's women rely on the Internet to get by. In the age-old battle of gender discrimination, women are leveling the playing field by using the Web to learn more about purchasing and financing cars.

Auto dealerships are being forced to adjust to a new dynamic. Call it the power of the informed female consumer. Today, women influence a whopping 85 percent of car-buying decisions. Thanks to the convenience of Internet research, these women are arriving at the dealer armed with knowledge about auto pricing and financing. With that knowledge, it's close to impossible for dealerships to saddle women with inflated prices and excessive interest rates, and take advantage of their former ignorance about all things vehicular.

If you haven't gotten up to speed on your Internet research, here are some tips for obtaining a car loan:

  1. Check your credit report. As with all types of financing, your credit history influences your interest rate. Pull your credit report and review it for errors. You can purchase your credit reports from the three reporting agencies-Experian, TransUnion, and EquiFax-or you can get one free report each year from each company at AnnualCreditReport.com.
  2. Know your budget. Determine what your budget is for both the sale price of the car and the monthly payment. Some loan consultants will urge you to make your decision based on the payment amount only. While that amount is important, you need to stick to your guns on the total cost, as well.
  3. Work the competition. The dealer isn't the only one that can finance your car. You can get auto loan quotes from your bank, your credit union, or from loan bidding websites. Shop around for the best car loan deal just like you would for any other major purchase. Take your loan quotes with you when you're ready to buy. If the dealer offers you a better deal, take it. If not, you know your options.
  4. Negotiate. If you prefer to finance the car through the dealership, don't be afraid to negotiate. Show them your other offers and ask what they can do for you.
  5. Say "no" to extras. Credit insurance and guaranteed auto protection are expensive car loan upgrades. Your loan consultant may profess their importance, and kindly offer to add these costs onto your car loan. If the car is insured and you've budgeted carefully for the loan, it's not likely that you'll ever benefit from these services. Just say no.
  6. Be confident. Confidence speaks volumes. Do your Internet homework until you know exactly what you want and how much you're willing to pay.

Marilyn Monroe used her beauty and flirtatiousness to get what she wanted. That strategy may still work for some women-but informed intelligence is a far more versatile weapon.

Published on January 18, 2008