‘I know plenty about cars, but when I walked into a dealership I became invisible.’

Video by Mamamia Women's Network.

March was a big month for my boyfriend and I. We started things off by moving house. Then we got engaged. And finally, we bought a car. Or rather, he bought a car and I helped make the big decisions about makes, models, pricing, add-ons and financing. Either way, it felt like a month of momentous team efforts.

Incredibly, moving house didn’t end our relationship. Hell, it didn’t even really cause much of a strain.

Getting engaged was a disgustingly romantic Hollywood-esque moment that’s still got me smiling four weeks later.

But buying a car? That has proved to be the ultimate test. Because now more than ever, I’m truly certain that car salesmen (not saleswomen) were sent down to earth to test our limits of sanity and blatant sexism.

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“So you’re not paying for it? Jeez, you’re marrying alright, aren’t you?” a lanky man in his early 30s said laughing awkwardly as my fiancé signed the paperwork that almost guaranteed this wholly unforgettable human would take home a commission.

From the desk, my fiancé looked up at me as if to say, ‘I promise I’ll get us out of here as soon as I can.’

Having done the preliminary research over a number of weeks, my partner was fairly certain on what he wanted when he walked into a reputable dealership. But like so many, when he actually walked in, he got overwhelmed and needed back up.

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There were two models and he couldn’t decide if leather seats mattered or if sunroofs were a good idea. Did we need four cup holders and how long a warranty should we be getting? Was going with a bank over a credit union a bad idea? Fixed-term loan or flexible?

car shopping as a woman
Image via iStock.

Seeing he was clearly struggling, I did the research and got some answers.

I read forums and car guides and even consulted with Google. I called my brother, a former mechanical engineer, and asked for advice. I spent hours weighing up the variables between loan options and created a pros and cons list and how both options would affect the next few years of savings goals all in a bid to give him the best chance to make a well-informed, stress-free decision.

Basically, I stepped in and took charge when someone needed me to.

And for the most part, it worked and was pain-free. That is until Ryan the car salesman got involved.

Walking into the dealership, Ryan shook my fiancé's hand as though he was an old friend. He then asked who I was and looked me up and down before awkwardly extending his hand once more.

"So what are you thinking, mate?" Ryan asked.

"Well, we've got some more questions before we make a decision," my boyfriend said, nodding to me to chime in and take over.

car shopping as a woman
Image via iStock.

So I began asking questions. And Ryan would nod along with me. And then he would turn his head and speak to my boyfriend as though I wasn't there. As if I had somehow, by some weird cosmic glitch, managed to string a collection of detailed words together that formed insightful questions that I couldn't actually then understand the answer to.

After the third time this happened, my boyfriend pointed out that he was not the person seeking the answer, and things got awkward. Ryan suggested we look at a completely new car.

No, I said. There are two we came here to see. We simply need our questions answered so that we can make a finalised decision, I said.

"Well, you're the boss," Ryan huffed before walking off.

Half an hour later the decision had been made and the paperwork drawn up. Which is when Ryan found it strange - even stranger than my questions - that I wouldn't be on the loan.

"You just get to pick out the one you like, huh?" he said trying to joke.

"Something like that, but mostly I just know a bit more about cars," I replied.

car shopping as a woman
Image via iStock.

"Yeah, lots of women seem to be showing an interest these days," Ryan continued, seemingly unaware of the fiery laser beams of unadulterated of hate currently focussed on him. "They all want add-ons, though. They love an accessory, don't they!"

Yep, Ryan. I love accessories. Please add all the cupholders you can. And a place to rest my handbag. And can you find a spot for my lipstick? Oh, and if it's not too much trouble, can a heat pack be added to the seat to help with my monthly period pain? Don't forget to include super-sized mirrors, either. After all, I know cars are supposed to be functional, but like, I'm a woman and all about emotions and aesthetic, so none of that matters to me deep down.

Listen: Sallyanne Atkinson thinks a woman's place is in the boardroom.

It's not like this story is unique.

When I recalled the battle of Ryan and my patience to some female friends everyone chimed in with their own personal version of a similar situation - be it at a dealership, the mechanics, or at the house of a stranger enquiring about a private sale.

So if you are, by chance, a car salesman and reading this, I implore you: get a grip. Women have money and buying power. So stop treating us like second-class citizens. The less you do, the more commission you'll make.

Have you had an uncomfortable experience at the car dealership?

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