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What you know — or don’t know — about cars has nothing to do with being female. It has nothing to do with where you fall on the socio-sexual gender spectrum at all, from platform stiletto–wearing man-killer to flannel shirt–wearing lady killer. It most certainly has nothing to do with your reproductive organs, which determine your sex. It has everything to do with car lust. Some people have it; lots of people don’t.
I am a full-fledged, card-carrying woman. I wear sexy lingerie under my uniform of hoodies and jeans as I type in my pink office. I am also a car expert. I grew up in a family that had annual tickets to NASCAR races and in a home with more cars than licensed drivers. Now, I professionally test-drive and review cars, from emissions-free electric cars that come with huge tax rebates to gas-guzzling exotics with six-figure sticker prices.
Luxury Vehicle Care (in Milwaukie and Tualatin, garagepdx.com) recommends detailing your auto twice a year. Most customers believe that the summer months are the best time to have your vehicle detailed. In fact, most damage to vehicles happens when the sun doesn’t shine. Here’s what Luxury Vehicle Care can do to prolong the life of your vehicle’s finish:
Even the girliest of girls know what cars they like. They know if they like the eco-friendly(ish) Ford Fusion Hybrid sedan or the adorable — and highly parkable — Fiat 500 compact car, which looks like something Hello Kitty would drive. Pickups, hatchbacks, muscle cars, minivans—whatever a woman wants to drive, it’s out there.
Jen Sound, Studio Manager for Ron Tonkin Fiat, is an anomaly: she’s a female in a managerial role in the auto business. Jen has been in the car business for 12 years at Acura, Honda and FIAT. She has learned a thing or two about buying cars, selling cars, managing a dynamic ever-changing business, keeping up with consumer trends and most of all, assisting customers. We asked Jen, “If you could offer any bits of advice for would-be car shoppers, what would you want them to know?”
But for, oh, about a hundred years, women have been told that cars aren’t really their arena. Cars are big. They’re mechanical. They’re expensive. Buying one involves math — ew! Despite this conventional wisdom, by the end of 2012, for the first time ever, there were more women registered to drive in this country than men. An American woman will keep her car for at least three years, and probably more like five or six. Her monthly car payment will linger longer than the in-laws during Christmas vacation, with loan terms often edging past sixty months.
Modern women make the big-ticket buying decisions in most households, whether they’re single, married, partnered, polygamous or whatever. They’ve got money and intelligence; what they don’t have is practice buying cars, especially not solo. This is one of those areas, like wearing the same underwear two days in a row, that we still mostly leave to men. We cook dinner, pick up the kids, scoop the litter box, have our own jobs, and coordinate schedules for everyone in the house. Do we also have to buy the stupid car?
Sometimes the answer is yes. And it’s a hassle no matter which sex organs you’ve got. If you can do the research and buy a refrigerator (How big? How energy efficient? How expensive? Will it fit in the current slot, or do I have to remodel the kitchen?), you can do the research and buy a car (same questions, more options, no remodeling the kitchen). Research by AutoTrader.com showed that in 2010, women influenced 80 percent of all vehicle purchases, and they were the sole buyers of more than half of all vehicles. But that survey also found that 75 percent of women “don’t feel certain or sure of themselves when visiting dealerships.” So we’re buying cars in droves, and yet we still feel uncomfortable with the process.
Whether you need a practical Toyota Sienna minivan or a Chevy Camaro named Brenda, you need to make the purchasing decision and be comfortable with and confident in that decision. That might mean leasing a car for three years, buying a car and driving it until the engine conks out 200,000 miles later, or skipping the whole headache and getting a monthly bus pass.
But many women — even smart, professional, otherwise-totally-on-top-of-their-life women — are filled with dread at the prospect of jumping through all the hoops required to buy a car. They bring along a husband, boyfriend or dad, because everyone knows that car-buying acumen is apparently left for the males.
Knowing about the science involved in racecars is key to making cars roll farther and faster. In “The Racecar Book: Build and Race Mousetrap Cars, Dragsters, Tri-Can Haulers & More” (Chicago Review Press), kids will have so much fun building and racing they almost won’t notice they’re learning, too. Age-appropriate physics lessons about minimizing friction, potential energy, Isaac Newton’s laws of motion and air pressure make teaching STEM concepts an interactive activity.
With “The Racecar Book,” children can build and race pop-bottle racers, the green machine and cheese wagons. Twenty-five projects are outlined, including step-by-step instructions with photos.Activities are inexpensive and only a few require adult supervision or assistance (mostly during the handling of power tools or glue guns). They utilize recycled materials such as cardboard boxes, old CDs, chip cans, toothpicks and balloons as construction materials and create explosive energy with rubber bands, effervescent tablets and simple chemical reactions.
While researching my book, “Take the Wheel: A Woman’s Guide to Buying a Car Her Own Damn Self,” I did lots of interviews, and often the men I talked to said the one thing I should make sure I put in the book is that a woman should “take someone with her.” By which they meant she should take a man with her.
“I think you misunderstand the premise of the book,” I would say. I would explain again that “Take the Wheel” will help women, who are smart and capable and income-earning in their own right, to buy a car without bringing along a male counterpart to make themselves seem legit.
“That’s reality,” the men would say. Sometimes they would backpedal, with some version of “Well, not you, of course. You’re a car person.”
I am a car person, but car buying is just as annoying to me as it is to almost anyone. And I’m not that special; we all manage to budget for our apartments, our smartphone bills, our vintage Coach bags. If we can do that, we can buy a car.
One thing is definitely in our favor. Dealerships are moving more toward internet sales rather than face-to-face haggling sessions, which appeals to men and women alike, as it allows for maximum research at home and minimum time in an uncomfortable plastic chair in a dealership with a fluorescent light blinking overhead and inducing a migraine. As women move into more management and design positions at car companies, the products are getting more female-friendly, which has been shown to be more male-friendly, too. It turns out that the things women want in a car are the things human beings want in a car.
Arming yourself with knowledge of the cars you like, the features you need, and the budget you know will work will give you the confidence to buy the car that fits your family. Now go out and take the wheel!
Kristen Hall-Geisler is a freelance automotive journalist living in Portland and the author of “Taking the Wheel: A Woman’s Guide to Buying a Car Her Own Damn Self.”