Used car shoppingAre women actually better at buying used cars than men? A company called LeaseTrader, which runs a used-car marketplace for people who want to get in or out of a lease rather than buy, crunched some data and came to just that conclusion.

LeaseTrader found that women who use their service are significantly more likely than men to ask sellers tough questions, evaluate a car's safety features, and have vehicles inspected by mechanics before making a deal.

Men, on the other hand, tended to limit their questions to subjects like engine performance and technology -- and nearly half declined to arrange a pre-purchase inspection by a mechanic, even when buying long-distance.

'Fess up, folks: Are we really surprised?

The Right Way to Buy a Used Car

What women and men both have right is that buying a used car isn't a casual purchase -- it's a big deal, and you need lots of information in order to make the right choice.

It's no surprise that men and women would prioritize the information they need differently. It makes sense that moms who expect to spend a lot of time with kids in the car will ask hard questions about a car's safety. And guys... well, we guys tend to romanticize our cars a bit. We like horsepower and great stereos, so it's a no-brainer that many of us will pay close attention to those aspects of a car's feature list.

Of course, those are stereotypes, and plenty of purchasers on both sides of the gender gap fall outside of those descriptions. But no matter your gender, you'll do a lot better in your used-car hunt if you do your research the right way.

The Two Questions You Must Ask Before Buying

Impulse buys are fine at the mall, but not a good plan when you're spending thousands of dollars on a vehicle that will carry you and your family for several years. Before handing over that check, there are two big, critical questions that need to be answered about any new-to-you car:

1. Is this the right model for me? Do you fit comfortably in the driver's seat? Do your kids fit in back? Does the model have good reliability ratings from Consumer Reports? Are the controls laid out in a way that works for you? Does it have the features and specs -- safety, performance, fuel economy -- that you want and need? Does it feel good to you on the road? Do you like it? (Don't underestimate the importance of that last one. You're planning to live with this thing for several years.)

2. Is this particular car a good one? Does it look like the previous owner took good care of it? Are the door panels, the interior surfaces, the tires in good shape? Are there signs of accident damage? Test drive it: Does it drive well, with no vibrations, rattles or squeaks? Does it accelerate smoothly and stop briskly? Can you live with the color? What does your mechanic think of it?

Answering the first question -- deciding on the kind of car you want to buy -- will require some research to narrow down the possibilities, and probably a few test drives. Don't be afraid to cast your net widely -- while the mainstays from Toyota (TM) and Honda (HMC) mostly deserve their top-drawer reputation for reliability, the best offerings from Ford (F) and General Motors (GM) have been just as good lately -- and can often be had at a better price used.

And the second question? It's always best to check out each car in person -- but nowadays, when so many folks buy cars over the Internet, that's not always possible. But what is possible is to arrange for a pre-purchase inspection by a competent mechanic, something that should always be done whether the car is local to you or far away.

Don't Skimp on This Last Step

Most good mechanics will be happy to do a pre-purchase inspection. If you're buying long-distance and you're an AAA member, the club can help you find a reputable shop that's local to the seller.

Typically, pre-purchase inspections will include basic engine diagnostics, a survey of wear and tear on things like suspension parts, and a check for rust or accident damage; in short, the things you want to know about a used car, but often cannot easily determine yourself.

Expect to spend about $120 or so for an inspection like this. That's not cheap, but it's money well-spent if you're ready to buy, and it's money that both men and women should be ready to lay out to make sure that your new-to-you ride is as good a deal as you hope.

At the time of publication, Motley Fool contributor John Rosevear owned shares of Ford and General Motors. The Motley Fool owns shares of Ford, and Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of General Motors and Ford. Motley Fool newsletter services have also recommended creating a synthetic long position in Ford.

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February 07 2012 at 4:06 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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January 29 2012 at 12:15 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply

All that was just advertising for the BIG 4......Toyota, Honda, Ford, and GM; and it was advertizing for A A A

January 28 2012 at 10:21 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
dc walker

I bought a car with five thousand miles on it, it was a great size SUV, loved the handling, controls, everything. Three days after I purchased it, it rained. I got in the am and the rug squished. I brought it back to the used car lot and they told me to bring it back in three days and they would take a look at it. In three days it rained again and the rubber mat I had in there had water in it. They kept it two weeks, said they changed the seam, they didnj't because it still looked used and two weeks later I left it outside of the garage, it rained and the mat was wet again. By that time I had it a month and they said they'd give me back my money, less $1,000 for the use of the car. the car that followed was an angry purchase, cost 10,000 more, a luxury car, drives beautifully but hard to get in the trunk, never buy a car angry.

January 28 2012 at 8:34 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to dc walker's comment

How do you " get in the am and get the rug squished " ?

January 28 2012 at 10:23 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Buy your used car in an auction like a dealer does. Get a new car that is still under warranty. I bought all my cars that way!

January 28 2012 at 5:46 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to some12bo's comment

You can also get a relatively new car by buying a lease car at the dealer. They have low milage. I bought my '03 P T Cruiser that way, and I love it !

January 28 2012 at 10:24 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

I have to say, that I reluctantly agree with this article. I don't think this will stop some unscrupulous dealers from snow jobbing a woman. However, most men learn about cars from their fathers (I did) and other male relatives/acquaintances, and back in the day (I'm 56) cars were simpler. You did a tune up every so often, oil changes on the 3 month, 3K mark, and such. There were no complicated electronics, no computers. That has all changed, and even a 'shadetree mechanic' like myself does less (although I probably do more than most guys, I just did brake work on my car, overhauling the front discs and stuff). Brothers, you NEED to get those pro mechanics to check a car before you buy it, CARFAX it too, because the scene has changed. And as far as ability to shop, NO one can out shop my mother. She had what seemed to be the whole sale staff and managers at a Hyundai dealership up in the air - they earned their money that day. She came in, named her price, and wouldn't budge. And she asked me to go along with her so she got a good deal. Heck, I didn't have to say anything, she handled them boys!

January 28 2012 at 1:38 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Mr. Steilkie, the article is about "good used cars." Not new ones. The article says that LeaseTrader's data analysis showed that women asked tougher questions AND got a mechanic to check the vehicle more than men did. Thus your 27 years is irrelevant to this article's findings.

I think the article is exactly right. My husband did a favor for his friend by buying a used car the friend's son was trying to sell privately. The thing had 200,000+ miles on it, damaged paint job AND a cracked windshield. Bang, there goes $3,000 that we could have put toward a REALLY good used car. What a fool.

January 28 2012 at 1:31 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply

I was in the automobile sales and service business for 27 years and disagree with this story. Most women know nothing about a car, mechanically. they go for looks and color like clothes. A beautiful looking car can be a lemon and near junk.
Also taking a guy with you can be a nightmare, as most of the guys or" kibitzer"s, are only looking to impress you to get into your pants. Then when it goes wrong, they are gone.
My advise is to deal only with reputable dealers. forget the glitzy, dealers doing loud, "big deal" ads, promising to sell at belowe cost. Nobody sells below cost and survives. And you will need to go back for service, I promise. How good is their service dept. It is one of the most important things at a dealership. When something goes wrong the service dept. is there long after the "boy friend" is gone".

January 28 2012 at 10:20 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

women shop for autos to compensate for their lack of.............

January 27 2012 at 7:54 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

So then blacks and whites shop different too

eh, lefty

January 27 2012 at 7:53 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply