Car salespeople run a risk by presuming the man of a family picks what vehicle to buy. Apparently mommy knows best, or at least wields a lot of power in decisions at the dealership.

Nearly three of four women with children consider themselves as the sole decision-maker in the vehicle-shopping process, according to a C+R Research survey commissioned by Cars.com. 

Previous studies have indicated women in general influence car-purchase decisions. But the C+R study goes further in saying 73% of moms call the shots.

“The message for dealers is to treat them like the decision makers they are,” Jack Simmons, Cars.com’s manager-dealer training, tells WardsAuto

“Fifty years ago, our industry looked at the husband as the sole decision maker,” he says. “That’s absolutely not true today. It’s important for dealers to realize that.”

The purchasing-decision power of moms is particularly strong if a vehicle under consideration is for them.

“A mom typically knows what’s best for her family regarding vehicle needs and safety,” Simmons says. “Dads may drive minivans around too, but the mom is the one who practically lives in them.

“Then there are working mothers with their own transportation needs. Some moms are taking the kids and their gear to different events throughout the week.”

Minivans once reigned as the vehicle of choice for soccer moms and such. CUVs have become popular with that demographic group.

But there’s no such thing as the perfect family car, says Cars.com adviser Jennifer Newman. “Every family’s needs are different.”

The study says 71% of polled mothers credit online vehicle shopping for facilitating the process, but about 68% still want to negotiate in person.

“You can get a lot of information online, but when it comes down to negotiating the price, the best place for that is at the dealership,” Simmons says. “People may get there and change their minds about trim levels or options. You don’t get a final price until you land on a car.” 

Other study findings:

  • Although 62% of mothers say most dealerships treat them as valued customers, 75% complain about pushy and aggressive salespeople. “A salesperson who avoids acting that way will have a better sales experience along with the customer,” Simmons says.
  • 90% of women with children want simple and easy price negotiations. That seems to imply 10% want complicated and hard dickering, but that number represents a statistical void in the survey results, Simmons says, noting as an example that some people don’t answer all the questions.

The study surveyed more than 1,000 shoppers, including 367 mothers, who plan to purchase a vehicle within the next six months or bought one within six months.

sfinlay@wardsauto.com