Want a mani-pedi with your minivan?

Web sites target women with female-friendly car-buying tips.

Published October 26, 2007 8:54PM (EDT)

I read through today's New York Times profile of Web sites offering female-friendly advice on buying a new car and sniffed: Do women really require such sensitive hand-holding while car shopping? Are women really looking for an emotional connection while evaluating safety ratings for mommy-friendly minivans? Is the idea of checking under the hood of a car unappealing unless paired with promotional pedicures?

No, I'm not making any of that up.

It turns out, though, that these sites are not all about rating mommy mobiles and translating carspeak for women's comprehension. They also address how to quickly sniff out a scam and deal with sleazy car salesmen who offer "a deal for a date." Courtney Caldwell says she founded Road & Travel Magazine nearly two decades ago "to empower and educate women on how to buy a car, deal with condescending salesmen, how to ask the right questions, how to avoid rip-offs and scams, and how to negotiate." The Web site is not all pastels and girl talk, either -- though there are those sites, too -- its earth-tone color scheme seems inspired by the Marlboro man himself.

I'll admit to being troubled at first by the assumption that women are car clueless and completely disinterested in how an engine works. But, in truth, it's unusual for dads (and even less so for moms) to call their teenage daughter into the garage, roll up their sleeves and take apart a car's engine as an introductory lesson to womanly knowledge; it certainly isn't one of those things a girl is supposed to learn to validate her femininity.

Even if women have some catch-up to do when it comes to cars, though, I'm not convinced it requires gender-sensitive guidance. After all, there is the potential for these types of ventures to simply coddle women in their cluelessness. But if these sites effectively work toward shrinking the car knowledge gap, I'm all for it.

By Tracy Clark-Flory

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