7 Confessions Of A Car Salesman: Kia

Carl spent some time selling Kias at a dealership in Colorado, and has written in with a few insights about Kia, selling cars, and some buying strategies for you. Some highlights:

•Consider A Credit Union For Financing. “Get a pre-approved loan through a credit union, most of the time they will approve you up to a certain amount and give you a check that can be used at the dealership of your choice, which turns you into a cash buyer, you already know how much your payment will be a month, and it makes it so you have one less thing to negotiate with the dealer about.

• Selling Kias is about volume. “Most salesmen don’t make squat selling new cars alone, it is all about volume, at the Kia dealership we made $100 per new car from the dealership with Kia offering an incentive called “Kia Cash” where you would call a number after a car had been registered with corporate as being sold and you could “win” anywhere from $25- $500 for each sale you made. Our dealer would also offer weekly “spiff’s” where you would get an extra X dollars for every car sold if the dealer sold Y number of cars, or on a weekend if you sold more than three you would get a compound bonus where ever car would be worth 50 bucks more to you than the last one 1st one 50, second car 100 etc..”

• At Carl’s Kia Dealership there was a time limit for each customer. “The way we made money pretty much meant that we weren’t going to spend anymore time with a customer than necessary. The manager’s had an unofficial time limit, if you were with a customer for more than an hour without closing in on a sale, they would either step in or send in a Closer to make the deal go. If we spent more than two hours with a customer they had better be making a bulk deal because it really wasn’t worth the time invested.

• Kia dealerships can be sort of sleazy. “Kia markets their cars as a lower cost alternative to Japanese cars and as a result most dealership’s aim their marketing at high credit risk customers, because of this,the dealerships can be pretty sleazy to deal with because they know that most people who look at Kia’s have been turned away from every other new car lot in town. If you were to wander in to a Kia dealership I would pretty much expect every high pressure trick in the book to be thrown at you.”

• Stay away from big chain dealerships. “I would recommend staying away from chain dealerships, auto malls, and anyplace billing itself as “THE BIGGEST (insert brand here) DEALER IN THE REGION!!!” because they are going to be high volume which means that the sales team doesn’t have any particular reason to keep you as a return customer. Employee turnover at chain dealerships can be extremely high, especially for positions like management and finance, which can be the most cut-throat positions in the dealership. Not uncommon to see a new sales manager every week or two at some of these places. Small family owned dealerships that have a good reputation in the community are disappearing but they are the way to go.”

•Try A Vehicle Buying Service. “Most credit unions also have a vehicle buying service, where an independent party will find a vehicle of your choice and get you a price that is usually right around invoice. I don’t think most people could go to a dealership and get the same results that buying services do, and it can save you a lot of time if you know what you want in a car.”

• If you’re happy, let the dealer bribe you with free gas. “Customer satisfaction surveys are a joke, at the dealer I worked for we would bribe customers with free gas if they let us fill out their surveys when they come in the mail.” Sketchy, but hey. It’s free gas.

Thanks for the tips, Carl! According to Consumer Reports, Credit Unions can be a good place to get a low interest rate.:

“Because they are nonprofit, their operating costs are fairly low and their lending rates can be quite competitive. Many people belong to credit unions just to take advantage of the convenient loan policies.”

Bankrate says:

Once they get pre-approval “members can essentially shop as a cash customer and that’s what we instruct them to do,” says Larry Jones, vice president of marketing at ORNL Federal Credit Union in Tennessee.

“Pre-approval is a way you’re sure you’re going to get the loan,” said Ellis Waller, product manager for automotive lines with the Credit Union National Association.

“You can go into the dealership with money in hand at a rate you know is attractive. When you say you have the financing, the dealer won’t try to convince you their 2.9 percent financing is better. It’s almost always better to take the rebate and finance with the credit union.”

There is a clear advantage for the credit union, too. Fewer members end up with dealer financing.

Credit Unions are definitely worth checking out, even if you end up with a better deal from the dealer! —MEGHANN MARCO

For more info about financing and credit unions:

Credit unions get up to speed for online car shopping [Bankrate]

Where to shop for an auto loan [Consumer Reports]

If you work in the car sales business and want to offer some helpful tips to our readers, write to us at tips [at] consumerist [dot[ com.

(Photo: Ian Muttoo)


Edit Your Comment

  1. Lewis says:

    I’ve never recommended a financial services company before (ok, except for AmEx, who rock) but the best car-buying experience I have ever had was with e-Loan.

    Thursday @ Noon: Fill out quick online application
    Thursday @ 3pm: Get phone call with approval and payment terms
    Friday @ 9am: Get blank check via FedEx to pay for car

    Saturday: Go to dealer. Pick out car. Say “I’m paying cash so don’t run my credit.” About 25 times.

    Agree on price, write out and sign check, fill out paperwork, drive off with car. All within three hours, if that.

    Amazing, wonderful experience and the only way I would ever buy a car.

  2. techgeekwill says:

    Are CU’s any more discerning with the people they approve?

    My Wife and I are about to purchase a new car, but I just took out another loan for another new car about 1 month ago. I only want a loan for less than $20k, but I am afraid that I will get turned away going this route leaving dealer financing as my only option.

    The recent loan was taken out in my name, but the new one will be taken out in my wife’s name. She get’s a lot of credit offers, but I know for sure that she doesn’t have a decent credit history as she has only had one credit card in the last 2 years.

  3. LatherRinseRepeat says:

    Stay away from big chain dealerships.

    Yes, no, maybe. For the best price, you WANT to seek a high volume dealership. Their goal is to move units in an effort to get on the manufacturer’s A-List. So these dealers are usually more willing to offer a better price. But once you buy the car, you want to drive away and never look back. Get your car serviced at a smaller non-chain dealership.

  4. elf6c says:

    Also almost every major brand has a way to get internet quotes. Use them.

    You are better off selling your trade in yourself.

    Finance first, then shop.

    Do your research on Cars.com or Edmunds.com

    Saved a bucket of cash and time on my Element using this approach.

  5. alterboy says:

    This is to Techeek. I’ve used CU’s on all 3 cars I’ve purchased. they’ve all been less than 10k so i don’t think you will have a problem. My first car I bought was for 3k and the CU gave me 7.5% even though I was 20 with only one year of credit history. Granted I had never missed a payment. Plus the 2 CU’s I’ve worked with have worked very hard to make things work for me.

  6. techgeekwill says:


    This is good to hear. I am going to look into this.

    I may even go through a CU to refinance the car I bought at the start of the month. I have a horrendous interest rate on that loan.

  7. Brad2723 says:

    Additionally, check with your current insurance company to see if they offer loans and some type of buying service. The buying services take away the headache of finding a car. I am a USAA customer and have taken advantage of their programs in the past. Their program is excellent and I have never had a problem when I needed to deal with their customer service.

  8. Brian Gee says:

    Customer Satisfaction is not a joke, and many dealerships take the surveys VERY seriously. I just dropped my car off for a service at BMW. On the service manager’s desk was a card that said something like, ‘What else can I do to make your experience better?” and below it was the 5-star rating system they used:

    4 – failure
    3 – failure
    2 – failure
    1 – failure

    So far they’ll be getting 5s from me, so it must be working.

  9. markymags says:

    I agree, get financing first and then go to the dealership. I was lucky enough that the dealership I went to was very helpful in getting me financing. The dealership’s interest rate sucked but they partnered with a credit union and got me an interest rate 1.25% lower than the dealership was offering.

    My fiance got financing from Capital One for her car and got a rate a little bit lower than mine. The approval process was quick and she had a check in hand within a day or two.

  10. exkon says:

    Umm..by default most new cars come with a free tank of gas..but hey what people don’t know..

  11. castlecraver says:

    And if you’re pissed off at the dealership, make a photocopy of the customer service survey, fill it out, and mail it in along with a note informing the manufacturer that the dealer offered you a free gas card to bring them the original, and that you hope the photocopy will do. Bring the original in, and after getting your free gas card, mention sending off the copy on your way out the door.

  12. yzerman says:

    and a free car wash exkon :)

    actually I did the dealer fiancing route on my new truck and got a very good interest rate around 7%

    Considering my credit history I was pretty happy with that and my treatment.

    I would agree upfront fiancing is best but it can limit what you really want to buy.

    If you want a call with the full package and they can or wont sell it to you at the price you want you have to either go back to your credit union and ask for more money or let the dealer do the fiancing and get it for you.

    I guess me going to a small town dealer may have helped as well. I hate the big city pressure guys.

  13. doormat says:

    I brought in my customer survey (not filled out) and got some free goodies for my car, including a dashboard cover and cargo net. Not a huge deal, but I figure its worth it for more free stuff.

  14. LeopardSeal says:

    @LatherRinseRepeat: Wow, you couldn’t be more wrong, except for the getting service at a small dealership. Large volume dealers are no more likely to give you a better price, regardless of what they say. All dealers want to make sales, the difference is that a large dealer is looking for a one-time deal and has no qualms about screwing you, whereas a smaller dealer is looking to make a long-term customer and will be far more likely to treat you right and give you a good price. The myth of big volume=best price is blatantly untrue.

    As for the “buying at a big store and serviceing at a small store” idea, while it is better than trying to service the vehicle at the large store, you’re not exactly giving the dealer any reason to give you special treatment or go out of their way for you like they might do for their own (sales) customers. And if you want that dealer to stay around, you might want to help them out on both the front (sales) and back (service) ends.

    Just my $0.02 CDN from someone in the business.

  15. mac-phisto says:

    @techgeekwill: find a local credit union & ask to sit down with the loan officer. 9 times out of 10 you can do this WITHOUT filling out a loan application. explain your situation (esp. that part about looking to refinance your other car) & chances are good that you’ll walk away with what you’re looking for. who knows, within a few years you might even move your accounts over from that big bank that’s changed its name 3 times in as many years!

  16. LatherRinseRepeat says:


    I guess they do things differently in Canada.

  17. vrykoul says:

    I did the eLoan thing for the last used car that I bought. I went to a dealership the day before I was supposed to get the check just looking. I found a car that I liked, told them that I had my own financing, and they told me that they’d beat whatever interest rate I was getting. We didn’t agree on the price the first time, but when they called me back a couple of days later and said they’d do the deal at my price and using the lower interest rate, I went and picked up the car.

  18. PatBateman says:

    I think the central issue here is that a car company went forward with the name ‘KIA’. Acronyms anyone?!

  19. dragonflight says:

    @exkon: No, when I bought my Hyundai in November, they only put in $20, saying that gas prices got so out of control that all the corporate would pay for is $20.

    Got full tanks with other cars, but last time we bought one was in 2003 (Record prices of $2….)

  20. Alexander says:

    When we got my wife’s car, we went to the bank for financing but the dealer (VW Credit) got us a rate 2% lower than the bank could. All in all, for being the first time we ever bought a car at a dealer it went really well. We got a good price, good financing and so far their service on warranty issues (3 minor issues in 2+ years) has been outstanding. Things like that do build loyalty because we’ll soon get a car for me and I’m going with them first.

  21. mantari says:

    Credit unions are awesome. They don’t try to soak you for money. Now, they aren’t suckers, but they will give you a better deal on anything you’d get at a standard bank.

    I would also be curious to know how they handle high credit risk situations. If they turn those down, or if they go forward with a slightly less rotten interest rate.

  22. DesertDweller says:

    The last car I purchased, 15 minutes after stepping foot in the dealership for the first time I was driving home with my new car. How? Using the power of the Internet and doing RESEARCH.

    Before ever talking to a salesman, I researched the car on the internet and knew much more about the vehicle than any salesman. I knew exactly what options I wanted, what the invoice price was, what all the rebates were, what the interest rate was on my loan, how much I was willing to pay for an extended warranty, and exactly how much I was willing to pay. All of this before ever stepping foot into a dealership. Knowledge is power! If the salesman has more knowledge, you lose and he will take advantage of you. If you know more than the salesman, you put him at the disadvantage.

    To make a long story short, I used the internet to search the inventory of every dealer within 500 miles. I found the exact one I was looking for about 400 miles away and negotiated everything over the phone and fax. The first and only time I stepped foot into the dealership I bought my car from was when I picked up the keys and drove my new car home.

  23. Frank Grimes says:

    You can also use your CU for leverage. I bought a car once and the dealer desperately wanted me to finance with him and gave me maybe an extra $500 incentive. The rate sucked but my credit union has a policy to re-finance ANY new car at the same new car rate within (3) months of purchase. So I did the financing through the dealer, reified through my credit union (Navy Federal, which any US Gov employee or anyone even marginally associated with the military, can join). They took care of the check and the minimal paperwork involved. I never paid a penny of interest to the dealer and it was an easy $500 for me.

  24. Snakeophelia says:

    One thing to watch out for on the credit union loans is the autodraft check, which is essentially a blank check (up to a certain amount) for buying any car – or so we thought.

    My husband got an excellent car loan through our credit union, which is a great place to keep our money but not convenient for us (the closest branch is one county over). However, he found a used car online from a dealership relatively close to that bank, so we decided to take a day off work to pick up the check one Friday afternoon, then hit the dealership before closing time.

    It turns out the fine print for the autodraft check notes that the check isn’t valid if the dealer is overcharging for the car (based on KBB value, if I recall correctly). After the test drive and the pricing (very fair, based on what we knew) and my husband settling on the car and being very happy with it, the dealer refused to honor the autocheck. It seems that, potentially, we could have paid them and left with the car, and if the bank recieved the check with the car/pricing information and decided that the dealership was charging too much, the bank could refuse to honor the check. I don’t think this happens a lot, because my credit union was astonished when we called them to tell them this (at 4:45 on Friday afternoon, when it was too late to do anything about it that day).

    I don’t think this was a ploy to get us to tear up our check and finance with the dealership, but you never know. We ended up having to take a 2nd day off of work and drive back to the bank with the pricing agreement so that they could give us a real check to take to the dealership. Lesson learned, I supposed.

  25. MitchT says:

    I base my car purchases on which dealership is serving free hot dogs.

  26. cornish says:

    @PatBateman: “Killed in Action” run through my head every time I see one of those Korean cars.

  27. getjustin says:

    I’m gonna +1 to car buying services. I financed my current car through the credit union and they lined me up with a fleet manager at the local Toyota. I walked into her office, picked out the color and features I wanted, called the CU to verify payments, and had my car there about a month and a half later. There was no pressure, no gimmicks, no games.

    If this isn’t an option, do the oldest trick in the book: go at the end of the month and be nice to the salesperson while you’re browsing and then a hardass in the office.

  28. donnie5 says:

    For the record, Kia is only supposed to put $15 in the gas tank of a newly purchased car (according to an older consumerist post). And I recommend getting the newbie car salesman. He will promise anything to close the deal because he doesnt know any better.

  29. FredTheCat says:

    It’s a shame KIA seems to get a bad reputation…I actually went to KIA not because I was turned down other places (I wasn’t) but because they offered an incredible bargain. I’ve had my Sedona for 5 years now and absolutely love it. Very little pressure while buying (unlike the Ford dealership over the Windstar I was considering but was WAY overpriced) and a positive experience all around. The only downside to them is that I’m now on my THIRD Kia dealership for regular service.

  30. holysmoke says:

    stay away from new car chain dealers???

    uh no, stay away from new cars period.

    buy 2 or 3 year old vehicles and let some other poor sucker pay that horrific depreciation.

    research how much you lose when you drive off the lot and how much new cars depreciate the first year.

    why not buy a 2 year old vehicle with 30k miles? you have 6k left bumper to bumper to protect you from getting screwed and you saved thousands of dollars

  31. humphrmi says:

    These are good tips for buying a car, but they are especially true at Kia dealerships. I bought a used minivan from a Kia dealership. They were all that this article described them… high pressure (more than most), high volume, and sleasy sleasy sleasy. I regretted buying a car from them. The only thing that saved it from being a total disaster in my case was that I was able to re-sell the car and get out of their crap deal. I will never deal with a Kia dealer again.

  32. katiegeek says:

    I purchased my car through a CU used car sale. 11 area CUs and 15 dealerships go together for one weekend.

    There were hundreds of certified used cars, all with pre-negotiated prices. No pressure, no dealers peddling finance options or packages. The CUs were on site to complete paperwork and make payments. I had a new (to me) car in two hours. Easiest thing ever.

    If you’re in the DC area, there’s another sale next week:

  33. holysmoke says:

    someone should mention in these confessions of car dealers how much the poor buyer is losing driving off the lot.

    A new Kia owner who doesnt know better and paid MSRP can lose over $10,000 on some models just taking off the dealer property.

    New car = upside down

    New Kia = down and out

  34. bloody13 says:

    Reputation is very important even on Car companies such as Kia. Though they create excellent cars and parts like Kia oxygen sensors, they still have a lot of effort to work on their name. Japanese cars are great and can closely compete with American and European cars. But Kia is not among the top on sales.