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Challenges of buying an EV vehicle and Car-Buying Tips to get a good deal.

In March of 2016 I bought a car for the first time in 10 years. It was time for my 16-year-old Honda Civic to retire and the time was right to look at electric vehicles. I’ve been wanting to switch to an EV for a while – to be honest I hate that the United States is so married to gasoline in terms of our top power source for travel, and the idea of jumping to a pure EV that doesn’t even take gasoline at all was really appealing. What I didn’t expect about the car buying process was how intensely clueless about electric vehicles the salespeople would be.

Even when going in to a dealer, and they connect me with their “EV expert” salesperson, they were so clueless it was appalling. Not just clueless, but also full of misinformation and just lies in general about car buying and the available rebates. Here are the five crazy things the Kia salespeople tried to tell me during the car-buying process:

Crazy Car Sales Statements:

  1. Me (during test drive): “Oh! Is this “B” mode the regenerative braking mode?” Kia Salesperson: “What’s that? I’ve never heard of that!” Me: “That’s where the car can gather energy when braking, which helps recharge the battery a bit.” Kia Salesperson: “Oh wow! I had no idea – that sounds interesting. I’m not sure.”
    • Uhhhhh……this was their EV sales EXPERT – supposedly with special training on the EV to help sell it to us! The whole test drive went like this – this salesperson didn’t know anything about charging stations, didn’t know what kind of battery it was, didn’t know anything about anything, really, but was supposedly the EV pro.
  2. Kia Salesperson #2: You shouldn’t use the Eco or B-Modes (the Kia Soul’s two regenerative braking modes) very often because it will wear down your brake pads! Only use those modes as a last resort, so you can avoid harming the brake pad life.
    • FALSE: This is completely false. Regenerative braking does NOT involve your brake pads at all. Using the modes that enable regenerative braking will actually help extend the life of the physical brake pads, since it enables you to do a lot of needed braking via the regenerative system instead of the brake pads.
  3. Kia Salesperson #2: You should lease a car – leasing is always cheaper than buying and is a better deal, even if you plan to keep the car long term.
    • FALSE: Unless you like to switch up to a new car frequently, and/or you are very unsure of what to commit to buy and only want to commit to a car for a short lease term, it is always a cost savings to buy a long-term vehicle versus what you pay over the course of a lease.
  4. Kia Salesperson #2: You might not get the Federal EV Credit unless you sign the lease deal with us – tax credits aren’t something you get unless you owe taxes at the end of the year, so if you normally get a tax refund then you are going to lose your EV Credit forever.
    • FALSE: Why are these people pretending to give tax advice? Are you a tax accountant? I think NOT! When doing taxes a Deduction is something where you might not get the full value, depending on special rules and if you qualify to get the full value of the deduction given your unique income/deductions situation. A Credit is something you get – it is money owed to you and whatever the full Credit is that you should get, that’s what you get – so I will get the full Credit, and certainly am not forfeiting the federal Credit by not agreeing to their lease deal.
  5. Kia Finance Person: You should definitely pay thousands extra for the extended warranty – the EV battery is only under warranty for a very short time, like just 1 year, so you need to get the extended warranty – so critical for an EV buyer!
    • FALSE: The Kia Soul EV has a standard 10-year/100,000 mile warranty on their battery that automatically comes with the car by default. Ten years! This is just a case of the finance person blatantly lying in order to try to scare/pressure us into accepting the expensive extended warranty. I’m not a pro on extended warranties, but at least if they are trying to sell it to someone, they should be honest about the actual real warranty that already comes with the product they are selling to the person instead of making up false information.

Tips for Getting a Good Car Deal:

CarBuying-grayscale

  1. Research:
    • Do you know exactly what car you want and what price range you can afford? Make a list of the cars that meet your needs and go test drive each of them on a day when you are definitely NOT going to buy a car no matter what they say. Experience the car in a genuine test driving mode so you can compare your thoughts on any different cars you are reviewing and considering, on a day when you can tell them up front “I am NOT buying a car today – just test driving” and stick to that plan.
    • List out any key features that really matter to you, especially if they are optional features, that way you can make sure that when it comes down to picking a specific actual vehicle on the lot, you can check against those features that matter to you and make sure that before any negotiation or further consideration, that the actual one you are wanting to buy has all the features that matter to you.
    • Spreadsheets? If you are really unclear about what you want, make yourself a spreadsheet – listing your top options, so you can compare things like MPG, electric range (if applicable), MSRP, Top Features, etc, to track your thoughts.
  2. Competing Bids on “Out the Door” price on specific actual vehicles:
    • Once you narrow it down to one or two specific cars you really want, go onto the dealer’s website and find at least two nearby dealerships (hopefully you have two near you?) and review their online inventory to find a car that is for-real the right match for what you want. They should have a process to get a quote on a specific vehicle that they list as being in their inventory. Email them and say the following “I am interested in buying this car (the specific one you are asking for the quote on, that you picked in their current inventory – if possible, indicate the VIN) and I want to know your best out-the-door price you can offer. I am comparing offers and need to know the complete best out-the-door price that includes taxes, fees, and EVERYTHING, for purchasing this car (I will be paying cash or outside financing) – please respond with these details, breaking it down by price, licensing, taxes, and final out-the-door price so I can decide which offer I will pursue. Thanks!”
    • Get at least two offers from two different dealers, and if you are considering different vehicles, then get at least four. If they reply with an honest out-the-door price it should be very clear, they should itemize the MSRP of the exact specific vehicle being quoted (and provide a VIN and specs link when asked, which you should do), and itemize the expected Taxes, expected Licensing, and any expected Fees. Then they should summarize it all and it should add up into an “Out the Door” price. If they don’t reply with that in detail, reply back and say you are only reviewing completely thorough bids, and that theirs will not be considered unless they detail out all those specifics.
    • Compare your offers – did any of them offer significant discounts? If you want to, email back the second-best bid and ask them to cross-bid to beat the ‘out the door price’ of the lowest bid you received, to see if you can get an even better deal.
    • Make sure ALL these communications are by email and in writing. They should clearly outline these prices in writing, and it needs to be a final Out-the-Door price associated with a specific VIN and specs of an exact car on their lot that is what the quote is for – if it is an in-general quote on ‘something similar’ then that means they can change up the quote when you go in – because they can say some of the specs are different between the similar one they quoted and the exact car now being priced.
    • Be clear that you don’t intend to finance with them (unless you want to?) so that they can’t back out on their quoted out-the-door price by claiming that it only is the price if you finance with them or that it is only the deal if you lease instead of buy. When I bought my car they tried to lie to me in the dealership about the quote only being for financing-with-them or only if I leased – I was able to point to the email chain and show where I had clearly said that I was buying (not leasing) and that I was not financing the car with them, so then they had to stick to their original quote, which was thousands of dollars below MSRP.
  3. Say No to Crazy Overpriced Add-Ons and Research Them:
    • Do you want chemical spill-proof guard sprayed onto your car for a big fee? Getting this done elsewhere is way cheaper anyway if you do want this, so you probably don’t want or need to agree to their overpriced up-sell of this service at the dealership, and if they gave you a great deal on the actual car price, you can be assured their add-on services try to make up the difference. I am not a fan of spraying chemicals everywhere, so the spill-proof chemical spray wasn’t something I wanted anyway, but if it is something you want then call a couple independent auto places that provide services like this, and find out what this type of service costs from them, separate from a car-buying transaction. I bet it is only a few hundred dollars at most, not the exorbitant price the dealer wanted to charge us (over $1k!).
    • Do you want an extended warranty or service package? My dad always thinks the dealerships are scammers and has a natural aversion to ever taking his car to the dealer for repair, but maybe you don’t feel that way and their warranty or service package might interest you. First, know the actual warranty details for the real warranty that automatically comes with your car – maybe even have them email the warranty details to you in advance and have a print-out with you so that the finance people can’t trick you! That way you can review your warranty options in advance and be prepared for if you want to say yes or no to any extended warranty coverage (I said no, especially after their scam effort to lie and tell me the battery warranty was different from what comes with the car by default). Don’t let them lie to you during the process like they did to me – it is hard to make a good warranty decision if the finance person is lying about the built-in warranty which is already quite good. Their ‘service’ package was also crazy in that it was like a health insurance plan with a $100 copay for each individual item you might want to get fixed, so I thought it sounded like a horrible deal, because any time something small goes wrong they require you to always pay $100 out of pocket, each time, even if it is a small inexpensive item to fix.
  4. Bring Your Financing/Etc in Advance, or Negotiate it Separately:
    • Figure out your financing separately – either with your preferred bank or credit union, or maybe with the dealer if they are having an amazing deal with low interest or something, but make sure you are comfortable with any financing amount in advance, so the dealer doesn’t try to make up for a good sale price by offering less-than-great financing options. I am the type who carefully saves up a lot over many years, puts down as much as possible on a long-term car purchase and then would finance the remainder through my credit union, but that’s just me. Look at the numbers.
    • Also – when calculating how much of a monthly car payment you can afford, don’t forget that your car insurance price will probably go up! If you are getting a new car or newer-than-your-old-one car, your car insurance will definitely rise. Call your car insurance company to find out in advance what the change will be, so you can take that into account when figuring out the total monthly pricing of a new vehicle and ensuring it is in a budget range that is workable for you.

I’m glad that car buying only tends to happen once a decade in my house – it’s so stressful! Not to mention, expensive… 🙂

Good luck!