Watch Out for Hidden Fees When Buying a Vehicle

Buying a car is a stressful process. Next to a house, it’s likely the most expensive thing you’ll own. Hidden fees can make the process much more expensive and a little more stressful. But some of these hidden fees can be avoided, if you know what to look for. While not all of the extra fees can be avoided, here is a list of which can and can’t be.

Destination and delivery. Commonly called D&D in the car business, this is essentially the cost of shipping the car from the factory to the dealer. This is one that is near impossible to get removed. It’ll be listed on the window sticker, per federal regulations, so essentially it’s legally part of the overall cost of the car. Manufacturers don’t add it to the list price in ads because technically it’s not part of the car. Just assume the price you see for a car is the base price and that D&D will be another $500 to $1,000 on top of that.

Dealer options. These are options the dealer adds to a car, and almost none of them are covered under the vehicle’s warranty. Running boards, roof racks, and bed liners are desirable options. If they’re on there, negotiate a deal—sometimes you can get the cost removed. Or the dealer can simply remove them, but that costs them more labor, so the ball is in your court.

Dealer prep fees. This translates to the car looking nice when you get the keys. Whether it’s a new or used vehicle, it should be clean and fresh no matter what. If a new vehicle needs a deep cleaning before they hand it over, then it’s not new. And a used car should have been cleaned and inspected when the dealership put it up for sale. This is a fee you should question.

Registration and title. The price of this varies from state to state: anywhere from less than $50 to over $200. These fees cover your title, registration, and plates. The state is technically charging you; the dealer is just facilitating the transaction. The likelihood of getting these waived is slim to none.

Dealer fees. Dealer fees can cover a wide range of extra costs, from paperwork to advertising. Some are non-negotiable. When you’re looking through the final price of the car, if this isn’t broken down, ask for it to be. Documentation and processing fees are going to stick. Advertising fees need to go—you are not responsible for paying them to convince you to buy a car from them.

Maintenance. Not all the fees come when you buy the vehicle. German luxury cars can sometimes be found for a bargain on the secondary market, but what might seem like a great deal on a car that will run well for decades could be a trap. Sure, they’re some of the finest made vehicles you can imagine, but they often require specialized maintenance that can only be performed at specialty shops. That is going to cost you. It’s not just German cars; almost every brand has something that requires dealer-only fixes. From an F-150 needing most of the dash removed to replace the cabin air filter to a Mazda needing special tools to replace the headlights. Higher maintenance fees are hard to avoid, so be sure you have a clear idea of what they’ll cost you in the long-run.

Buying a car is expensive. Sadly, hidden fees can make it more so. Read through the vehicle invoice before you sign anything. Make sure everything makes sense. If you have any questions, that is the time to ask them. And if you don’t want to pay for something, bring it up before you put your signature on the paper.

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