How to Avoid Hidden Charges When You Buy a Car

You’ve done your research and determined your budget. You go to the dealership feeling confident, and your salesman offers you a great deal. You celebrate over coffee as you settle into the sales office, ready to sign, and then it hits you. All of a sudden your great deal goes bad, and you’re charged thousands of dollars more than you expected. Where did these hidden charges come from? You can avoid this shock by walking into the dealership knowing which charges are legitimate and which are questionable.

Unavoidable Fees

There are a few charges on top of the sticker price of the car that you won’t be able to avoid. The Dealer Documentation fee, for example, is a legal charge that covers the dealer’s document submission fees. It varies by state and can range from $200-$800. Sales tax is another unavoidable fee, but you should be certain that you’re not overcharged. Some states determine the sales tax from the total due after your trade-in amount, so check your local laws before you head to the dealer. You’ll also have to pay license and title fees that vary by state.

Avoidable Fees

Most dealerships also charge extra fees that are not required by law, so it’s important to ask for a detailed invoice of your total. While some of these fees might be legitimate costs, you should be suspicious of any charges added without your knowledge or permission. One fee to to fight is a Dealer Preparation Fee, which covers the labor and cost involved in preparing the car for sale. This fee is now paid by the manufacturer, so you should not be held accountable. Other non-required fees include services that you can opt out of, like window etching, rust proofing, and various protection plans. If you need any of these services, remember that they are usually cheaper elsewhere, so it’s best to refuse.

Other Costs to Consider

Oftentimes, buyers will determine their budgets without considering costs that occur after purchase. It’s important to check with your insurance company to determine the cost of insuring your new vehicle before you buy. You should also be aware of typical repair costs and the common frequency of repair, which can be found on many consumer feedback websites.