Tips for Avoiding Extra Costs at the Car Dealership

Oct 06, 2017

Save at the car dealership
You’ve found the right vehicle for you, thoroughly researched pricing, and the dealership and you have settled on a purchase price. At this point, it seems reasonable enough that you could let your guard down and breeze through the paperwork, right? Before you stipulate to all the terms in the sales contract, keep in mind that as far as the dealership is concerned, several factors are still in play. At this point, they will try to increase their bottom line with products, services and additional fees that may add up to hundreds, or even thousands, of dollars. To avoid getting blindsided, here’s a checklist of items to scrutinize, question, and, in some cases, outright refuse to pay:

Check for duplicate destination or delivery charges: Typically around $700-$1,000 according to Autotrader, the destination fee is a standard charge that covers the cost of transporting the vehicle from the plant to the dealership. Although it may be called by a different name (e.g. freight or delivery charge), it must be listed as a separate line item on the window sticker of a new car. Regardless of where in the country one purchases a new car in relation to the factory, buyers pay an equal amount to cover this cost. What you don’t have to do, and should not do, is to pay it more than once. Make certain you don’t see a listing for a destination fee in addition to a delivery fee on your closing paperwork. If you do find two charges, insist that they take the second fee out of the contract. For more information on destination fees and how they are calculated, visit The Car Connection.

Get them to ditch the dealer preparation fee: Given that manufacturers generally pay dealerships to get the car ready for the buyer, it’s unreasonable that the dealership should expect to be paid twice for this. Also keep in mind that the labor is minimal – the dealer need only remove the coverings from the car, check fluid levels and tires and give the vehicle a quick wash. Insist that the dealership remove this fee.

Find out if they are tacking on a regional advertising fee:  It may seem ludicrous that a business would expect customers to pay them directly to promote their products. However, regional advertising fees are becoming increasingly common among dealerships.  Manufacturers charge dealerships to advertise the brand nationally, which is passed along to the customer and included on the dealer invoice price. In addition, some dealerships also belong to a regional association or cooperative, which may assess them fees on a per vehicle basis to advertise in their specific markets. Although you’ll likely have to pay for regional advertising if it’s included in the sales contract, it makes sense to fight its inclusion if it wasn’t disclosed to you before being presented with final paperwork and it can’t be found on a sticker on the car.

Forgo the fabric protection:  These days, the materials used on car interiors are high quality and don’t need this expensive treatment. Generally, all you need to do to prevent stains is to wipe up spills right away.  If you or your family is especially messy, just spray the car with Scotchgard, which you can buy for $10 or less, instead of shelling out approximately $250 for this service.

Skip the paint sealant: Most paints used on new vehicles sold today are quite durable and don’t need this added protection, which may cost from $200 to upwards of $600. Essentially, you would be paying for an expensive wax job that won’t do a whole lot to protect your car. In addition, many experts advise against using wax on a new car for weeks, or even months. To best preserve your car’s paint, wash it regularly and plan to take care of any chips or dings right away. And as for pinstriping, keep in mind that you can get it done elsewhere for less money.

Resist sales claims about rustproofing/undercoating: Since new cars are built to withstand corrosion from dirt and water, there’s usually no need to have it done when you buy a new car. A potential exception: you live by the beach or visit it frequently. But again, you can get this service done for a more reasonable price at another provider.

Consider VIN etching, but not at the dealership: Getting your car’s vehicle identification number etched into your window glass can be helpful in deterring car theft, and in some cases, it may even lower your insurance premiums. However, the dealership will charge you around $200 or more to have it done. Instead, purchase an etching kit for about $25 and tackle it yourself, or take it to an auto club or local agency to get it done for a low fee. We’ve even seen it offered for free on certain occasions.


Before you go through the sales contract with the dealership, be prepared that they may offer several counterarguments and tactics to justify certain fees, or to turn your “no” on certain products or services into a “yes.” It’s not uncommon for them to stress the importance of protecting your vehicle as one of the biggest purchases you will make or to tell you that they will have to discuss a contested line item with their manager. They may also bring the manager or another staff member in on the conversation with you. Appearing knowledgeable and confident will go a long way toward leaving the dealership with the best deal possible. And if you aren’t satisfied with the offer on the table, don’t hesitate to walk away. If they can lower the price, they’ll usually try to stop you from leaving at that point.


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