10 Most Useless Car Dealership Fees You Should Never Pay

Check your car dealer’s paperwork before you sign to see if there are extra fees you can avoid.

couple buying a new car
Updated May 28, 2024
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If you’re in the market for a new car, your first plan may be to decide how much you can spend or how much you can put down as a deposit.

But are you also taking dealership fees into consideration? You may be surprised by the additional fees that dealerships could tack on to your bill when you’re ready to sign on the dotted line and drive your car off the lot.

So before you get your new car, make sure the dealership is clear about these potential fees that you may want to avoid if you can.

Delivery fee

aapsky/Adobe hauling cars trailer

Dealers may pass on their destination fee to you, which is the fee they pay to have the car transported to their dealership. But it’s a fee that is rarely waived by dealers, so you should plan to pay that one.

Dealers, however, may try to tack on an additional delivery fee on top of the destination fee to have the car delivered to their lot. That fee may be going overboard, and you can ask to have it removed.

Financing fee

ArLawKa/Adobe car dealer

A dealer may add a financing fee if you’re financing the purchase of your vehicle through them.

But it’s a good idea to shop around to decide if you want to use a personal loan or an auto loan through a bank or other financial institution instead of agreeing to the dealer’s financing. You may be able to get better loan terms without paying extra dealer fees.

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GAP insurance

Vitalii Vodolazskyi/Adobe GAP insurance Guaranteed Asset Protection policy

Insurance for Guaranteed Asset Protection, or GAP, covers the difference between what your car is worth and what it could cost you to replace it if it’s totaled.

The dealer may try to incorporate this into the sale price of your vehicle, but shop around before you commit to the fee and see if you can find a better option.

Pro tip: Remember to also shop around before buying a car to save money on car insurance and get a better idea of the different insurance costs depending on which model you buy.

Dealer preparation fee

bnenin/Adobe car dealer showing files and giving keys to client

A dealer may try to add a preparation fee to the cost of a vehicle regardless of whether you buy a new or used car.

But this is a fee you can negotiate down or even have the dealer eliminate. Prepping the car to be driven off the lot by giving it a car wash or removing packing plastic from the seats is common prep work that would be done regardless of whether or not you pay for it.

Advertising fee

phaisarnwong2517/Adobe modern car in the studio room

Dealers will try to tell you that you need to pay an advertising fee because they had to spend money to make you aware of their inventory.

Advertising and marketing are typical expenses for any business, including a car dealership. Many companies spend money on advertising without passing the cost on to you, so don’t be afraid to ask the dealership to remove those fees.

Documentation fee

88studio/Adobe dealer salesman giving car key to owner

You may be overwhelmed by the amount of documentation you have to sign when buying a car, but keep an eye out for a documentation fee that dealers may try to slip in.

Dealers are used to handling all these documents, and a documentation fee to cover what they do anyway is just an excuse to try to get some extra cash from you.

VIN etching fee

motortion/Adobe luxury car with tinted glass

A VIN etching fee covers work by dealers to etch your new car’s VIN, or vehicle identification number, into the windows and windshield of the car. Dealers may tell you it’s to deter thieves from stealing your car, knowing thieves would have to replace the windows before they could resell it.

It may be a good option if you live in a high-crime area or your insurance provider requires it. If not, it’s just an additional fee that you don’t need to accept.

Tire and wheel protection

Svitlana/Adobe worker puts device for technical testing on car wheel

A dealer may try to sell you extra protection for your tires and wheels in case you run over something like a nail or pothole and need to have the tire fixed or replaced.

Before you head to the showroom, check the cost of the protection compared to how much you would have to pay out of pocket for a tire repair or replacement. The protection may end up costing more than a potential repair.

Unneeded upgrades

Александр Поташев/Adobe tinting of car windows

A dealer may charge you for unnecessary upgrades like window tinting or filling your tires with nitrogen.

Make sure you check your paperwork for any of these upgrades that you may not have asked for or price out the options before you agree to them. You may be surprised that the upgrades you want are cheaper somewhere else.

Key protection

New Africa/Adobe car keys on light background

Keys can be easy to misplace or lose, and modern key fobs are more expensive to replace than traditional car keys.

Ask the dealer how much it might cost to replace a key before you agree to pay extra for key protection. It might be cheaper for you to buy a new key in the event that you lose one.

Bottom line

HBS/Adobe young couple is meeting with seller in auto salon

Remember to check your paperwork for all the potential fees that could be added to your purchase price.

It’s also important to find out how much you can negotiate with the dealer to get those fees removed before you sign. And you should be willing to walk away from the sale if they won’t negotiate with you.

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Author Details

Jenny Cohen

Jenny Cohen is a freelance writer who has covered a bit of everything, from finance to sports to her favorite TV shows. Her work has been featured in The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, and FoxSports.com.