Once you’ve settled on the price for a new car, you’ll meet with the business manager for some "paperwork," and the negotiating starts all over again.
The business manager isn't just there to help you fill out the forms. They're a trained salesperson, with the goal of getting you to pay for as many dealership fees and services as possible.
When you meet with the business manager, be prepared to negotiate these fees and service offers.
The processing fee. Every dealership has one; some call it a documentation fee. Regardless of the name, it's meant to cover their cost of paperwork. Expect the cost to be between $100 and $400.
Like most fees, business managers will tell you it's non-negotiable, and it is – if you don't negotiate it. How willing they are to lower it depends on how good a deal you got on the car. If you cut their profit to the bone, they'll fight for every dollar. If they give in easily, it could be a sign you overpaid on the car.
Dealer preparation. Does the dealer need to prepare the car for you? Sure. Do you need to pay for it? It depends.
New cars should be ready to drive when they arrive from the factory. All they really need are to have the fluids and tires checked – that and a quick car wash before you're handed the keys. Therefore, the dealer is trying to charge you hundreds for a minimal amount of labor.
Delivery charge. Since Henry Ford and the Model T, manufacturers have been levying charges to ship cars from the assembly plant to the dealership. Many buyers view the destination fee as a reasonable charge. In fact, it's listed on the window sticker and included in the invoice price of a car.
However, some dealers have started tacking on a delivery fee above-and-beyond the destination charge – essentially charging you twice for shipping.
Advertising fee. To help pay for advertising auto manufacturers add a charge to each car they deliver to the dealer. (That charge is included in the invoice price to the dealer.)
But, once again, some dealers will try to get customers to pay twice: first, as part of the invoice, and then again as a separate fee when the purchase is finalized. Be vigilant, and if you see a duplicate fee, ask the dealer remove it.
Vehicle identification number etching. Police and insurance companies encourage consumers to have their VIN number etched into the car's windows as an anti-theft measure.
And as an anti-theft measure, VIN etching is good idea, and it’s relatively cheap. But having it done at the dealership means you'll pay top dollar (often $200 or more).
As such, you want to check alternatives. Often the police department or local service clubs will offer etching for free or a nominal amount. DIY kits are also available for around $25.
Fabric protection. Most dealers will offer buyers a fabric protection plan (typically around $250). They'll treat your interior to make it stain resistant, but modern fabrics don't need the treatment. However, if your family is particularly messy, consider buying a can of Scotchgard for around $10 and spraying it yourself.
Paint protection. Dealers know you like that “new car” look – and that you want to keep it, so they're happy to charge you $250 or so for paint protection.
Yet car finishes have greatly improved over the last 50 years, and most don't need extra protection. All you'll really be getting from the dealer is a glorified wax job.
Gary Foreman is a former financial planner who founded TheDollarStretcher.com website and newsletter. The site features thousands of articles on how to save your valuable time and money, including an article on car dealer fees.