Dealer Fees And Extras: Which Ones to Avoid

By Shari Prymak

As you approach the final stage of purchasing your new car from the dealership, you will likely be presented with a wide range of extra-cost items which you may not be prepared for. The business office is the place where the dealership takes a final opportunity to sell you on various add-ons before closing the deal. While some of these options might be worth considering, others are simply not worth the money. It is important to understand what you are being offered in order to make a fully informed purchase decision.

Administration/Documentation Fees - Avoid

Many dealerships will try to charge admin/doc fees anywhere from $299 to $799 as part of the itemized breakdown on the new car purchase agreement. It is important to understand that, unlike delivery and destination or provincial levies, this is not a mandatory fee which all dealerships charge.  If possible, ask the dealership to waive this fee from the purchase agreement. Some will be willing to do so in order to close the deal. If the dealer cannot waive the charge, ask for a discount equal to or exceeding the amount of the charge.

Nitrogen Tire Package - Avoid

The idea here is that pure nitrogen helps to maintain consistent air pressure in the tires even through large temperature swings. Given that regular air already contains nearly 80 percent nitrogen, the argument for pure nitrogen is questionable to say the least. In any case, the money spent on this package will have been wasted the next time you fill your tires with regular air. Some dealers charge as much as $400 for this extra, and we recommend passing on it.

Wheel Locks - Avoid

Wheels locking nuts help protect your wheels from potential thieves. For $100 or so, it may be worth the charge on certain cars with fancy wheels, but it offers no value to the average mainstream car, particularly those with steel wheels and hubcaps. Locking nuts can also make tire rotations a major hassle since you have to keep the key in a safe, secure spot.

Window Etching - Avoid

Some dealers will charge up to $500 to etch the car’s VIN into the glass to deter thieves. Again, this is an extra that is not worth its price tag. Most thieves know to look for etching when stealing a car. If you still see value in it, you can purchase a do-it-yourself kit for a modest amount. If the dealer pre-installs etching on their cars and insists on the charge, simply ask for a discount to offset the cost.

Maintenance Plans - Avoid

Maintenance plans allow you to prepay for your car’s maintenance for the first few years of ownership. Although the idea may sound appealing, these plans rarely offer the value they promise. Maintenance plans can cost as much as $2,000 and basically only cover inexpensive items such as oil changes and inspections. With the extended service intervals of today’s cars, the money is better saved for out-of-pocket service visits.

Wheel and Tire Protection - Avoid

Some dealers may offer tire protection for up to $1,000. Tire protection plans are often filled with exclusions, including potholes, curbing, and nail punctures. Without these items being covered, the value of a tire protection package is questionable at best. We recommend passing on this extra.

Rust Protection - Consider

Dealerships typically offer a few options for rust protection, including a spray-on product, wax coating, or even electronic modules which supposedly prevent rust. These products can be priced as high as $1,500 and usually come with some kind of warranty. We recommend skipping the expensive and questionable dealer products and simply go with a time-tested, inexpensive alternative. One solid option is Krown Rust Control, which offers a proven oil spray application that can be very effective when applied on a regular basis. For more details on rust protection, please read this article.

Extended Warranty Plans - Consider

Extended warranty can provide peace of mind and value to those who drive over 20,000 km per year. High mileage drivers are more likely to take advantage of the extra coverage compared to those who only drive 10,000 km per year. An additional 2-3 years of full comprehensive coverage usually costs in the range of $2,500. Less expensive options that only cover the engine and transmission are available as well. It is important to verify that the warranty is a manufacturer plan as opposed to a third party provider. If you are unsure whether you want an extended warranty plan, then wait. You have until the end of the original comprehensive warranty period to decide on this extra.

Lease Protection - Consider

Lease protection is an excellent option to consider for those concerned about returning a car to the dealer at the end of the lease. At a cost of around $1,000, it protects you from potential wear and tear costs, including minor dents or scratches that the dealer could otherwise charge you for. Simply hand over the car and let the dealer deal with those issues.

Paint and Interior Protection - Consider

Dealers often have expensive cosmetic protection products for both exterior paint and interior surfaces. We recommend getting a quote from a reputable independent detailer which may offer far superior products. Vinyl paint protection film, ceramic paint coating, and fabric/leather protectors are all viable options for maintaining the long-term aesthetics of your car. You can even purchase and apply many of these products yourself to save money.

Accessories - Consider

Car accessories such as floor liners, tow packages, dash cams, and remote starters are often best purchased at the dealership. It is important that these items have been approved and tested for your car, and the dealership products will meet this requirement.


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